Research shows the benefits of music therapy for various mental health conditions, including depression, trauma, and schizophrenia (to name a few). Music provides a way to work through emotions, trauma, and grief—but music can also be used as a calming agent for anxiety and other diagnoses.
While talk therapy allows a person to speak about topics that may be difficult to discuss, lyric analysis introduces a novel and less-threatening approach to process emotions, thoughts, and experiences. A person receiving music therapy is encouraged to offer insight, alternative lyrics and tangible tools or themes from lyrics that can apply to obstacles in their life and their treatment. We all have a song that we deeply connect to and appreciate—lyric analysis provides an opportunity for an individual to identify song lyrics that may correlate with their experience.
Playing instruments can encourage emotional expression, socialization, and exploration of various therapeutic themes (i.e. conflict, communication, grief, etc.). For example, a group can create a “storm” by playing drums, rain sticks, thunder tubes, and other percussive instruments. The group can note areas of escalation and de-escalation in the improvisation, and the group can correlate the “highs and lows” of the storm to particular feelings they may have. This creates an opportunity for the group to discuss their feelings further.
Music can be used to regulate mood. Because of its rhythmic and repetitive aspects, music engages the neocortex of our brain, which calms us and reduces impulsivity. We often utilize music to match or alter our mood. While there are benefits to matching music to our mood, it can potentially keep us stuck in a depressive, angry or anxious state. To alter mood states, a music therapist can play music to match the current mood of the person and then slowly shift to a more positive or calm state.
Songwriting provides opportunities for in a positive and rewarding way. Anyone can create lyrics that reflect their own thoughts and experiences, and select instruments and sounds that best reflect the emotion behind the lyrics. 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.
“Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything.” ― Plato
“Music was my refuge. I could crawl into the space between the notes and curl my back to loneliness.” ― Maya Angelou
“After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music.”
― Aldous Huxley
“Where words fail, music speaks.”
― Hans Christian Andersen
“Music . . . can name the unnameable and communicate the unknowable.”
― Leonard Bernstein
Karen is a great listener and a solid shoulder to lean on. She has a degree in History and English and a diploma in Counselling Skills. She struggles with Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Depression. She understands the importance of having someone to talk to about your struggles. She loves singing, researching her genealogy, cheering for her favorite hockey teams, swimming, hiking and spending time with friends.
You can follow Karen on Twitter.
One thought on “How Music Therapy Can Help Anxious People”
There are certain songs that calm me and others that make me want to dance with joy. I enjoy listening to music. 🙂