Date of Paper


Type of Paper

Clinical research paper

Degree Name

Master of Social Work (M.S.W.)


Social Work

First Advisor

Lance Peterson, Ph.D., LICSW


Social Work


The purpose of this theoretical paper is to provide information on how trauma and music neurologically impact the brain, and how music can be used as a tool to neurologically aid in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder. Post-traumatic stress disorder impacts the hippocampus, the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis, amygdala, and prefrontal cortex. Music stimulates the hippocampus, amygdala, nucleus accumbens, the mesolimbic dopamine system, and impacts the HPA axis. Evidence also shows that music can stimulate neurogenesis and neuroplasticity. Music can be used as a tool to stimulate these areas to activate neurogenesis and/or neuroplasticity, thereby reconditioning the brain back to healthy functioning. Several implications for social work practice can be drawn from this theoretical work. Specifically, music can be utilized to build rapport, for grounding in reprocessing therapies (EMDR), for positive distraction for clients in crisis who have a hard time self-regulating, for provoking deliberate moods, for identifying and naming moods, for increasing socialization and group cohesion, for decreasing avoidant symptoms, for expressing one’s narrative nonverbally, for expressing rage through drumming, to reduce cortisol levels, to release dopamine, and to potentially quicken or ease the process of therapy.

Included in

Social Work Commons