Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Department of Psychology


Performance anxiety is common amongst both amateur and professional performers. It can lead to a loss of enjoyment in performance, a deterioration in the quality of that performance, or at its worst, the complete cessation of performance. In attempting to treat musical performance anxiety psychologists have concentrated on standard cognitive and behavioural treatments including progressive muscle relaxation, self-instructional training, rational emotive therapy, behaviour rehearsal and systematic desensitization. These methods have generally been shown to be effective in reducing performance anxiety.

The first preliminary study of this thesis compared the individual and combined effectiveness of progressive muscle relaxation and self-instructional training. It was concluded that the combination treatment was more effective than either of the individual treatments.

The major focus of this thesis was on modifying the standard cognitive and behavioural treatments used in previous research to make them more applicable to the musical context. In the second preliminary study, in-depth interviews with successful professional performers were conducted to determine the strategies that these performers used to manage performance anxiety. The results revealed that they adopted a diverse range of preparation strategies before performing, which successfully prevented the build-up of anxiety and allowed them to feel in control. These strategies included a variety of cognitive, behavioural, lifestyle and musical strategies.

A modified cognitive and behavioural treatment was developed based on the results of the second preliminary study. The final study compared this modified cognitive and behavioural treatment with the standard cognitive and behavioural treatment used in the first preliminary study. The results showed that both treatments were more effective than a no-treatment control. Neither was more effective than the other.

It is suggested that, in the treatment of musical performance anxiety, some of the components of the modified treatment may make useful additions to standard cognitive and behavioural treatments. In terms of future developments it is also suggested that a holistic approach to treatment which fully addresses the lifestyle context of musical performance holds the greatest promise for future empirical investigation into the treatment of musical performance anxiety.