Impact of the Healing in Harmony program on women’s mental health in rural Democratic Republic of Congo

A new research study on the Healing in Harmony program highlights the positive impact it has had on women’s mental health in rural Democratic Republic of the Congo. The study, published in the journal Global Mental Health, aimed to assess whether Healing in Harmony improved women’s mental health following conflict-related trauma and sexual violence.

READ: Impact of the Healing in Harmony program on women’s mental health in a rural area in South Kivu province, Democratic Republic of Congo

Researcher and Make Music Matter’s Lead Therapist Justin Cikuru shares a few words about the findings, what it means to the organization, and to the wider humanitarian community.

What are the main findings of this research?

The research demonstrates that the Healing in Harmony music therapy program has the capacity to heal mental illness such as anxiety, depression, and PTSD. It has been associated with a significant improvement in women’s mental health, sustained up to six months post-completion of the program despite instability in the region and evidence of continued experience of conflict-related trauma during the study.

These data support the value of providing psychological care in the context of ongoing humanitarian crises.

What is the significance of these results for the communities in which Make Music Matter works?

To my knowledge, Healing in Harmony is the first culturally appropriate psychosocial therapy program based on local implementation and ownership to be tested scientifically and to be proven effective in healing mental illness that is meanly associated to the issue of sexual and gender-based violence – a thematic in which our partners at Panzi Hospital intervene the most. The program has also been proven effective in both rural and urban areas.

For Panzi Hospital and Foundations, the research is particularly important as the Healing in Harmony program fits in to the psychosocial pillar of their four-pillar holistic healing model. The therapy model has been tested and implemented as part of their interventions and has now proven to be effective in healing mental health indicators including anxiety, depression, and PTSD.

Together we can now scale the Healing in Harmony model to other psychosocial-related projects with no doubt of its impact.

Why does this research matter to the wider humanitarian community and their work?

We now have a unique local based model that is scientifically proven to be effective, that can be used to facilitate humanitarian work worldwide.

Most of the suggested psychosocial therapy models are mainly tested in Western countries and do not generally consider the culture and values in the African context.

Healing in Harmony is mostly African inspired. It differs from traditional Western techniques and can now be scaled from an African to a European or American context.

What does this research represent to you on a personal and professional level?

The fact that our work is being recognized scientifically gives me more assurance that what we are doing is having a positive impact on the people we serve. It is not something imagined or an explanation, but it is a fact, its impact is visible, and it’s sustainable for more than 6 months.

There is also an element of pride and self-satisfaction to contribute something new and original to the scientific community that people can refer to to help those who are suffering with psychosocial issues, especially in areas of war and social instability.

Justin Cikuru has a Masters degree in Counseling Psychology from Daystar University in Nairobi. He has worked as a therapist at Panzi Hospital in the DRC and currently works with Make Music Matter to implement Healing in Harmony globally as Lead Therapist and Trainer.
(Photo by Platon for the People’s Portfolio and Dr. Denis Mukwege)


Make Music Matter extends thanks to the entire research team and partners who have made this project possible:

Justin Cikuru (International Center for Advanced Research and Training, Bukavu, DRC; Make Music Matter)

Ali Bitenga (International Center for Advanced Research and Training, Bukavu, DRC)

Juvenal Bazilashe Mukungu Balegamire (Evangelical University in Africa, Bukavu, DRC)

Prince Mujumbe Salama (International Center for Advanced Research and Training, Bukavu, DRC)

Michelle M. Hood (Department of Epidemiology, University of Michigan, USA)

Bhramar Mukherjee (Department of Biostatistics, University of Michigan, USA)

Alain Mukwege (Department of Epidemiology, University of Michigan, USA)

Sioban D. Harlow (International Center for Advanced Research and Training, Bukavu, DRC; Department of Epidemiology, University of Michigan, USA)

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