Psychiatric forensic music therapy is one of the lesser known applications of music therapy. Since music therapy can be successfully used to treat all sorts of disorders from physical ailments to emotional disturbances, it logically follows that psychiatric forensic music therapy would have positive results. Musical tasks can help foster a person’s ability to arrange their thoughts and can orient them with reality, something that many forensic psychiatrists work to accomplish. Other general benefits of music therapy that can easily be applied to the forensic psychiatric patient are enhanced interpersonal skills, positive self-expression, and improved ability to communicate one’s feelings. Also, the anxiety-reducing effects of music therapy are also very helpful when used with forensic psychiatric patients.
Psychiatric forensic music therapy can also be used to assess a specific patient. Some forensic psychiatric patients are difficult to diagnose, and psychiatric forensic music therapy can often help the psychiatrist determine the patient’s real disorder. Some forensic psychiatric patients are part of group sessions where music therapy is used, while other forensic psychiatric patients are better assessed and treated on a one-on-one basis.
While the average person may not have realized the practical applications of psychiatric music therapy, the music therapist and music therapy student is likely to not only be aware of these applications, but some will choose to go into this highly specialized field. Many students of psychiatric forensic music therapy have both a degree in music therapy and a degree in forensic psychology. This of course is necessary for the therapist to appropriately and accurately assess and treat the patient.
The students of psychiatric forensic music therapy have a lot of training, as do all music therapists and psychiatrists. They are also needed to complete a fellowship or internship program. The purpose of the internship is to allow the student to get more experience with forensic psychiatry patients. Many state mental hospitals offer internships to psychiatric forensic music therapy students. These internships involve student participation in group and individual therapy sessions with mentally ill forensic psychiatry patients. Some students are allowed to take part in the assessment process, but others are needed to be more passive students.
While the most common psychiatric forensic music therapy patient is the one in a state mental hospital, psychiatric patients in prisons are also often treated with music therapy. Incarcerated adolescents and adults have shown great improvement in their behavioral, social, and cognitive skills when they have been exposed to music therapy. Some of the music therapy methods commonly used in prison settings are repetition, improvisation, and composition. All of these therapies foster communication, relaxation, and creativity among the patients. But while group therapies are helpful to most forensic psychiatry patients, some still need unique therapy programs to develop the individual’s specific skills set.