Mental Health

Music For Healing in Challenging Times

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Posted By Alex Perez - Mental Health Writer, B.A.

By David Franklin, MFT

I’ve been a licensed therapist working in Lafayette, California for almost 20 years and I work with individuals & families, facilitate Men’s Groups, and present workshops to schools and community organizations.  I’ve written articles for publications and have trained future therapists. I’ve taught graduate classes in counseling and guest-lectured at UC Berkeley.  I frequently consult with other therapists and am a clinical member of the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists (CAMFT).

I bring my own life experiences to this work, which include being a musician and songwriter with 10 albums to my credit. My latest album, Passings, published in February 2022. Passings is a collection of songs written about the many transitions and endings which have happened in my life over the past few years: the death of both my parents, my children leaving home, changes related to the pandemic, and other profound endings which I won’t mention here.  These soundscapes have given me a sense of peace somehow and my hope is that they may offer something to others.  Link to Passings.

Music and Healing

music healing

It’s been hard to be a human on planet earth these past couple of years. Numerous people have been dealing with anxiety or depression as the pandemic unfolded, and world events clashed with people’s lives.  As a practicing psychotherapist during this time, I can say that many people have been struggling. 

So what’s one to do when they’re feeling badly?  Each person has their own ways of handling – or not handling – their stress or their sadness.  Because taking care of ourselves in challenging times may be tricky, I wanted to make this point: there is a difference between being comforted and being nurtured. 

music hans christian andersen

Comfort is important, but too often, it’s only helpful when one is actively being comforted.  When someone feels nurtured, however, they develop resilience to feel better for longer periods of time and become better-equipped to deal with challenges.  For example, someone may seek comfort by eating chocolate or binge-watching a show, but these actions don’t typically result in someone feeling better the next day.  When someone is being nurtured, however – such as when they spend time with a friend or when they take a walk in nature – they often feel better, beyond these experiences.

Musician and Therapist

music healing

In addition to being a therapist, I’m also a musician and my personal relationship to music has nurtured me throughout my life; but one doesn’t need to be a musician to be nurtured by music.  Many of us have had moments when a melody or song has profoundly touched us in some way.  Because of this, an exercise I recommend to clients who are struggling is to intentionally create a playlist with songs that nurture them. 

Personally, there are a wide variety of songs which do this for me. Some may be songs that remind me of comforting times, such as my childhood, or memories of being with an old friend or lover; others are songs that touch me in ways I can’t describe or drop into the core of my being and let me know life is okay.  Your choice of songs may be different, but I’d invite you to think about this. 

Once you’ve created this playlist of nurturing songs, keep it close to you. The next time you’re experiencing moments of challenges, listen to your playlist and be held by the sonic expressions of these nurturing sounds.  Is this corny? Maybe…but does it work to help people feel better at times? Absolutely!

If you do this exercise and it helps you in some way, feel free to email me and tell me about your experience.  And if you feel so inclined, let me know which songs are special for you. 

Thanks! David Franklin.

Harvard Medical School: Healing Through Music

The New York Times: The Healing Power of Music

Medical News Today: The power of music: how it can benefit health

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