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Music Therapy for Anxiety and Stress

There are many ways music therapists work with clients to help them relieve stress and anxiety (I recognize they are two different things, but some of the interventions work with both things). A terrific way to work with music is through music listening, which is often a good choice if we happen to be meeting remotely. (You can read about my blog post regarding music listening and problem drinking here.Great. So, why not just listen to your favorite music for relief? Well, you certainly can. Music can be a very helpful tool in everyday wellness and I welcome you to explore using music to relieve stress on your own by determining what music relaxes you. In fact, here’s an article with excellent suggestions on how you can achieve many of the benefits that music has to relieve stress on your own.


In the moment  – safely with a therapist

In a music therapy session with me, if you're experiencing symptoms of stress, I help you determine where you are at now with your stress levels. Are you feeling so stressed in the moment that you need help calming down? You might have a tune in mind that does just the trick and if you do, we can listen to it together and make sure we are breathing and explore together what comes up for you. There may be deeper issues that need addressing, and we may explore the song more deeply, another song, or just talk.

Calming the mind with sound


Or I might play an instrument and have you close your eyes and let your mind wander. If your mind is wandering too much (that is, that is causes you stress- let’s face it – the mind is going to wander. That’s what minds do!) we might do some sound meditation where I strike a gong or a bell and we notice the sound together. The mind tends to relax when it focuses on sound. I might play an instrument and improvise at the tempo your body and mind are at, and slow down. We can experiment with humming, feeling those vibrations in the body. Sometimes we are not even aware of our own bodies. And when we’re stressed, we tend to become disembodied. This is where a therapist can be so useful – to bring awareness to yourself, your body, your being, which perhaps you have not been able to do for yourself. We tend to feel less anxious when we feel more comfortable in our own skin. Sound good to you? (Sorry for the pun – couldn’t help it.)

Drumming to relieve symptoms of stress and anxiety



















If you really need to get some energy out, we can drum together; playing fast or hard or both can be quite a release. Drumming can also have a calming steadying effect. We might start out that way, but even if we play freely together, after a while, we’ll end up matching without trying. Rhythmic entrainment will occur, where your internal rhythms – your heartbeat, your pulse and breath become more in sync with your drumming. And if we’re playing together (and in my sessions, that’s usually what we do), we’ll be in sync with each other. 

The Need to Explore Deeper, with a therapist

Stuff comes up - in the mind (where we tend to be most active and aware), and in the body (there's an old saying, "your issues are in your tissues." Having a therapist support you in these moments is so important. 

compassionate trans gender queer music therapist
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