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Guitars for Vets: Evaluating Psychological Outcome of a Novel Music Therapy

18 Years
Not Enrolling
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

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Trial Information

Guitars for Vets: Evaluating Psychological Outcome of a Novel Music Therapy


Post traumatic Stress disorder (PTSD) is a common condition for persons who have served in
the Armed services during combat or deployment. Treatments include medications, cognitive
behavioral therapy, and other social support mechanisms.

Our aim in this project is to critically evaluate the effects of a novel music therapy
intervention on the symptoms of PTSD. Estimates developed by the Global Burden of Disease
Study reveal that mental illness accounts for over 15% of the burden of disease on health
and productivity in established market economies--more than the disease burden caused by all
cancers combined.[1] Perhaps no industry has had the burden of mental disorders affect its
labor force as severely and pervasively as the Armed Forces.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a common sequelae of severe emotional trauma that
is often associated with combat exposure. The condition has been well documented in
returning soldiers and is characterized by recurrent and distressing thoughts and feelings
related to the trauma, persistent avoidance of reminders of the trauma, and increased
arousal that disturbs sleep, concentration, and the ability to modulate anger. Persons
suffering from PTSD often have difficulty relating to others, leading to loneliness and
isolation, which further intensifies their psychiatric symptoms. Current treatment options
for PTSD include psychotherapy, medication management, or a combination of those. Although
these treatments have been shown to be effective, returning soldiers are often hesitant to
seek and adhere to mental health therapies. PTSD-related avoidance, including difficulty
trusting, may serve as a barrier to seeking or completing treatments. Furthermore, some
PTSD medications have unacceptable side-effects in some individuals. The need is great,
therefore, to identify and promote safe, effective strategies for self-management of PTSD
among Veterans.


The objective was to assess the effectiveness of a novel music therapy on ammelorating the
effects of PTSD. Specifically a 6 week guitar training program under the direction of
seasoned instructors through a partnership with Guitars for Vets was assessed before and
after intervention.


In this trial we recruited veterans in the Milwaukee region and the Zablocki VA Medical
Center with significant PTSD symptoms. Forty subjects were recruited and randomized to
either an immediate entry or a 6 week delayed entry group. Both groups received the
intervention, but the delayed group received it after a 6 week period.

Each subject received a guitar that they keep after the study, music, supplies and
instructions. They each had an hour of individual training each week and a weekly group
instruction session.


The data collection and analyses are complete, we are writing the final manuscript. In
addition, we submitted a grant for a multicenter MERIT funded project this past June.
Unfortunately it will not be funded. We plan to resubmit at the next cycle.

Inclusion Criteria:

Veterans in the Zablocki VA catchment area with symptomatic post traumatic stress disorder

Exclusion Criteria:

Current involvement in intense treatment for a psychiatric illness or substance abuse.

Type of Study:


Study Design:

Allocation: Randomized, Endpoint Classification: Efficacy Study, Intervention Model: Parallel Assignment, Masking: Open Label, Primary Purpose: Treatment

Outcome Measure:

Post traumatic stress disorder Checklist (PCL)

Outcome Time Frame:

after 6 weeks of intervention with music training

Safety Issue:


Principal Investigator

Timothy R. Dillingham, MD MS

Investigator Role:

Principal Investigator

Investigator Affiliation:

Zablocki VA Medical Center, Milwaukee


United States: Federal Government

Study ID:

PPO 10-075



Start Date:

October 2010

Completion Date:

December 2011

Related Keywords:

  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic
  • Stress Disorders, Traumatic



Zablocki VA Medical Center, MilwaukeeMilwaukee, Wisconsin  53295-1000