Music is one of the most powerful tools in the world. When you think about the capabilities and capacity that music holds; it’s undeniable that music has its own language that can reach the masses. No matter the tone, sound, rhythm, or lyrical content. Music can deliver an array of emotions: sadness, love, anger, joyfulness or – whether it’s purely aesthetic and rhythmic. Personally, I love … I mean absolutely LOVE … music for all those reasons. It’s what makes us human, right?!
According to Michigan College of Contemporary Music, music therapy is defined as clients being treated in clinical settings by professionals for specific, diagnosed physiological or psychological conditions. Usually, the treatment occurs at a hospital or clinic, over time, in face-to-face and one-on-one sessions.
Music therapy typically encourages or reinforces positive physiological behaviors. For example, in a guided meditation exercise, (with soft calming music in the background), a client may be asked to regulate their breathing, which may lower their blood pressure and decrease muscle tension throughout the body, while a clinician plays music or sing within a session. These physical outcomes can positively influence psychological well-being and support the client to self-manage pain or stress more confidently.
As a therapist, I’ve used music to build rapport and help clients express moods or emotions they may be harvesting inside of them. From listening to songs of a new music artist or music that a client created themselves. I have even gone as far as free-styling with clients in my office. The use of music is endless during the therapeutic process. Music has the ability to construct a strong, therapeutic bond between a therapist and client. I can recall printing out Beyoncé lyrics for a session to discuss with a client or listening to XXXtentacion, because a verse of one of his songs resonated with an issue my client was having at that time.
As a Trauma Informed Consultant, I’ve used music in its basic form, simply playing music for the students and the teachers in the morning in front of the school, just to put a little pep in their step. From “ABC’s” by Jackson 5 or the “Macarena” by Los Del Mar, I can see the smiles light up on the students’ faces, as the teachers and admin staff do two-steps on the way to their offices/classrooms. Believe it or not, even the bus drivers have gotten off the bus just to say, “I’m glad you bring the music to energize the students, and to be honest, it energizes me as well.” I’ve made it a norm to be at school early to have my playlist playing for the student and staff because I’ve learned the music not only affects and regulates the brainstem, but also connects to every part of the limbic system, which includes memory, emotions, and arousal. Therefore, if I’m playing fun and exciting music in the morning, it’s going to positively stimulate the start of the day on a high note, no pun intended. I recommend adding a little positive music in the morning. My personal favorite song selection is “Happy,” by Pharrell Williams. It’s a timeless song that can definitely change your mood for the better.
Music is one of many keys to unlock healing, motivation, happiness, and regulation in any individual.
“The brain just doesn’t have one beat it has many drums.” -Dr. Bruce Perry
Stevie McBride, LMFT, is the newest member of the It’s About T.I.M.E. team where he works to support teachers and staff and helps students thrive academically. Before joining It’s About T.I.M.E., Stevie was part of our outpatient program where he helped guide children and families struggling with mental health conditions or abuse toward positive and productive futures. He is especially passionate about collaborating with families and discovering key strategies to help them build healthy relationships with each other. Before joining The Guidance Center team in 2013, McBride worked with the Braille Institute, creating programs and providing resources for blind and visually impaired teenagers and families, as a Youth/Career Service Consultant. McBride earned a Master’s Degree in Marriage, Family and Child Therapy at University of Phoenix.