Music Therapy and Empathic Response in Adolescent Females

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May, Damian
Master of Arts in Music Therapy
This study was inspired by an observed low level of empathic response among girls living in a residential facility. Current research indicates a growing emphasis on the role that empathy plays in emotional and social awareness and education; however, the music therapy literature concerning empathy is relatively minimal. Participants in this study consisted of 30 girls between the ages of 15 and 18 in a residential facility, the majority of which came from troubled backgrounds and struggled with issues of poor self-esteem, aggression, and lower levels of cognitive functioning. A pre/post-test design was utilized. The pre-test allowed the researcher to gather an overall baseline emotional empathy score. Participants were then placed in either a music therapy (experimental) group or a non-music therapy group (control) group. In the final analysis, due to the fact that the control group had only one participant, the groups could not be compared and thus the data from the control group was omitted leaving only the experimental group to be compared with itself. Over a 6-week time period girls in the experimental groups participated in a variety of music therapy experiences designed to promote and enhance emotional and social awareness. After the experimental phase, all participants were re-tested, and results were analyzed. Despite evidence of improvement in individual scores of the emotional empathy measure, results were not clinically significant. In this paper the author discusses the need for further research and experimentation in this area with improved control for variables of frequency, consistency, and time.