Group Music Therapy for Borderline Personality Disorder. Examining the convergence of musical and relational competencies in improvisational group music therapy for people with borderline personality disorder

Dr Jason Kenner1

1Melbourne Music Therapy, Melbourne, Australia

This presentation describes a clinical study of group music therapy in an outpatient day program. The intervention described is an 8-week group program designed for participants with a diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). The main features of a BPD diagnosis include instability of mood and difficulties with interpersonal relationships. Participants were recruited to the group if they identified with the program aim of exploring relational competencies.

The program combined psychotherapeutic and resource-oriented principles to engage participants in an experiential ‘graduate’ program building on skills develop in dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT). Strategies for coping with emotions in group contexts were a required pre-requisite to participation. The group methods included group improvisation, creating artwork, discussion, and resource building within the theme of healthy and unhealthy uses of music listening.

The clinical study was part of a PhD thesis exploring the convergence of musical and relational competencies for people with BPD. The study received ethics approval from a HEAG.

The research showed that as musical competencies (music skills) grew, participants experienced a reduction in anxiety, improved positive social behaviours such as eye contact, smiling and contributing to conversations. Further, participants developed connections and trust within the group as self-criticism and perfectionism decreased. The relationship between musical competencies and relational competencies is explored as a framework for a therapeutic rationale that suggests participation in therapeutic group improvisation leads to insight and change in relational competencies.


Dr Jason Kenner is a Registered Music Therapist (RMT) and director of Melbourne Music Therapy. Jason has worked in a variety of clinical settings including public and private hospitals, community mental health clinics, residential homes and not for profit programs. He completed his PhD on group music therapy in psychiatry, has presented at national and international conferences and is an experienced academic lecturing in music therapy. Jason is currently director of Melbourne Music Therapy providing individual and group music therapy to people of all ages working predominantly in mental health.

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