Blues and Tunes Music Therapy Pilot
Blues and Tunes is the world's first music therapy programme designed specifically for emergency workers and the first pilot project took place in 2021.
You can access the full project report by the Music Therapist, Amanda Thorpe, here.
Professions associated with a higher risk for the development of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) include the military, fire fighters, first responder/ambulance personnel and law enforcement officers (Skogstad, 2013). In 2019, Police Care UK reported that 1 in 5 serving police officers were living with PTSD or anxiety disorders triggered by exposure to one or multiple traumatic events. Almost two-thirds of officers reported experience of fatigue, anxiety or sleep disturbances.
However, they continued to go to work as per usual.
COVID-19 has placed front line workers under an additional layer of considerable psychological pressure. Not only is the police service responding to an increased level of incidents related to mental health, they are continually increasing their own exposure risk to the virus.
The main treatment options offered for PTSD in the UK are Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Eye Movement Desensitisation Reprogramming (EMDR) and/or medication, with the goals of reducing symptoms, teaching strategies and skills to deal with symptoms, and restoring self-esteem. The use of music therapy for PTSD, anxiety and trauma-related stress within ex-military personnel in the US is well documented (Libby et al. 2014), yet despite an equally high incidence of PTSD symptoms reported in blue-light emergency service personnel, music therapy as a treatment modality within these services has not been explored, until now.
To address this gap, a working collaboration between the Blue Light Symphony Orchestra (BLSO), Chroma, and five Blue Light organisations: Surrey Police, Sussex Police, Surrey Fire & Rescue Service and East Sussex Fire & Rescue Service and South East Ambulance Service, was established to design, implement, and evaluate music therapy as a treatment option for front line workers with symptoms of PTSD. The BLSO is a user led charity, which aims to improve the mental well-being of emergency workers through music. Chroma is the UK’s leading provider of creative arts therapies services to partners across the health, education, social care and statutory sectors,
through its team of over 90 HCPC registered creative arts therapists.
Findings indicated a positive reduction in symptoms, increased sense of well-being, and a sense of leaving therapy with specific coping strategies. Participant feedback revealed the following themes:
- surprise at the benefits experienced
- going outside of a comfort zone
- learning different coping strategies
- reduced stress.
Many participants expressed a desire for the group to continue and requested they be contacted about additional programs for which they could sign up.
71% of the participants’ recorded reduced ‘levels of distress’ compared to when they signed up for the program. All participants reported appreciation of the therapy and a change in their stress and coping mechanisms since engaging in the therapy, indicating that they had accessed their desired support and strategies. This was supported in a reduction of psychological distress scores in five of seven participants (one score not provided, one score increase) and an increase in both Outcome Rating Scale (ORS) and Group Session Rating Scale (GSRS). Several participants had initially expressed apprehension around music being a core component of therapy. This was based on concerns around their own lack of musicality, and a ‘kumbaya’ perception of sitting around playing songs, with partners and/or friends making fun of their attendance. There were normal rate of attrition (~30%) before the group started (Long, 2016), and anticipated group attrition within the first four sessions. But over the course of the programme, participants became increasingly confident and comfortable with the use of music, as would be expected, and their perceptions around the therapy and their own experiences changed as a result.