Virtual Music Therapy for Substance Use Disorders in a Federally Qualified Health Center

J Am Board Fam Med. 2024 Jan 5;36(6):1043-1049. doi: 10.3122/jabfm.2022.220316R3.


Background: Music therapy (MT) is an effective adjunctive treatment for substance use disorders (SUD), which is primarily available in inpatient treatment centers and rarely provided in outpatient primary care.

Methods: We evaluated the feasibility and acceptability of a virtual group MT program for SUD in a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC), and secondarily assessed patient perceptions of its effect. Feasibility was measured by implementation-related process measures, attendance and use of technology. Qualitative interviews eliciting participant perceptions were conducted to evaluate acceptability and effect. Mood scores, substance use and craving were measured before and after the intervention.

Results: Onboarding of the music therapist took 3.5 months. All MT sessions were attended by 1 to 5 individuals out of 6. Participants reported that group MT was "soothing" and "calming," gave them tools to treat cravings and stress, and created a sense of community. They reported that during sessions their cravings decreased. Anxiety and depression scores trended down, as did the number of days of substance use. They all stated they would seek out MT again.

Discussion: Our results suggest that remote group MT is feasible and acceptable to our FQHC patients with SUD. Patients reported an improvement in mood and their ability to manage stress, and a decrease in substance use.

Conclusion: We wish to build on the results of this study to enhance our understanding of the effects of MT in the outpatient setting, and broaden our patients' access to MT in primary care.

Keywords: Community Health Centers; Craving; Health Services Accessibility; Integrative Medicine; Medically Underserved Area; Minority Health; Music Therapy; Outpatients; Primary Health Care; Qualitative Research; Substance-Related Disorders; Telemedicine; Vulnerable Populations.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anxiety
  • Emotions
  • Humans
  • Music Therapy* / methods
  • Substance-Related Disorders* / therapy
  • Treatment Outcome