Date of Award

Spring 5-5-2023

Document Type


Degree Name

MA - Master of Arts


Expressive Therapies


Dr. Rebecca Zarate


Though prison is inherently musical, evidence-based forensic music therapy is rather understudied. This thesis critically reviews musical experiences in forensic environments and synthesizes its intersection with inmates' psychological distress. Additionally, the literature explores how forensic music therapy can act as a health and social resource for the incarcerated and their communities. Engaging in this work is vital because healthier correctional systems mean healthier communities (Hopwood, 2021). This review synthesizes relevant literature to inform better practices in music therapy, counseling, and healthcare and seeks to popularize discussion around an otherwise unpopular population, incarcerated folx. Emerging themes include (1) incarceration breeds negative mental health symptoms like psychological distress, anger, and fear, (2) Inmates need an escape from oppressing conditions and negative symptoms, (3) Inmates have little opportunity for preventative healthcare while being incarcerated only worsens their pre-existing health conditions, (4) Correctional systems rely on low-cost alternative health practices like mindfulness and music therapy to aid in the release of distress, (5) Forensic music therapy offered opportunities for inmates to escape from psychological distress, connect with others, learn about oneself and generalize other learned skills throughout the prison setting and release if applicable. Through this critical review's examination, it's safe to conclude that music therapy is low-cost and prescribable to correctional facilities for improving inmates' regulation of psychological distress and the acquisition of generalizable social skills.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.




The author owns the copyright to this work.