Exploring the role of music therapy in building resilience in the mental health of gifted students

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Engler, Isabelle
Master of Arts in Music Therapy
Board-certified music therapists (MT-BCs) working with educators or in mental health may come across a unique population - gifted students. Gifted students experience high degrees of emotional intensity and extreme pain in times of crisis while having unique social-emotional development and needs (Burke, 2009; Cross & Cross, 2015). Among typically-functioning students, ten percent with no psychiatric diagnosis report suicidal ideation (Hyatt & Cross, 2009). Psychologists and educators point out that gifted students may be prone to anxiety, depression, suicidal ideations, unhealthy perfectionism, underachieving, obsessive-compulsive disorders, and anger outbursts (Cross & Cross, 2015; Cross, 2009; Nugent, 2000). Yet this is commonly overlooked due to the perception that gifted students have more advanced cognitive abilities and are high achievers in overcoming these struggles. While there is research on music therapy supporting hospitalized children and within psychiatric settings to reduce anxiety, as well as psychological research on the importance of learning grit and resilience, there is a gap within the field of music therapy in supporting gifted students. The four-week clinical study, completed for a master’s thesis project includes a review of the literature, clinical research method of utilizing standardized assessments and music therapy interventions, data analyses, and discussion on the research data measuring whether music therapy helps gifted students reduce anxiety and build resilience to overcome their mental health difficulties. This study shows that the implementation of music therapy has contributed to reducing anxiety with statistical significance and increasing resilience level in gifted students.