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Song-Writing in Music Therapy

Song-writing is a great way to express emotions, to engage in music and others (forget about the rest of the world and indulge in that creativity). It offers a space to share your feelings with friends and to gain peer support. It is one of the tools that I use very often in my music therapy work.

In a commercial song writing project, the hook, the melody, are often considered one of the most important element within the song. How catchy Is it ? Is it sell-able ? How memorable is it ? In music therapy we focus on the PROCESS of writing - a mutual collaboration between the client and the therapist.

How does the music help the child/ individual to express feelings?

In many of my work the lyrics often comes first (if the child is cognitively capable to do so) as this is the most direct way. we will start off with keywords, then encourage the client to elaborate to 6-8 words/ a short sentence. As we are working with vulnerable people, These lyrics sometimes talk about parting, about death , about things that are difficult. As therapist , we are here to listen, acknowledge and to contain these feelings. We cannot change reality, but we can go through these rough patches together with our client. This process of putting things together helps the client to organise their thoughts, to reflect on themselves. (PS self reflection is very important for personal growth).

Sometimes writing lyrics could be difficult as

1) we don’t talk about REAL feelings often.

2) it can be scary to really face our own feelings

3) our feelings can be numbed by various traumatic events that occur in their life- witnessing or an victim of domestic violence, bullying etc. The body shuts down the feeling part as a defence mechanism.

When the individual can’t seem to verbalise feelings music is often very helpful!

Music is there to give colours and to support the client. Harmony : Different chords , with extensions n dissonance that convey feelings that words cannot

describe... Different choices of instruments: acoustic ? adding percussion? All these help us to know a little more about how he client is feeling .

The rhythm /tempo : does the song act as a lullaby to sooth (6 /8, 3/4 ? ) does the song provide a stern strong beat? Is it a dance?

The majority of the time the therapists have to provide these colour tones for the the clients to choose and encourage them to talk about how each ‘colour’ feel . When the right chord comes suddenly the client connects with the therapist in a way that no other therapists ever can - it’s truly a magical moment!

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