Publication Date



Open access

Embargo Period


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Music (MM)


Music Education and Music Therapy (Music)

Date of Defense


First Committee Member

Kimberly Sena Moore

Second Committee Member

Teresa L. Lesiuk

Third Committee Member

Michael Alessandri


Deficits in emotional competency negatively affect interpersonal skills, academic and occupational performance, and independent living skills. In individuals with intellectual and other developmental disabilities that affect cognitive functioning, increases in symptom severity tend to be correlated with increases in emotional deficits. Thus, these individuals may benefit from treatment programs that address emotion behaviors, such as emotion identification, emotion regulation, and emotional expression. One such treatment program can involve the use of music. As an initial exploration, this systematic review sought to summarize and analyze extant literature on the use of music interventions to address emotional skills in individuals with special needs. A comprehensive electronic database search yielded 18 studies that met predetermined inclusion criteria. Relevant data pertaining to the research questions were extracted, analyzed, and compared for trends and common findings. Results indicated an increasing interest in this clinical area in recent years, and that music therapists and other professionals most often utilize instrument playing, singing, and improvisation when addressing emotional skills. Implications for clinicians are discussed and theoretical guidelines for future research are explored.


music; emotions; special needs; disabilities; review; music therapy