eNewsletter - September 2018

Behavioral Health Partners


Music for Building Health and Inspiration in Behavioral Health
Bethany Squires, MT-BC

According to the American Music Therapy Association, the idea that music can affect both health and behavior dates back to the writings of Aristotle and Plato. The actual profession took form officially after World Wars I and II, when local musicians shared music to inspire healing—both emotionally and physically—for veterans recovering in hospitals around the country. Thanks to the work of pioneers in the field in the early 1900s, the first music therapy academic programs became available in the 1940s. 

Today, clinical music therapists hold degrees from one of 72 colleges and universities, participate in over 1200 hours of clinical training, hold the MT-BC credential by the Certification Board for Music Therapists and complete regular continuing education and re-certification requirements.

 For many people, music is an integral part of life, a supporting actor in our daily experiences. It sets the mood for gatherings, takes listeners on a journey back in time or lifts spirits, and even plays in the background of shopping trips, sporting events or evenings out.

In my practice as a board-certified music therapist, I use music therapy, when clinically warranted, to help behavioral health patients improve connections to self and others, express emotions, and feel grounded in moments of crisis. 

While many patients experience healing and improved health with the use of therapeutic music, it’s important to consider that for others, the use of music can be harmful. There’s no “one size fits all” plan for using music for any patient. While I encourage suggesting it, I would also recommend that practitioners don’t insist on it and are always ready to abandon use if it seems unhelpful or harmful. In some situations, it can be overstimulating or potentially increase the intensity of thoughts or emotions during crisis moments. 
Safe recommendations for using music within the scope of practice for mental health professionals who are not board-certified music therapists include: 

  • Suggest music as a coping strategy. Plan ahead with a patient and let them identify a “safe” or “grounding” song that could be listened to together in sessions for grounding purposes.
  • Use recorded music as support for mindfulness activities or guided relaxation. Help patients identify music that helps them stay present and feel more relaxed.
  • Encourage a patient’s use of music for leisure. Ask a patient which music or songs increase feelings of well-being and suggest ways to incorporate this music into daily life.
  • Consider the use of music discussion as a means of building patient rapport. If a patient is willing, occasionally ask to listen to one of their favorite songs together. Listening to music with someone can be an incredible way to build rapport and gain insight into their interests.

When a patient is feeling stuck or suggests they process through music, or if a provider is looking to expand a patient’s coping and leisure skills beyond talk therapy, a patient may benefit from the care of a music therapist. If you’re interested in learning more, please call the Linden Oaks Help Line 24 hours a day at 630-305-5027. The American Music Therapy Association can also help you find a board-certified music therapist near you.