We all know that music can change the way we feel. Think of a bar full of strangers all stopping to sing along to Bon Jovi’s ‘Livin’ on a Prayer’ or a church full of congregants raising their voices to ‘Amazing Grace’. As humans, we’re wired to respond, and it naturally follows then that symptoms of psychosis could be affected by listening to music.
An Italian study from 2018 was able to study the role of music therapy in the treatment of patients hospitalized for the treatment of psychosis. While music therapy had previously been studied in patients experiencing schizophrenia (which often includes symptoms of psychosis), few studies had looked at music’s direct influence over acute psychotic symptoms.
In this study, a structured music therapy program was offered to patients with psychosis while they were hospitalized in an emergency psychiatric ward. Using a modified approach called Benezon’s Music Therapy model, 61 patients were offered biweekly treatment. After these sessions, the patients were assessed using several different scales for symptom severity and psychosocial functioning. Positive results were recorded in the majority of cases, especially in scales measuring anxiety and depression symptoms.
“Our results are in line with previous studies showing favorable effects of [music therapy] in patients with psychosis, in particular on affective symptomatology, but extend this observation to an emergency setting with short periods of hospital stay,” the study’s authors reported in Psychiatry.
How soon should interventions be made for new cases of Psychosis?
Imagine yourself in an emergency where you or a loved one need help. You’d act quickly to call for help, right? Well, when it comes to addressing mental health issues, that’s not always the case. In a world where mental health isn’t perceived to be on the same level of need as physical health, the “critical period” of treatment is often also overlooked.
On average in the United States, psychosis will go untreated for the first 21 months of symptoms.
Jennifer Gerlach, a licensed social worker and psychotherapist from Illinois, wrote about her experience with psychosis in Psychology Today. Gerlach expresses frustration with the amount of untreated time that passes between the onset of brief psychotic symptoms and what’s called First Episode Psychosis.
“Psychosis is insidious. Initially, there is a space called “clinically high risk.” This is a label used to describe individuals who are showing sub-threshold psychotic symptoms. This may involve very brief experiences, such as hearing a voice one time and knowing it was a voice,” Gerlach wrote. “These are called brief limited intermittent psychotic symptoms. This clinically high-risk period is also associated with loss of motivation, loss of interest, social withdrawal, concentration difficulties, and cognitive challenges. The good news is that 65 percent who experience this phase do not proceed into a full psychotic disorder.”
Gerlach points out that avoiding treatment during these initial symptoms can lead the person across the threshold of first episode psychosis and into more frequent and distressing voice hearing and symptoms of paranoia. By lowering stress and staying away from substances, the person who was once clinically high risk, may soon return to their normal life experience.
“The sooner a person receives help the more positive the trajectory. Even after the first episode of psychosis, several people never have another episode. Coordinated specialty care is the ideal treatment,” Gerlach concluded.