Music therapy is not just about playing music and singing, it's a powerful tool that can help individuals to express and process emotions in a way that words often fail. It's a privilege for music therapists to work with people in deep and meaningful ways, exploring music-facilitated experiences to help individuals navigate through life's challenges.
For those who are grieving, music therapy can provide solace and comfort in a way that words can't. According to Dr. Diane Austin, a licensed clinical psychologist and board-certified music therapist, "Music has the ability to touch our hearts and evoke emotions that can be difficult to put into words. For those grieving, music therapy can provide a space for individuals to express their feelings and connect with their loved ones in a deep and meaningful way."
We asked a Betterleave provider to share more about their practice and experiences.
Can you tell us a bit about what music therapy is and how it works?
Sure! Music therapy is a form of psychotherapy that uses music to address emotional, cognitive, physical, and social needs of individuals. It’s an evidence-based practice that involves a trained music therapist facilitating music experiences in a therapeutic setting.
How does music therapy differ from just playing music or singing?
While playing music or singing can be enjoyable and therapeutic in its own right, music therapy is a structured and intentional intervention. The music therapist designs music experiences that are specifically tailored to meet the individual's needs and goals. Music therapy also takes into account the therapeutic relationship and the therapeutic process, not just the musical experience.
Can you give us an example of how music therapy can be used to address a specific issue?
Absolutely. For example, music therapy can be used to address anxiety and depression. The music therapist may use relaxation music and guided imagery to help the individual relax and manage their stress. Then, through improvisation and songwriting, the individual may express their emotions and work through their experiences in a safe and supportive environment.
How does music therapy contribute to the grief process?
Grief can be a difficult and overwhelming experience, and music therapy can provide a way for individuals to process their feelings and emotions in a unique and meaningful way. Through music, the individual can connect with their loved ones, express their feelings, and work through the stages of grief. The therapist may also use music to help the individual reflect on their memories and find comfort and hope.
Can you tell us about a particularly meaningful experience you’ve had in your work as a music therapist?
It’s hard to pick just one experience, but one that stands out to me was working with a client who had lost their spouse. We used music to reflect on their memories and emotions, and the client was able to express their love and gratitude for their spouse in a way that was difficult to put into words. The music provided a space for the client to process their grief and find comfort in their memories. It was a powerful and moving experience.
Thank you so much for sharing your insights and experiences with us. It’s clear that music therapy can be a powerful tool for individuals facing a variety of challenges.
Clements-Cortes A. (2004). The use of music in facilitating emotional expression in the terminally ill. The American journal of hospice & palliative care, 21(4), 255–260. https://doi.org/10.1177/104990910402100406
Hilliard R. E. (2001). The effects of music therapy-based bereavement groups on mood and behavior of grieving children: a pilot study. Journal of music therapy, 38(4), 291–306. https://doi.org/10.1093/jmt/38.4.291