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The Role of Music Therapy in improving Social Skills and Self-Esteem in Individuals with ADHD

Updated: May 10, 2023

For the last three decades, the world has seen an increase in the amount of school-aged children diagnosed with ADHD as well as being medicated for it. ADHD can cause a number of issues for kids, like low self-esteem due to poor performance in school or social anxiety.

Music therapy, however, can play a crucial role in improving social skills and self-esteem for those with ADHD. The key is to understand it and all of its benefits. We are here for that!

Understanding Music Therapy and using Music Therapeutically

Music therapy is commonly and wrongfully interchanged with the idea of listening to music therapeutically. Music has enormous benefits for everyone and can uplift our mood or make us feel relatable. But music therapy is not as casual as putting on some pop hits and feeling better. Music therapy is much more than that.

Music therapy has been studied and scientifically proven to help improve the health of individuals suffering from certain conditions. It can be for physical or mental improvement, but a board certified music therapist or an MT-BC must do it. This is because they have been trained in certain techniques and methods. After all, it is a sub-genre of therapy.

Music Therapy and ADHD Correlations

ADHD is a neurobehavioral disorder in which someone struggles to hold their attention to one particular thing. They may have hyperactivity or impulses that take their attention elsewhere.

This makes it hard for them to focus in social situations as well as during school. Clinical music therapy can assist with this in many ways.

For those who struggle with ADHD, listening to preferred music can increase the level of dopamine that is being produced.

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter and is directly responsible for a number of things that affect ADHD. This includes working memory, motivation, and attention span.

Music therapists can use brain imaging to see which parts of the brain light up in response to certain elements. Certain parts of the brain light up in response to music, indicating that those neural networks are working.

By continuing to “flex” or stimulate those parts of the brain, therapists can help improve their function. Individuals with ADHD will increasingly strengthen those brain connections over time.

Other Benefits That Help With Self-Esteem and Social Interaction

While there is a direct relation between music therapy and improving ADHD, there are other benefits as well. Music has always been thought to be a social and cultural way of connecting with people.

By embracing this as a new means of communicating other than verbally, music can help those who struggle to socially connect with others.

Listening to music is not the only way. In fact, many MT-BCs provide sessions that have their clients, and students take part in a music group under their supervision. This can be done through singing and using their voices, playing an instrument, and creating a band so to speak.

Using Calming Music

Those who deal with ADHD may be automatically tuned into TV or auditory noises because they are more distracting. Replacing this with calming music can help with overstimulation but also, over time, improve focus. Rhythmic music is particularly helpful because it creates a routine, which is important for those with ADHD.

It’s also true that not all music is great for those with ADHD. Because children and individuals with ADHD use a lot of their brain power for processing, it can often tire them out.

Using chaotic music would only make this worse. Carefully selected music can help slow down the processing of things or, in some cases, if needed, speed it up.

There is a time and place for getting energy out. For instance, if a parent notices that their child’s ADHD is creating a lot of energy, a dance party may be what’s needed at this time.

Using Playlists to Create Other Routines

Being able to get into routine is invaluable for individuals. Feeling like they have control over themselves boosts self-confidence and self-esteem. Using a playlist to signal a particular event can be just what they need.

For example, getting ready for bed and winding down may be difficult for some children. Not only can calming music be a great idea but a particular playlist that they associate with brushing their teeth, putting their pajamas on, and more can help them feel at ease. It’s also a great auditory reminder.

The same can be done for getting up in the morning to set the tone of the day. This may be less winding down but more focused and positive. A board certified music therapist can help parents set up these kinds of playlists and the right music and routines that work for their child.

Increase Motivation

When an individual starts to engage in music, there is an increase in motivation. This is much like kids who find themselves engaged in sports when they have ADHD.

Giving individual goals to work on through music not only pivots their focus but it boosts self-esteem as they begin to improve and accomplish things. Something like learning easy piano songs can also motivate them to continue down the path and learn more.

Finding the Right Fit

Much like regular therapy, music therapy requires finding the right fit between student and therapist. Music therapy can be performed in school settings, clinics, hospitals, childcare centers, and many more places.

Asking questions about the process with your board certified music therapist is a great way for parents and the child to start building a relationship with the MT-BC. Ask what kind of methods and techniques they use and their experience to date.

If it’s not a great fit on the first try, don’t worry. This can happen. Who the individual with ADHD feels most comfortable with is going to most likely result in the best progress in managing and improving their health.


If you're interested in finding a local music therapist, head to

Or reach out to Anderson Music Therapy today to schedule a free consultation to talk with a music therapist.


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