We all have a favorite song--the song that transports us to a different state of mind. We know the lyrics to this song and the beat becomes familiar and even comforting to hear. Be it a Disney tune that reminds us of our carefree childhood, one that makes us get up and dance, or one that we wish to dedicate to love--equally breaking and mending our hearts. For one reason or another, this song speaks to us and awakens us. In many ways, it frees us from momentary worries; it is our escape.
We all need this escape so we crank up the volume, sing along, and often even shed a tear or two as we reminisce nostalgically. For those of us that have a love for music or dance, this is part of our daily routine—another vehicle of our self-expression. Whether we are cognizant of this or not, the music’s cathartic effect is therapeutic for us.
Being that I am one of these people, I have studied the art of music therapy and how it can be used on our clients. Think about it: we all have a story and we all need to vent. Some people take to writing or lecturing, some people play sports and displace their passions and aggressions physically, some people sit with their friends at coffee shops for hours, and some listen to music and find their way through its words and electricity. I believe that we can use this to our advantage as Mental Health professionals. If we use what joins us socially and culturally, we have a common thread to which we can identify with our clients and create rapport more easily (this works especially with adolescents).
Music can help us understand our clients, their wishes, their strengths and their fantastical ideas about life and themselves. For those clients who are resistant, music can open a door to their feelings and thereby, open a better therapeutic alliance. Music is what pumps up an athlete on his way to competition and what calms his nerves when extremely adrenalized. It is what ancient Greek philosophers trusted as being a healing power for the body and soul. It is a way for Alzheimer and Autism patients to better understand their world and consequently, themselves. It is what babies dance to while swimming in their mother’s stomach—one of their first attachments to life.
Music therapy has proven to be highly effective in reorganizing cerebral function, relieving pain, reducing anxiety, depression, and I would say, repression. It gives voice to the voiceless and serves as a meditative exercise.
Music is often interwoven with who we are or what we are too afraid to feel or say; it is a unique way to help our clients step away from their hesitancies and closer to their realities. This is why I propose we do our research, learn the most we can about music therapy, and take full advantage of what it can provide for us in our work.
Stephanie Dargoltz is a bilingual counselor who works at a private practice in South Florida with children, adolescents, and adults. Her interests include Sport Psychology/Counseling and plans to pursue these careers in the near future.