Using culture-specific music therapy to manage the therapy deficit of post-traumatic stress disorder and associated mental health conditions in Syrian refugee host environments — Hasan Abdulbaki & Jonathan Berger

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Using culture-specific music therapy to manage the therapy deficit of post-traumatic stress disorder and associated mental health conditions in Syrian refugee host environments

Hasan Abdulbaki & Jonathan Berger

ABSTRACT

The dearth of mental health professionals in low-resource Syrian refugee-host environments poses a pressing need for alternative non-verbally centred psychotherapeutic interventions, particularly given the prevalence of psychological disorders such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), depression, and anxiety. Here we consider music therapy as a socially adept therapy mode that provides a de-stigmatizing, culturally-sensitive avenue capable of increasing patient confidence in mental healthcare, as well as providing a scalable and sustainable intervention to help address the mental health crisis in such low-resource environments. This review of literature summarises evidence supporting the use of culture-specific music therapy that leverages musical modes familiar to the cultural backgrounds of the refugee communities, and identifies key questions that need further investigation. The review includes a discussion of comparative effectiveness, summary of clinical efficacy data, respective validated epidemiological research, and psychiatric epidemiology targets that serve as guidance for further research into the outcome of methodical cultural adaptation of musical interventions. Given that the prevalence of psychiatric disorders exceeds management capacity, alternative therapies that can help address this critical deficiency are in dire need. This review concludes with key research questions and areas of focus that provide a blueprint for future investigations to assess the use culture-specific music therapy as a valid mode of psychotherapy.

KEYWORDS

culture, music therapy, refugees, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHIES

Hasan Abdulbaki is the Ronald Reagan Medical Center’s geriatric psychiatry musician and the hospital’s first Middle Eastern music specialist. Hasan has been invited to Turkey and Lebanon to carry out workshops on music and its potential in the service of under-served refugee communities during his time as research assistant in the Stanford University Medical Center. He has received awards for his musicianship in the field of Near Eastern music and is a Learning Assistant at the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music’s Ethnomusicology 161N course. Hasan also teaches Maqam musical modes in a private setting to students from various backgrounds. [habdulbaki1999@g.ucla.edu]

Jonathan Berger is the Denning Family Provostial Professor in Music at Stanford University, where he teaches music theory and cognition at the Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics (CCRMA). Jonathan is a 2017 Guggenheim Fellow, founding co-director of the Stanford Arts Institute, and founding director of Yale University’s Center for Studies in Music Technology. As an active researcher in a wide range of fields including psychoacoustics and music perception, Berger authored over 60 publications and held research grants from DARPA, the Wallenberg Foundation & others. He is also an active member of Bio-X and the Stanford Neurosciences Institute. [brg@ccrma.stanford.edu]