You’re aware that music therapy is used in mental health settings. Playing music is great, but for most of us, it’s enough just to listen and be affected.

I’m looking for ideas that my young clients can use to make themselves feel better when they’re down. Their moods fluctuate a lot during the day. We use journaling, phone therapy, breathing exercises, etc.  Any suggestions?”

As a matter of fact, I do. Music. You’ve heard that saying: “Music hath charms to soothe a savage breast.” Listening to today’s pop songs, you might not agree. Much of it seems better designed to agitate, upset, and even annoy.

Still, there are centuries of history beyond the notion that music is a real aid in the pursuit of tranquility. An effective anti-depressant. You’re aware that music therapy is used in mental health settings. Making music is great, but for most of us, it’s enough just to listen and be affected.

Heck, you might even find yourself breaking out in a rough approximation of dance.

In an era of digital downloads, it’s easy for anyone to put together their own playlist. Your young clients may already have one. We’re suggesting that instead of whatever’s hip, assemble a playlist with two separate themes. The first is calm — the relief of anxiety. The second is emotional uplift — happiness and joy.

It’s akin to those concept albums the Beatles used to make, where the songs complemented one another to reinforce a larger message. Your ‘concept albums’ can be built around calm and joy. They can accompany you wherever you go.

A good place to start: Have your clients talk to friends about what music they think of as calming or uplifting. Not just their own age group, either. It helps to learn about other forms of music that once met the same purpose. Among my colleagues, the classical buffs seemed to favor Bach for tranquility and Vivaldi’s Spring for inspiration. The folk fans leaned towards flute music — all types, but particularly Peruvian, Tibetan, and Native American — along with Celtic stuff (Turlough O’Carolan, et al). Jazz lovers mentioned Rampal and Bolling, Suite for Flute and Jazz Piano. I’m a guitar nut with blues roots, so I came up with Derek Trucks’ Sahib Teri Bandi and Dickey Betts’ Jessica, which Betts wrote while watching his baby daughter play in a patch of sunlight. Pretty hard to be depressed when that’s coming through the earbuds.

OK, I admit I can’t imagine listening to hip-hop and feeling calm or inspired, but I’m sure the kids would be happy to prove me wrong. And of course, the playlists have to evolve.

Because we do.


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