Music therapists have the privilege of working with a wide variety of populations, one of which being military personnel. Our profession is grounded in our service to our American soldiers and veterans. Music therapy began post-WWI when musicians were requested to provide music for thousands of veterans who had suffered emotional and physical traumas. Soon after, music therapy  evolved and has grown into the  profession we know and love today. 

Metro Music Therapy is honored to have worked with countless veterans over the years through the Wounded Warrior Project (WWP) and other organizations dedicated to the health and wellbeing of our service members. One of Metro’s own, Hayley Oliver, currently provides music therapy services to a handful of veterans through an outpatient PTSD program and WWP clients. She began her work with this population during her internship and has had the privilege of working alongside other music therapy professionals, songwriters, and veterans at 3 songwriting retreats in Nashville, TN as a board-certified music therapist. 

Music therapy services are effective in group or one-on-one settings. Hayley states that “both can be excellent tools for veterans, and each format has its own strengths.” Through individual work, music therapists are able to tailor every detail of the experience to the specific veteran’s needs and preferences. “Sessions can progress at the veteran’s pace, and an intimate, therapeutic relationship can be formed” says Hayley. On the other hand, group work allows veterans to collaborate and bond not only with the music therapist, but also with the other participants. This, in turn, offers opportunities to socially engage with peers in fun, recreational activities, as well as foster a supportive and safe environment for moments of vulnerability and deep interpersonal connection. 

A variety of music therapy interventions can be used to attain specific, time-bound goals set for the individual or group. Interventions such as lyric analysis and songwriting address mental health needs by providing opportunities for healthy trauma processing. Hayley adds that “these interventions provide a structure for self-expression, allowing veterans to explore memories and emotions in a safe, supported environment.” Other interventions include instrument playing, singing, or learning an instrument to help with coping skills, physical, and neurological goals while aiming to decrease anxiety, depression, intense anger, and suicidal ideation. Hayley states that when working with a veteran with a traumatic brain injury, “music interventions are designed to strengthen relevant regions of the brain specific to the veteran’s needs, abilities, and interests.”

So, why and how is music therapy for veterans beneficial? Music therapy uses music, a unique and powerful tool, to play a role in all forms of wellness for the client. “An ever growing body of research shows us just how integral music is to every aspect of our lives, from our social and spiritual practices to the rhythms of our heart and breath.” New neural pathways are able to be formed simply by listening to music. Hayley goes on to say that “research into the psychology of music shows us the invaluable role music plays in emotional wellbeing, both individually and collectively.” 

When asked what her favorite part about working with veterans is, Hayley stated that it involves “watching them rediscover their sense of identity and personal power.” Veterans can often feel a loss of control and disconnect from themselves, but with music therapy they are able to feel capable and empowered in all aspects of their lives. Hayley says that she is “honored to be a part of their journeys.” 

If you would like to begin veterans services for yourself or a loved one, please visit our contact tab on the website or fill out our Client Intake Form on the New Clients tab. 

Thank you veterans for your service. We would be happy to serve you.