music and mental health

Music is a Companion: Music Therapy and Mental Health Awareness

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In my 15 years of work as a music therapist I have supported many clients who struggle on a daily basis with mental health challenges depression and anxiety to mention a few. Many of clients throughout Los Angeles share the same story of feeling isolated, alone and like no one understands. Others also share the immense levels of shame and stigma that accompany these psychological mental health diagnoses. In my sessions I open up a safe space where each can share their experiences and stories of these intense feelings of embarrassment, shame and even stigmas that they face (many by their own family members!).

Just this past week in a music therapy mental health support group I encouraged clients to create a list of musical artists that they were aware of that lives with mental health condition(s) and shares it openly and publicly. This sparked a huge discussion around the topic and led us to share songs that reflected mental health awareness tat were either written or performed by these specific individual artists.

Musical artists that came to mind for most of the group members were artists such as: Lady Gaga, Demi Lovato, Eminem, Macklemore, Pink, and Kesha just to name a few. We then shared specific songs and discussed the artists realness about their mental health struggles in their songs and lyrics. Many clients shared, not only did they connect to the artists and their lyrics but that the music was also a “companion” for them when they felt like “no one was around” or “like no one understood”. One client shared,

“when I was all alone and depressed I would listen to Kesha and felt like she was there with me; through her lyrics I knew she understood and therefore helped me with my loneliness and knowing others do understand”.

May being mental health awareness month, I am grateful to so many music artists (as well as other public figures) that step into vulnerability and share the truth about their own mental health challenges. This place of vulnerability and sharing as Brene Brown speaks of in all her social platforms and books is pure “courage” and helping others to connect and not feel alone in their time of hardship.

If you feel alone, or like no one else understands please find solace in some others stories and music that many artists have shared. And furthermore, allow music to be that therapy in your life during during this difficult time. Find below a short list of songs that clients have shared this week in honor of mental health awareness and how music and many artists are shedding light, awareness and education.

If you are experiencing and forms of mental health challenges please do not hesitate to reach out to local therapists and or treatment centers, we are here for you. This is not a time to give into shame or embarrassment as majority of people struggle on a daily basis with mental health challenges and you do not need to do this alone. "You are not alone”.

Some songs clients chose that reflect Mental Health Awareness:

Throughout mental health awareness month we will be posting a song each day on our facebook page that reflects mental health awareness in music. Let music be your therapy, guide and your companion. Please feel free to share some of your songs as well in the comments below or on our social media platforms. We love to share and connect through music.

Let’s Be Social:

Banner Photo by OC Gonzalez on Unsplash

Music Therapy and Mental Health: A Form of Treatment

Music puzzle

Music Therapy

& Mental Health Awareness

In most of my music therapy groups this week I dedicated time away from engaging in music but rather to engage in conversations around music and mental health since May is mental health awareness month. I know some of you just gasped and thought, how dare a music therapist do a session without engaging in music !  Well, I did and it was quite powerful!

In most of the sessions the clients were engaged in some deep and emotional discussions around music in our culture and artists that have contributed a great deal to our music as art; many from their own experiences with mental health challenges.

Artists names such as Michael Jackson, Amy Winehouse, Britney Spears, and so many others came to surface. Clients shared that these artists music has touched their lives in so many ways over the years of their personal struggles with mental health issues. Some have expressed, “It was the only thing that got me through” while others expressed “It was a relief to know that I was not alone”.

Client's have described these songs as being a "source of strength in times of adversity". I encouraged the clients to share songs from artists who gave them words of encouragement that in turn were also dealing with similar mental health challenges.

Music in all forms has been therapeutic for centuries and I want to highlight that even though many of these artists songs are therapeutic I want to honor and thank them that they had the courage to step into vulnerability and share their hurt and challenges through words and song with us. These artists shared personal stories in their songs that continue to support, validate and help many of the clients that I work with in our music therapy groups. 

This month let's recognize that much of the music we listen to on a daily basis very likely has been a form of music therapy for the individual artists themselves. Its been a way for them to share their story, their pain and help support others along their journey. That's the beauty in music and creativity -- it can often come from pain but then transform into something beautiful and powerful, similar to the Eminem song, “Beautiful Pain”. 

I encourage you to share your story, share your song, share your art and help others find comfort and peace and normalize that mental health issues are real and we can shed some light in the darkness.

Find a list of songs below that clients have chosen in music therapy groups throughout the month that were created and performed from artists that too have struggled with mental illness. This is just a small representation of the many artists out there that struggle and have used their voices and creativity as an outlet, a way to help heal others and help empower their listeners from not feeling alone in their experiences with mental health challenges. (click on song titles to view the video)

  1. Britney Spears - Stronger 

  2. Eminem - The Monster

  3. Amy Winehouse - Back to Black

  4. Natalie Grant - The Real Me

  5. Demi Lovato - Skyscraper

  6. Alessia Cara - Scars to Your Beautiful

  7. Macklemore - Otherside

  8. Lady Gaga - Perfect Illusion

  9. Rachel Platten - Fight Song

  10. Justin Bieber - Love Yourself

Do you have other songs that you could add to this list? If so, I would love to hear from you. Please leave a link to the video or artist below in the comment section. Thank you. #musicandmentalhealth

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