It's...complicated: A theoretical model of music-induced harm

Michael J. Silverman, Lori F. Gooding, Olivia Yinger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


While literature exists supporting the use of music for health promotion, scholars have also noted the potential for music-induced harm and other maladaptive effects of music. Harm is a multifaceted construct that can include affective, behavioral, cognitive, identity, interpersonal, physical, and spiritual aspects. As music also represents a multifaceted experience, the relationship between music and harm is complex and can include numerous contextual-, deliverer-, music-, and recipient-based factors. Music-induced harm (MIH) also needs to be clearly defined to understand and protect against it. Therefore, the purpose of this article was to explore the numerous factors influencing how music can result in harm and develop a theoretical model that could be used to inform safe music practices. Drawing from existing models of emotional responses to music, music intervention reporting guidelines, therapeutic functions of music, and holistic wellness, we explored how the interplay between the deliverer, music, and recipient can result in various types of MIH in diverse contexts. We then developed the MIH model to integrate these factors and connect the model with the existing literature. The MIH model highlights the relevance of academic and clinical training, credentialing, occupational regulation, continuing education, and professional organizations that provide accredited curricular oversight to protect people from MIH. Implications for clinical application, limitations, and suggestions for future research are provided.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)251-281
Number of pages31
JournalJournal of Music Therapy
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2020. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of American Music Therapy Association. All rights reserved.


  • Harm
  • Model
  • Music
  • Music-induced harm
  • Theory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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