THE BLOG

Music as a Healer

22/08/2014 16:52 BST | Updated 22/10/2014 10:59 BST
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I am a clinical psychologist, family therapist and now singer/songwriter.

Music has always been my passion, my healer, and the methods I use to still my anxious mind dovetail well with classic music therapy techniques.

Firstly, listening to music that speaks to you. I recommend randomly shuffling your playlist and stopping at the song that sounds the most comforting; the tone of voice, liberating words or strong beat that makes you stay in the moment. For me, Leonard Cohen is one to reach for when sad. 'If It Be Your Will' leaves whatever difficult situation beautifully in God's hands. My father used to sing me beautiful French chansons as a child and these are the songs I started singing in public - a way to recapture that wonderful emotion of sharing with him, making him present again and thus healing past pain, especially now since he is gone for ever. These songs (Mon amant de St. Jean, Nuits de Chine etc) put into wonderful lyrical words the pain and passion of whirlwind romances and as a romantic, I find in them what is often lacking in more modern songs.

Music lets us reach emotions that are difficult to reach verbally, become aware of hidden emotions and achieve a catharsis. One feels solace that someone else has felt these things and put them into words and music and it can boost your mood. Scientists have tried to analyse why such a catharsis occurs and part of the answer is that the foetus in the womb hears the mother's heartbeat, music and sounds in the environment. The infant's heartbeat can be slowed and the breathing calmed by these sounds and later, they are comforting during feeding and sleep.

Dancing has also been a huge release and I recommend it wholeheartedly. It leaves me exhausted but having expressed my emotions fully in body and mind. Choose a song with a beat that feels instinctively right and go as crazy as you like! No one is watching... I climb on my bed, sofas, tables if need be! And if it is a slow song, I just move gently with it. You are releasing conscious control and can feel wholly at one as you unite mind and body. Personally, as with the listening technique, I feel solace sharing emotions in a deep way with the artist. The entrancing song 'I Feel Love' makes me let go strongly while expressing love to the world! 'When Love Takes Over' by David Guetta has a similar effect.

Dance therapists say that movement can reveal unconscious processes; that body and mind interact and that movement improvisation allows us to experiment with new ways of being. That all really speaks to me.

Songwriting is also a recognised music therapy technique. I recommend buying a notebook and writing whatever comes into your head, let anything tumble out. Then, find words to describe a particular emotional experience. Try to encapsulate the emotion into beautiful words - writing a poem really. But it is not the beauty of the product that counts for the therapeutic side of things, it is finding the right words to describe the emotions. That is the cathartic process, the 'ah' moment when you feel you have captured the experience.

Music therapists talk of externalising thoughts, fantasies and emotions; telling the story, gaining insight, clarifying thoughts and feelings. I felt all these things as I connected with the emotion expressed in the first song I wrote, 'Beautiful You'. I cried as I thought back to the wonderful person no longer there... And a feeling of peace came over me in the aftermath of such strong emotion. In fact, listening to my own songs also has a soothing effect as if my own voice were mothering me. And singing in public, while quite terrifying, also has the wonderful aspect of connecting and sharing emotions with people, often people you do not know. Again, the solace of not being alone...

Another technique I have used is one that music therapy does not include, but that healers often work with. It concerns the power of positive thought and the law of attraction - the theory that positive thoughts have positive consequences in the real world (and vice versa). Many books and films expound this theory and it seems to be working for me, so I can only recommend it. It can be combined with music; for example, choosing songs expressing where one would like to be in one's life. Whitney Houston's 'I Want to Dance With Somebody' is a favourite of mine. Also 'Synchronicity' by The Police invites positive, meaningful coincidences into one's life.

Here I conclude. I hope you will find my thoughts helpful and that some of you may want to try such techniques yourselves.