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Bettina Flater: Heart Rate Variability and Subjective Experience in Music Therapy in Mental Health Care

Do Heart Rate Variability measurements correspond to subjective evaluations of feelings of safety, sociability and well-being in music therapy sessions in a mental health setting? If so, in what way?

Field of study: Music Therapy.


The human heart does not beat like a metronome. There are continuous small changes in the time interval between one heartbeat and the next; a phenomenon is known as heart rate variability (HRV). High HRV is increasingly recognised as a measure of mental and physical robustness.

This project aims to explore the possible link between HRV and subjective experience in music therapy in mental health care through a multiple-case study. The polyvagal theory and the neurovisceral integration model are two theoretical positions that see the role of HRV holistically. Both provide perspectives on the therapeutic effects of music.

The thesis is anchored in the humanistic perspective in music therapy, resource-oriented music therapy, community music therapy and relational music therapy.

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Published: Sep 1, 2021 — Last updated: Mar 12, 2023