Why your men­tal health needs mu­sic

THE MORE WE UN­DER­STAND ABOUT MEN­TAL HEALTH, THE MORE WE LEARN THAT THERE ARE MANY WAYS YOU CAN LOOK AF­TER YOURS. EN­TER MU­SIC THER­APY – A FORM OF PSY­CHOL­OGY THAT COULD BE JUST WHAT YOU NEED

Cosmopolitan (Australia) - - Contents -

Mu­sic helps us make sense of our life and gives us emo­tional re­lease,’ says mu­sic ther­a­pist Lise MacDon­ald. Here, we dis­cuss why mu­sic ther­apy – a type of psy­chol­ogy – could be for you.

Mu­sic what?

‘An­tic­i­pa­tion and ex­pe­ri­ence of peak emo­tions (chills and goose­bumps) dur­ing mu­sic lis­ten­ing have been found to lead to the re­lease of dopamine,’ says Ko­bie Swart of the Univer­sity of Pre­to­ria’s Depart­ment of Mu­sic. ‘Dopamine is as­so­ci­ated with a plea­sure­and­re­ward sys­tem usu­ally ac­ti­vated by eat­ing, sex and cer­tain drugs. Mu­sic is an acous­tic stim­u­lus with the same ef­fect.’

‘We all have mu­si­cal skills and in­stincts,’ ex­plains MacDon­ald. ‘Just think about the in­her­ent mu­si­cal qual­i­ties – tone, pitch, tempo and vol­ume – of our vo­cal ex­pres­sions such as laugh­ing, sigh­ing, cry­ing and speech.’ That’s why mu­sic is of­ten used as a form of clin­i­cal psy­chol­ogy. Mu­sic ther­apy is the ap­pli­ca­tion of var­i­ous mu­sic tech­niques – from song­writ­ing to im­pro­vi­sa­tion – to man­age men­tal health.

‘In a mu­sic­ther­apy ses­sion, the ther­a­pist will use mu­sic to pro­vide a safe space for the non­ver­bal ex­pres­sion of emo­tion,’ says MacDon­ald. ‘This is sim­i­lar to what hap­pens ver­bally in a psy­chol­ogy ses­sion.’

How does it work?

‘As mu­sic ther­a­pists, we come across more and more peo­ple who pre­fer a cre­ative type of ther­apy that al­lows them to by­pass ra­tio­nal think­ing. That’s where cre­ative mu­sic ther­apy and Guided Im­agery and Mu­sic (GIM, a pow­er­ful mu­sic­ and im­agery­cen­tred psy­chother­apy) are very ef­fec­tive,’ says Swart.

Mu­sic ther­apy can also have mas­sive im­pact be­cause of how mu­sic af­fects the brain. ‘Mu­sic is a “whole brain” phe­nom­e­non, which means your en­tire brain is ac­tive and en­gaged,’ says MacDon­ald. ‘Mu­sic is a sys­tem where vi­bra­tions are trans­lated into sounds, which form pat­terns and struc­tures (like songs). We have an emo­tional, men­tal and phys­i­cal re­sponse to these struc­tures, and we at­tach mean­ing to them.’

Through im­pro­vi­sa­tion, song­writ­ing, lyri­cal anal­y­sis, move­ment and lis­ten­ing to mu­sic, you com­mu­ni­cate how you’re feel­ing, giv­ing a mu­sic ther­a­pist in­sight into your emo­tional state. Mu­sic ther­a­pists are trained to lis­ten to the mu­si­cal, emo­tional and re­la­tional qual­i­ties of how a pa­tient en­gages with mu­sic.

Is it ef­fec­tive?

Karen de Kock, a mu­sic ther­a­pist, says, ‘There is an in­nate re­spon­sive­ness to mu­sic in all hu­man be­ings. We all re­spond to rhythm, melody and har­mony, re­gard­less of phys­i­cal or men­tal dis­abil­ity, in­jury or ill­ness.’

The Cochrane Li­brary did nine stud­ies on the ef­fects of mu­sic ther­apy on more than 400 peo­ple. The stud­ies com­pared mu­sic ther­apy to ver­bal psy­chother­apy, and

‘We all have a song that we deeply con­nect with’

mea­sured the dif­fer­ences be­tween the two pil­lars of mu­sic ther­apy: ac­tive (where you sing or play mu­sic) and re­cep­tive (where you lis­ten to mu­sic). The con­clu­sions? Mu­sic ther­apy com­bined with ver­bal ther­apy is more ef­fec­tive than ver­bal ther­apy on its own. ‘Mu­sic ther­apy seems to re­duce de­pres­sive symp­toms and anx­i­ety, and helps to im­prove func­tion­ing (main­tain­ing in­volve­ment in your job, ac­tiv­i­ties and re­la­tion­ships),’ the study said.

What’s your ther­apy type? LYRIC ANAL­Y­SIS

Ver­bal ther­apy is about you talk­ing to a ther­a­pist, but lyric anal­y­sis ap­proaches feel­ings that may be dif­fi­cult to ex­press through lan­guage. In­stead, you’re en­cour­aged to in­ter­pret lyrics ac­cord­ing to your unique in­sight.

Mu­sic ther­a­pist Molly War­ren says, ‘Themes from lyrics can ap­ply to ob­sta­cles in your life. We all have a song that we deeply con­nect with and ap­pre­ci­ate – and lyric anal­y­sis pro­vides an op­por­tu­nity to iden­tify song lyrics that may cor­re­late with your ex­pe­ri­ence.’

CRE­ATIVE MU­SIC THER­APY (AKA THE NORDOFFROBBINS AP­PROACH)

‘Ses­sions con­tain mu­sic­mak­ing with in­stru­ments such as shak­ers and small drums,’ ex­plains mu­sic ther­a­pist Karyn Stu­art. ‘Ses­sions start with a hello song to help en­gage the client. At times we cre­ate and write songs to help ex­press emo­tions; other times a well­known song can be sung to al­le­vi­ate anx­i­ety. The use of ac­tion songs, move­ment, singing, danc­ing, draw­ing, art, writ­ing, talk­ing and im­pro­vi­sa­tion is a pos­si­bil­ity. A mu­si­cal good­bye helps bring the ses­sion to a close.’

SONG­WRIT­ING

‘Tak­ing own­er­ship of lyrics al­lows pa­tients to tell their own story,’ says War­ren. ‘Any­one can cre­ate lyrics that re­flect their ex­pe­ri­ences, and se­lect in­stru­ments and sounds that re­flect the emo­tion be­hind the lyrics. This can be val­i­dat­ing and build self­worth.’

THE BONNY METHOD OF GIM

He­len Bonny de­vel­oped this form of mu­sic ther­apy, which has been used for peo­ple with psy­cho­log­i­cal and emo­tional dif­fi­cul­ties. Bonny de­scribes it as a ‘process where im­agery is evoked dur­ing lis­ten­ing to mu­sic’. The key steps in­clude:

Pre-talk You set your ex­pec­ta­tions of the ses­sion.

Induction Time to re­lax in prepa­ra­tion for the ses­sion.

Mu­sic jour­ney and di­a­logue As the mu­sic plays, you de­scribe the im­agery it in­vokes while your ther­a­pist lis­tens to you and guides you.

Man­dala draw­ing Man­dalas are a form of sa­cred ge­om­e­try in Hin­duism and Bud­dhism. Draw­ing man­dalas is of­ten used in heal­ing and med­i­ta­tive tech­niques. Af­ter the mu­sic jour­ney, you get to draw freely in­side a cir­cle on a piece of pa­per, and be­gin the sooth­ing process of cre­at­ing a man­dala.

Post-talk You re­flect on your draw­ing and the mu­sic jour­ney while con­nect­ing the dots to your ex­pe­ri­ences IRL.

THE DALCROZE METHOD (AKA THE DALCROZE EURHYTHMICS)

This method in­cor­po­rates mu­sic ap­pre­ci­a­tion, ear train­ing (con­nect­ing sounds you hear with notes, scales and chords) and im­pro­vi­sa­tion, as well as us­ing your body as the in­stru­ment by lis­ten­ing to the rhythm of a piece of mu­sic and ex­press­ing what you hear through phys­i­cal move­ment. It’s also been used to help pa­tients deal with HIV/Aids di­ag­noses, and those who’ve en­coun­tered trauma.

Find a ther­a­pist

You can ac­cess ther­a­pists and their prac­tices on­line. A great place to start is the Aus­tralian Mu­sic Ther­apy As­so­ci­a­tion web­site (Austmta. org.au), which lists cer­ti­fied mu­sic ther­a­pists.

DIY at home

‘Most of us can ben­e­fit from 10 to 20 min­utes a day with mu­sic of our choos­ing, and do with it what­ever we feel like do­ing,’ says Swart. ‘This can be med­i­tat­ing, re­lax­ing or just be­ing still with the mu­sic; danc­ing, draw­ing or writ­ing to the mu­sic; al­low­ing the mu­sic to give us en­ergy, new ideas or mo­ti­va­tion. ‘To pro­mote re­lax­ation, lis­ten to mu­sic that you find sooth­ing while you prac­tise deep breath­ing,’ says Bar­bara Reuer, an ex­pert in mu­sic­cen­tred well­ness. ‘For pain man­age­ment, look for mu­sic that fo­cuses your mind on things other than your dis­com­fort. And don’t judge your singing abil­i­ties or get frus­trated if you make mis­takes as you play your in­stru­ment. The idea is to just let go.’

LIS­TEN­ING TO NOTH­ING BUT GOOD VIBES!

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