I love working as a clinician, but in my spare time, nothing makes me happier than music. Music is a large part of my life—I am never not listening to my favorites (for those wondering: Twenty One Pilots, Brockhampton, Bad Omens, and Ghost) when driving, between sessions, or just resting at home. Not only that, but I’m also a music producer and songwriter. I have been writing songs since I was a little kid and never stopped. I love working with other brilliant-minded artists to aid the visions they are inspired to create.
Eventually, I developed the knack for utilizing my songwriting and producing as a form of expression and “therapy” itself. However, once I began my journey to become a counselor, I discovered another passion within my own hobby: using music with clients. I learned that something that could help me with my own feelings, emotions, and difficulties could do the same for others by integrating music-based interventions in practice.
Ways To Use Music In Therapy
Using music in therapy can be as simple as listening to relaxing music in session or discussing the lyrics to your favorite songs, to as elaborate as writing and creating your own original songs from scratch. Music can be an important part of many of our lives, comforting us, reminding us of memories, providing relatable lyrics, or giving an avenue to express ourselves. For some, a therapy session can provide a safe space to be able to use music in such ways, allowing discussion of many things. Not only that, but music has qualities that can improve mental health symptoms. But how?
The utilization of music-based activities in a structured way has been reported to alleviate symptoms of anxiety and depression (Mössler et al., 2011) in both children (Kim and Stegemann, 2016) and adults (Carr et al., 2013). Music can act as a form of emotional expression in both verbal and nonverbal ways.
The Benefits of Verbal and Non-verbal Music
While it is true that singing musical sounds and songs can be beneficial, the same is true for nonverbal ways of utilizing music. Because participating in music-based activities does not require speech, music is effective for people who struggle to communicate verbally (British Association for M, 2021). This means those with disability or injuries that are unable to express themselves verbally can benefit from utilizing music. This also goes for others who struggle to express emotions and feelings using words.
Discovering and listening to a song that expresses how you feel could then be used as a form of communication, for example. Additionally, songwriting can be beneficial as it has been shown to reduce levels of anxiety and depression (Gee et al., 2019).
I am very passionate about utilizing as many different techniques in practice, including music, hoping that those who are as passionate about the art form as I am can be provided a space to utilize their love for music in an effective, therapeutic way. Not only can music be a form of entertainment, but also an avenue of self-expression, communication, and a way to relieve certain symptoms.
Austin Moore is a new therapist at Mindsight. He is a proud dad to 3 garden snails (see below!) and a betta fish and will most likely show you pictures of them in response to dog/cat photos. If he’s not at work, he’s probably playing vintage video games, fantasy booking next week’s professional wrestling show, singing along out of tune at his favorite band’s show, or writing his next song.
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https://www.bamt.org/music-therapy/what-is-music-therapy British Association for Music Therapy [Internet].
Carr C., Odell-Miller H., Priebe S. A systematic review of music therapy practice and outcomes with acute adult psychiatric in-patients. PLoS One. 2013;8(8)
Gee, K. A., Hawes, V., & Cox, N. A. (2019). Blue Notes: Using Songwriting to Improve Student Mental Health and Wellbeing. A Pilot Randomised Controlled Trial. Frontiers in psychology, 10, 423. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2019.00423
Kim J., Stegemann T. Music listening for children and adolescents in health care contexts: a systematic review. Arts Psychother. 2016;51:72–85.
Mössler K., Chen X., Heldal T.O., Gold C. Music therapy for people with schizophrenia and schizophrenia-like disorders. Cochrane Database Syst. Rev. 2011;12