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Make Music Your Therapy

The Therapeutic Benefits of Music

by Suzanne B. Hanser, EdD, MT-BC

Wellness image

You don’t need advice from me. You have everything you need within you. You may not know that – perhaps when you think of what’s inside you, you tend to think about can­cer. But you do have the inner resources and creativity to help you deal with the thoughts and feelings associated with having cancer.

As a music therapist, I have seen how focusing on music that is important and meaningful can provide an imaginative, new coping strategy. Here are some tips based on my research and clinical work.

Start with a rejuvenating wake-up call.
Begin your day with music. Mu­sic with a strong beat or dance rhythm might make you boogie out of bed, but familiar music that reminds you of good times may also fit the bill. Think of some pieces that are peppy or ener­getic, and play them as you prepare for your day. In fact, whenever you need a boost, turn on the music and let it take you away.

When you are feeling particularly down or upset, make music your friend.

Author of Article photo

Dr. Suzanne Hanser

Focus on the familiar.
When you are feeling particularly down or upset, make music your friend. Play your all-time favorite music, or find a tune that you associate with comforting times. Concen­trate on the words or melody, breathe with the rhythm, and focus on every phrase. Let the music bathe you in beau­tiful sounds and great memories. Really listen to the music, and really listen to the effect it is having on you. Close your eyes, and notice any pictures in your mind. Let the music take you to a won­derful place that you can visit whenever you like.

Create your personal jingle.
Is there an affirmation that speaks to you? This may be a popular saying, a line from a favorite poem or song, or some words that carry personal meaning. Your per­sonal jingle could be as simple as, “I can!” or “I am!” or “I am … strong! … a mir­acle! … loved!” – you fill in the blank.

Now put it to a tune that sometimes gets stuck in your head. If nothing comes to mind, think up the first or last line of a favorite song and set your own words to it. Or if you’re feeling creative, make up a melody for your affirmation. When­ever you’re feeling low, just sing it out loud, or if you’re timid, just sing it to yourself.

Release your creativity.
Have you ever wanted to play a musical instrument but never had the opportunity? Maybe it’s time to give it a try. Everyone has some hidden talent. Wouldn’t you like to find yours?

Make music a part of your life, or find the musician inside you, and you might find a creative coping mechanism for life.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Dr. Suzanne Hanser chairs the Music Therapy Department at Berklee College of Music in Boston, MA, and is past president of both the National Association and the World Federation of Music Therapy. She is the author, with Dr. Susan Mandel, of Manage Your Stress and Pain through Music, a book and CD published by Berk­lee Press.

This article was published in Coping® with Cancer magazine, March/April 2012.