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Krylyn Peters Jul 23, 2010

How Do You Listen to Music?

Have you ever stopped to think about how you listen to music? Sure you might listen to the radio, CD’s, or your ipod, hear songs playing in an elevator or doctor’s office, or stumble upon a live music performance, but what happens when you hear the music? What thoughts and feelings come up for you? How does your body respond as you listen?

Is there a song that whenever you hear it, no matter where you are or what you’re doing, brings back a vivid memory, a smile, or tears? Most of us have at least one song that elicits a strong reaction. If you do, then you have experienced the power that music has to transport you to another time, place, or state of mind.

Music can also be a powerful tool for healing, as the words (or lyrics) speak to you, letting you know that you’re not alone in thinking or feeling the way that you do, that someone else understands where you are coming from. Music can tell a story, your story, and in the process bring voice to an event or situation that may otherwise go untold.

So again, I ask you to reflect on how you listen to music. Is it background noise when you are cleaning your house or driving in your car? Is it a mood enhancer, used to energize you when you need a boost or calm you when you need to take a break? Is it a friend who understands what you are going through or has some sage advice for what to do next?

There are three different types of listening:

1.Passive Listening is really just about hearing, allowing sound to be a part of the background. It doesn’t require anything of you other than pressing play on your CD player or ipod. To create this experience for your clients, simply use music in your waiting room or sessions. I would suggest using instrumental music so it isn’t distracting.

2.Active Listening is about paying attention to what you are hearing. It’s about listening to the song’s message and overall feeling, portrayed in the words (or lyrics) and music. To create this experience for your clients, choose music that has a message you think would be helpful for your clients to hear. There’s so many songs to choose from, from different genres, with different lyrics. You can also ask your client what they are listening to, which I do regularly, as a way to find out where they are at or what songs bring up memories or strong emotional reactions.

3.Intentional Listening takes active listening a step further by combining it with action. This type of listening often provides the most healing benefit. You may already do this with your clients on some levels, using music as a backdrop for visualization, hypnosis, or other interventions. This is the type of listening I focus on the most in my work. I have clients listen to certain songs, sometimes just listening to the lyrics, sometimes just to the rhythm, then talking about the thoughts and feelings that come up for them. I have clients rewrite lyrics to songs or rewrite melodies to lyrics. And of course, I have clients write their own songs. The possibilities are endless.

You (or your clients) can listen to music in any way that feels comfortable. One day, you may use it as background music and another day you may really want to hone in on a specific song that speaks to you. There’s no wrong way to listen to music. Happy listening!

Krylyn Peters is a counselor and singer/songwriter who uses the power of music and sound for healing.

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