Music Therapy

NOTE: This blog post is not meant to replace a licensed health care provider! Make sure you work with someone who knows what they are doing and who knows how to assist you in your healing process!

Dear Reader,

Today I want to talk to you about another thing from “My Treasure Box”. 🙂  This topic is especially close to my heart and it is that of Music Therapy. This is something that I was introduced to since a young child, though I didn’t know it by that name until age eighteen.

As a very young child, both my parents were involved in choirs; in fact, my father has conducted many over the years. As a little toddler and child my parents would have me around and I would listen to the choir practices. I was exposed to good music. John Rutter’s music was and still is a family favorite. I also listened to other good music along that genre. As I got older, my repertoire of music broadened and deepened. I listened to classical, country, folk, Christian rock, pop, various religious music, Christian hymns, etc.

At one time in my life I was very judgmental of people who listened to rowdier music (which I ended up listening to later, kind of ironic, isn’t it?). I remember being in a fireside as a teenager and there was a woman that made a comment that really stuck out to me and I have never forgotten it. The comment was that it has been proven (I don’t know by whom) that this “rowdier” music could actually help people with depression and pull them out of it. The person giving the fireside scoffed at this comment, but it really made an impression with me.

I watched my mom go through some really hard times, and during those times she would play some rowdier music herself, I think the rowdiest she exposed me to was Stephen Curtis Chapman’s album “Speechless”. My mom had a habit of playing the same cd over and over and over and over and over again—to the point where you had it memorized…? You get the picture. Sometimes I loved it. At other times, it was rather annoying. Then there was the volume factor. She’d crank up her radio and I’d crank up mine and we’d both be having a grand old time in our own space, until we had to venture out and our two worlds collided in the hallway. As crazy as it seemed at times, I loved it.

In my home music repetition wasn’t abnormal, it just wasn’t. And it wasn’t just my mom. My father would have his music that he’d be working on and when he was getting ready for a choir production he’d be listening to the music or practicing all the time. So I grew up with both parents repeating what they were working with over and over again, and so naturally I did the same.

My mental health issues (or chemical imbalance, as I like to call it) settled in about age thirteen. I don’t know exactly when it was that I discovered music to be helpful, but I remember multiple occasions as I got older where I would put some music in my cd player and I’d put it on repeat all night, even while I was sleeping. Sometimes I’d wake up at night hearing the music play and it would comfort me. Sometimes I’d repeat a whole cd, other times I’d put the programmer on and repeat just a few songs. Other times, it’d be one song, all night long.

There were countless times when I felt so much better after an all-nighter of music. Other days, I kept the music going just to keep my head above water, so to speak. At other times, certain music seemed to part the clouds for just a bit, to where I could breath, and when it was over the clouds would close in again for another downpour.

I noticed another thing with this, and that was that sometimes, I would wake up, wide-awake, in the middle of the night with an answer to something that was troubling me. This happened more than once with these nightly music sessions.

When I was eighteen an episode that lasted seven weeks took a turn for the worse and my parents, who didn’t know what was wrong with me, decided to take me to UNI, an institute for psychiatric patients.

That was one of the most devastating times of my life. Words could not express the depths of fear, hurt and betrayal I felt when my parents checked me in. I was just sure I was going there to be imprisoned and tortured for life. But that was a huge turning point for me because we found out that all this time I had been dealing with a chemical imbalance.

When I was in the hospital that time I learned some things about how to help myself. And I had some amazing experiences with music. One of the things that they had us do while I was there is “Music Therapy”. They had each of the patients choose a musical instrument. I had always loved the piano and had been mostly self-taught since a child, so naturally I gravitated to that. Other patients chose other instruments. The woman conducting the session didn’t give us any music. She simply had us “feel” the music. I was skeptical at first, but what came out was absolutely beautiful. I was so amazed. It was an awesome experience. It was as if we each had tuned into something greater than ourselves and played what it dictated.

This was huge to me in more ways that one, because I’d felt many times as I’d sat at the piano that I had music that needed to come out of me, but I didn’t know how to access it and release it. This experience at UNI gave me the ability to do that.

Another type of music therapy that they did at UNI at a later hospital stay was they would have a list of songs, all types of genres. Each participant had the opportunity to choose a song to be played. They did it with music videos, like you would find on YouTube. I remember one time I selected Josh Groban’s “You Are Loved”. As the music played, something released inside of me and I just started to bawl. But it wasn’t embarrassing, everyone there understood. We were all in the same boat.

As we each had our turns, naturally we chose different songs. It was interesting to see the types of music that other people chose. Some of them I normally would not have chosen in a million years, but at the same time, I could see why they chose it.

From my personal experience and observing others I have found that different types of music resonates with different types of pain. You can’t heal something that can’t be accessed. When you find something, in this case music, that resonates with the pain that you feel, it accesses it, and allows you to release it, if you are ready and willing. I found this to be a very powerful tool, especially now a days, where music of all types is so readily available. Not that I would necessarily go out and listen to anything out there, myself. But I can see how it could help someone else, though it may not be what I need at the time.

I don’t know what is going on in your life, what pain you are feeling, what obstacles you are facing, but I do know this: there is a way through. And since there is a way through, why not have a soundtrack? Set the stage for your own life, for your own healing. If your life had a soundtrack, what would it be? Pull out your music and put on what resonates with you, right now, where you are at, and I promise you, you’ll discover God is a lot more readily available that you ever thought before.

Good luck on your journey!

~Thoughts From A Mother’s Heart

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