People often talk about the power of a good song, a dance break, or singing in the shower. In fact, it would probably be hard to find someone who didn’t agree that immersing yourself in music in some capacity was a great way to boost morale. But while many acknowledge the value of music, few know about just how powerful it can actually be.
According to a Cambridge University study, “Evidence is beginning to emerge that music therapy can improve the mental health of people with depression.” (Source: Cambridge.org) The team at House of Music Therapy couldn’t agree more, especially since we’ve been observing the incredible impact of music on the mental health of our students for years. When it comes to mental health, sometimes the best treatment approach is to go back to the basics.
Relying on Music to Process & Regulate
As music therapists, we’re passionate about helping people find joy, comfort, and relief through music. But it does more than give our clients the warm fuzzies. “Research shows the benefits of music therapy for various mental health conditions, including depression, trauma, and schizophrenia (to name a few). Music acts as a medium for processing emotions, trauma, and grief—but music can also be utilized as a regulating or calming agent for anxiety or for dysregulation.” (Source: NAMI)
Processing and regulating are a huge part of coping with and managing mental health challenges, and not just for people who struggle with severe mental health issues. All of us can benefit from taking time to intentionally process our feelings and emotions - happy, sad, and everything in between. But by leveraging music as a tool, there are four specific ways that you (and we) can work through mental health challenges.
4 Music Therapy-Based Mental Health Interventions
The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) identifies four of the most common interventions that can be used to aid those struggling with their mental health, including lyric analysis, improvisation music playing, active music listening, and songwriting. At House of Music Therapy, we leverage each of these interventions across a variety of classes in order to serve our Southwest Florida families and clients comprehensively. Curious about what that looks like? Here’s a quick break down of each intervention:
1. Lyric Analysis
By paying attention to what a song is actually saying (or should we say singing), we can gain insight into how others experience emotions, embrace relatable stories, practice empathy for others and ourselves, and even connect to for support. Diving deeper into the lyrics of a song is a great way to help us process our own emotions.
2. Improvisation Music Playing
“Playing instruments can encourage emotional expression, socialization and exploration of various therapeutic themes (i.e. conflict, communication, grief, etc.).” (Source: NAMI) By paying closer attention to the sounds hidden throughout songs, our students are able to correlate specific song elements (like the loud, important parts or the soft parts that blend into the background) to their own emotions.
3. Active Music Listening
Music actually engages the neocortex of our brain, resulting in a more relaxed state and minimizing anxiety at times. By actively listening to music and immersing students in the sounds they hear, we can actually alter their moods or soothe them during times of trouble. This explains the unavoidable feelings of joy that wash over us when our favorite song comes on the radio. We leverage this approach to help soothe our students or elicit emotions to gain a better understanding of how they work.
Contrary to popular belief…you don’t have to be a professional songwriter to write songs. Just like anyone can write poetry, or a book, or in a journal, songwriting can be a creative outlet for expression, allowing students to reflect on their own feelings and find comfort through their words. “This process can be very validating, and can aid in building self-worth. This intervention can also instill a sense of pride, as someone listens to their own creation.” (Source: NAMI)
The Importance of Pleasure and Play
One of the reasons music therapy can be so beneficial is because it allows us to harness the power of pleasure and play. Many of our students struggle with anxiety or difficult, heavy feelings, or find themselves stuck in a stressful loop of overthinking. By combining music with proven therapy approaches, we can help them tap into their own sense of creativity, lightheartedness, and play in order to grow and process the emotions that can otherwise weigh them down.
We find that for many of our clients and their families, music therapy offers an opportunity to let go of the things that otherwise weigh us down throughout the day and embrace the sunshine that lives within all of us.
The House of Music Therapy
When focusing on mental health in music therapy sessions, our staff taps into all of the resources, interventions, and methods mentioned above in order to serve our clients across Southwest Florida. While music therapy has been proven to help alleviate some of the weight that comes with mental health challenges, it’s a great treatment method for all sorts of common challenges.
House of Music Therapy works with a variety of individuals and families, spanning all age groups and aiming to work on a wide spectrum of obstacles or behaviors. From depression and anxiety to developmental disorders (like autism or Down's syndrome) to addiction and beyond, our mission is to bring accessible and enjoyable music therapy programs to you and your loved ones. Interested in learning more about our programs? Click here to learn more about our services, who we work with, our locations, our rates, and to book a free consultation to determine if music therapy is right for you!
It’s important for us to note that if you’re experiencing severe depression or anxiety, or thoughts of suicide, you should call 911 or speak with your doctor to determine what treatment is best for you.