This study examined the efficacy of external distraction as a coping strategy. Thirty-eight dental patients were randomly assigned to one of three groups: incidental music during the dental procedure, music coupled with suggestions that music would help reduce stress, or a no-treatment control group. Patients in both music groups reported experiencing less stress (i.e., less pain. less discomfort, more control) than patients in the no-treatment group. Patient ratings made by dentists, blind to condition, provided converging evidence for the therapeutic effect of distraction. Thus, distracting music was found to be effective in reducing stress and increasing perceptions of control. The relative ease and simplicity of implementing external distraction compared to manipulating actual control in a medical setting may make this manipulation attractive to professionals involved with individuals experiencing stress.