Music Therapy

Getting un-stuck through music

Upon presenting at the Illinois Psychological Association, a colleague asked me what I thought about hard rock, death metal, and other forms of aggressive music often listened to by the teens in his psychotherapy practice.

This form of expression is just that – self expression. Think about what you want to hear when you are feeling sad or upset. I bet it isn’t the light smooth sounds of the Jackson 5 – or maybe it is. Most people need some time to stay in an emotional state and process it. Maybe take some time to cool down or self soothe.

I recommend my clients use music that matches their mood when feeling moments of unease. It is my sense that this is what is happening with listening to aggressive music. Some will argue they “just like it”, but why? Aren’t our choices in art reflective of something we either need or understand deeply? Are we not relating to another when we consume their art? We are less alone when someone speaks their truth to us through art.

The trick is this. Choose another set of tunes to listen to. Don’t wallow in music of misery and pain and anger. Use it, relate to it, consume it, and then move to the next level of emotional strength. Maybe it’s still aggressive music, but this time in a major key. Ever heard Messiaen’s pipe organ music? It is wild and intense. How about moving from Screamo to Heavy Metal to Ornette Coleman, to ballads from intense bands, for example. Explore the qualities of the music you love, and move the dial from anger to energy, from sadness to calm, from breakups to survival.

What is on your playlist of healthy mood music? Seriously – I’d love to know.

Keep humming.

– Victoria

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