By: Christian Baginski, Masters Level Intern
Music is something that so many people, me included, are passionate about. We find ourselves congregating around our favorite genres, we acquire tastes from the people around us as we grow up, and it is clear that music has some impact on the lives of nearly everyone. Many people will decide to learn how to play music and find identity in the instrument as well as the type of music they decide to play. With all this said, it is not surprising that music has a strong place in therapy. Traditional music therapy incorporates the playing of music by the counselor and the clients in order to assist in creative expression. The counselor’s participation is not necessary but sometimes it helps to facilitate the participation of the client. One major aspect of music therapy is that it is about expression whether that be through playing music or listening to music. This type of expression can assist someone who struggles to articulate their feelings, can help a client find motivation to create something new, or it can help alter a person’s mood in a positive way (Maratos, Gold, Wang, Crawford, 2008). Musically gifted clients who perform often may find a certain comfort in playing and singing rather than working through traditional conversation. Using these means therapists can get a great amount of information on what their client wants to communicate by paying attention the content of the song or exploring the client’s interpretation of their own lyrics after the song.
Though not traditional music therapy, I have worked with clients who have found songs that do well to articulate how they feel or how they think about specific things. Exploring lyrics and listening to music in session can be quite effective at conveying these emotions in the moment. The act of listening to music can be a type of emotionally evocative experience that can lead to greater insight when explored therapeutically. Think of what your favorite songs actually mean and why do you feel like they are so important to you? Often they can communicate something. The tone and type of the music that we listen to does not always match the feelings we get when we hear it. Depressing music may make us feel happy to hear or angry music may make us feel calm. Music can be a great tool for exploring different ways of processing our feelings and receiving some sort of emotional catharsis when our feelings are put eloquently into lyrics. These feelings relate back to the idea of music expressing identity. Individuals often gravitate towards specific music artists that they like and they can sometimes see themselves in these artists ideas and messages. Identity is such an important element of music appreciation and expression that some people will listen to groups they enjoy for several hours nearly every day. It is no surprise that this commitment has meaning, and this meaning can tell a great deal about at least part of a person’s identity.
Music Therapy has a great deal of nuance to it, and I highly encourage my readers to look further into it. If you are interested in music therapy, ask your counselor about finding a way to incorporate your passions into a session. Even if you just want to share a complicated feeling through a song, listening to or performing music that is important to you can be fun and helpful for you and your therapist.
Ansdell, G. (2014). How Music Helps in Music Therapy and Everyday Life (1st ed.). Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9781315587172
Maratos A, Gold C, Wang X, Crawford M. (2008) Music therapy for depression. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. Issue 1. Art. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD004517.pub2.