Beyond Trauma: Youth Music Therapy


The Michael Bolton Charities Beyond Trauma: Youth Music Therapy program is a one-of-a-kind groundbreaking initiative. It reaches high risk students who have a history of domestic violence and significant trauma, in their school of last resort.

Following extensive research, The Michael Bolton Charities determined that a highly personalized music therapy program possesses the potential for life-changing impact as a powerful and critical tool in the healing process.

Exceptional partners were identified to provide frontline expertise, offering individualized opportunities for students who have experienced extensive trauma to learn and develop trust in self and others, self-expression, and positive coping skills, better enabling them to alter the precarious path their lives are on.

Students become empowered by their own musical creations, benefitting from the chance to express themselves in a non-threatening and creative way, expressing emotions and sharing traumatic experiences. Their music is a means of reducing anxiety and anger, changing attitudes toward academic work and their own potential.

Turning from Trauma

The trauma experienced by these students is acute. Some have seen a person being shot at or killed, or been shot at themselves, and over 60 percent score in the clinical range for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). They have more than double the PTSD rate of Vietnam combat veterans.

Nearly 9 in 10 have witnessed community violence first-hand. More than three-quarters have seen the arrest of a caregiver or other loved one, experienced community violence or the incarceration of a caregiver or loved one, or both. Nearly two-thirds have witnessed school violence, been arrested, or been subjected to verbal or emotional abuse by a caregiver.

Collaborating Expertise

The Michael Bolton Charities launched the initiative in September 2015 in collaboration with the New Horizons School for Higher Achievement, which administers the program, and the Clifford Beers Child Guidance Clinic, which monitors and evaluates program outcomes. The music therapist guiding the program’s remarkable progress is Cyd Slotoroff, MT-BC, an experienced Board Certified Music Therapist.

Changing Direction

The Beyond Trauma: Youth Music Therapy program meets kids where they are, and builds from there. Attitudes change, behavior settles down, and a level of hope is restored. Students become empowered to try new things, and reach beyond the only world they have known.   They move gradually but steadily from a deeply traumatized day-to-day to a brightening glimmer of possibility. What was all but extinguished is rekindled.

Encouraging Results

Before the sessions started, students reported 70 percent of their emotions as angry, disconnected, confused. After the sessions, all the students reported only positive emotions - peaceful, excited, confident, joyful. They are starting to learn that they have the power to transform their emotional state. The program is helping these young people become whole again.

It is successful beyond the most optimistic expectations: students’ post-traumatic stress symptoms are reduced, their attendance and behavior are improved. Young people who have known only a daily barrage of heartbreak, trauma, violence, adversity and tragedy are - for the first time in their lives - believing.

We need your support to extend this breakthrough program and reach more young people.

We need your support to extend this breakthrough program and reach more young people.

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