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Eric Waldon is an assistant professor of music therapy at University of the Pacific and a psychologist with The Permanente Medical Group.

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Music soothes the psychotherapy patient

Oct 29, 2015

Patients are more satisfied with the first visit to a psychotherapist's office when they hear music in the waiting room, according to new research led by a music therapist at University of the Pacific.

"People don't realize how hard it can sometimes be for patients to take that first step of seeking treatment for mental illness," said Eric Waldon, assistant professor of music therapy at Pacific and a psychologist with The Permanente Medical Group. "We wanted to see if background music played in the patient's initial visit affected the patient's anxiety or satisfaction."

Results of the study appear in the current issue of the journal The Arts in Psychotherapy.

Waldon and co-author Jennifer Thom, both psychologists at Kaiser Permanente's outpatient psychiatric facility in Stockton, designed a study in which patients who chose to participate in a new type of orientation were placed either in a waiting room where music played in the background or in a waiting room with no music. After their orientation, patients completed a short evaluation measuring their satisfaction with the waiting room experience and their sense of anxiety.

The patients weren't asked about the music, but those who had music playing in the background reported greater satisfaction.

All patients in the background-music group were exposed to the same recording, American violinist Daniel Kobialka's "Going Home Medley," which has parameters found by music researchers to be relaxing: for example, 72 or fewer beats per minute and a consistent rhythm.

"We now have evidence that this specific type of music helps, in a small way, to make the process of starting mental health treatment more comfortable for patients," Waldon said.

Although previous research has been done on the use of music in other types of medical waiting rooms, few studies have looked at music in psychiatric clinics, and most trials involving music made no attempt to "blind" participants to the music.

Extensive research has been done on the use of music in affecting human mood and emotion, according to Waldon. "Businesses have learned that if they want to hurry consumers through a restaurant, they should play faster music, for example, while stores that want shoppers to take their time might play slower music," he said.

Waldon said that his future research might involve providing MP3 players and headphones to waiting patients and letting the patients choose which music they find most relaxing. This would give researchers the opportunity to examine how patient choice in music affects satisfaction or anxiety.

University of the Pacific has one of the oldest and most respected music therapy programs in the United States, offering degree programs and certificate equivalency courses at its Conservatory of Music in Stockton and at its San Francisco Campus.

About University of the Pacific
Established in 1851 as the first chartered institution of higher education in California, University of the Pacific prepares students for professional and personal success through rigorous academics, small classes, and a supportive and engaging culture. Widely recognized as one of the most beautiful private university campuses in the West, the Stockton campus offers more than 80 majors in seven schools. The university's distinctive Northern California footprint also includes a campus in San Francisco, home to the Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry and new graduate programs in health, food and technology fields, and in Sacramento, home to the Pacific McGeorge School of Law and new graduate programs in health, education, business and public policy. For more information, visit

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