Music Therapy for Young Adolescents Who Have Experienced the Death of a Loved One

ASU Author/Contributor (non-ASU co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Deborah Dempsey (Creator)
Appalachian State University (ASU )
Web Site:
Cathy McKinney

Abstract: The purpose of this study was to explore the effects of a music therapy based support group on depressive and grief symptoms in young adolescents who have experienced the death of a loved one. Participants were 3 middle school students, ages 11-12. Measures utilized to determine the effects of music therapy on grief symptoms were the Texas Revised Inventory of Grief (Faschingbauer, et al. 1987) scores on which range from 13 (low grief) to 65 (high grief) and the Depression Self-Rating Scale (Birleson, 1981), on which scores range from 0 (low depression) to 36 (high depression). Music therapy in the form of a “grief rock band” was used to facilitate the expression and processing of grief in adolescents. Group sessions included songwriting as the primary tool for expression and processing, along with other music therapy experiences to increase group cohesion, facilitate expression and awareness of feelings, and reinforce coping mechanisms. The thematic topics for this study were (1) feelings, (2) memories, (3) support, and (4) moving forward. Each session, participants engaged in discussion, developed song lyrics, and formed the music of songs to represent the thematic topic. Songs were video recorded and given to the participants at the end of the session series. Data were analyzed as multiple case studies. Scores from the DSRS and Part II of the TRIG at pretest and posttest were examined for each participant in order to observe for changes across time. For each of the participants, posttest scores showed an improvement in both depressive symptoms and grief symptoms. Music therapy in the form of a grief rock band may offer a creative and engaging means for young teens to express and move through grief.

Additional Information

Dempsey, D. (2011). Music Therapy for Young Adolescents Who Have Experienced the Death of a Loved One. Unpublished master's thesis. Appalachian State University, Boone, NC.
Language: English
Date: 2011
Music therapy, Adolescents, Grief, Bereavement, Songwriting

Email this document to