Have you ever listened to a song and thought, “This artist just GETS me!”
Have you ever felt validated — like you’re not alone — after hearing your favorite song on repeat? Have you ever asked yourself, “WHY is music so powerful?”
We can all agree that music expresses and says the things that we sometimes can’t say ourselves. It can be a second language or a portal to our feelings. Many times, our “favorite” songs are the ones we relate to the most.
Music therapy in eating disorder recovery
I work at a hospital doing music therapy with patients and I like to change what we do from week to week. This helps patients learn multiple skill sets and how to manage different emotions. It also teaches them coping strategies for when they are discharged. Since I only see patients in a given location once a week, there are often new faces. It is important for group members to build rapport with me and with the other patients, so we can work better together when making music.
My patients often struggle with emotional regulation and expression
. The reasons for why
this occurs can vary, but it is a common experience — even with patients from different backgrounds. One of my goals is to help patients understand and express their emotions through music. Another goal is to meet groups where they are that week and to explore how music can help them in their healing. This is one of the most powerful tools of a music therapist: setting aside expectations and allowing patients to guide you.
Music therapy with groups
Almost all of my patients have specific tastes in music. When they share their favorite songs, it is often because the songs, to that listener, are profound and deep in meaning. So, one of the things I like to do is ask the patients to share one of their favorite songs and explain to the group why it has a deep meaning to them. After doing these exercises and breaking the ice I have come to notice the POWER that these songs have for my patients.
I wondered if my patients knew WHY they liked these songs so much. I started asking questions like, “What do you like about this song?”
or “What do you think this song means?”
However, I would get little to no answers. And that is not surprising as most people have never been asked WHY they like a song.
But, I noticed the responses were very different when I brought in the lyrics of a song they liked, and we really started to dive into the lyrics… all sorts of wonderful interpretations and insights started to come out.
I would like for you to consider the value of a lyric analysis. A lyric analysis is something that anyone can do and, as simple as it seems, can provide great understanding of a favorite song — and insight into who you are as a person.
How to do a lyric analysis
You can do a lyric analysis by yourself or with a group (which I HIGHLY recommend as I think you can get amazing interpretations from lots of people with differing opinions). You simply need to pick a song, print out the lyrics, and write down what you think the lyrics mean to YOU.
1. Print out lyrics to a favorite song that inspires you in recovery.
When setting this activity up for my patients, I typically print the lyrics on one half of the sheet and then leave the other half of the sheet to write in our analysis. This allows the group to write next to each verse and have plenty of room to include their thoughts. Feel free to pull out art pens or a other art materials for creative journaling.
2. Listen to the song.
Once we have listened to the song a couple of times and have written out our thoughts, we then begin sharing ideas. What I like to preface to the group before the processing is that there are no wrong interpretations. Everyone should feel safe in sharing their opinions and thoughts. That goes for the readers too, when looking deeper into songs, there is no “wrong way” to feel about them.
3. Think about the song and the lyrics and journal.
When processing the song, I like to ask the patients questions that put themselves in the place of the artist singing. This allows them to not make the feelings about themselves, but to teach empathy and relating to others. As you listen and read the lyrics, write down or journal anything that comes to mind, no matter how insignificant it may seem. At the end of the processing, I like to ask one final question: How can we relate this song to your journey with your eating disorder?
People struggling with different issues might be asked, How does this relate to your anxiety? Your addiction?
It amazes me how much conversation comes out of this activity and how we begin to break down the barriers of being emotionally withdrawn or scared. It also allows people from very different backgrounds and stories to collaborate and relate on issues.
Now that the patients have insight to the song and have broken down those barriers, they begin to have epiphanies that the song has a deeper meaning than originally thought. Many times, I have heard, “Oh I just thought this song was upbeat or catchy, but now I realize it has way more to it.”
With understanding and a medium to use to speak their emotions through, they begin to open up and share their own personal feelings they have about their journey and WHY they relate to that song.
Music therapy is a powerful process
Below is a link to a new Spotify playlist I have created with songs that patients have shared over the last few years as being their favorites to listen to while in recovery. These songs are unique in nature; they helped someone in recovery get through their day.
I share these songs with you in hopes that, whatever you are going through in life, you can feel the power of these songs. I challenge you to dig through the lyrics of one of these songs or even a different song that you have had on repeat and ask what it is the artist is singing about or why you love that song. If you feel brave enough, please share your experience with us on the Eating Recovery Center Facebook page.
20 Songs for Your Recovery Playlist:
About Haleigh Beaird, MT-BC: I am a Board-Certified Music Therapist that currently works in the Dallas, Texas area with many different populations. Throughout the week, I meet with a wide variety of clients and use music to create clinical and evidence-based interventions that help address their individualized goals. I have been practicing music therapy for two years and joined the Eating Recovery Center team back in June of 2017. My experience at the facility so far has taught me quite a bit and I am hoping to share music strategies with you all periodically that can help aid you through your recovery process.
- Bird Set Free – Sia
- Human – Christina Perri
- Riptide – Vance Joy
- Stone Cold – Demi Lovato
- Creep (live) – Kelly Clarkson
- Midnight Train – Sam Smith
- This is Me - Keala Settle
- Ride Up – Andra Day
- You Don’t Do It For Me Anymore – Demi Lovato
- In the Woods Somewhere - Hozier
- Sober – Demi Lovato
- Not Today – Imagine Dragons
- Lovely – Billie Eilish, Khalid
- When You Love Someone – James TW
- Good Enough – Evanescence
- Mad World – Jasmine Thompson
- Praying – Jesha
- Warrior – Demi Lovato
- Brave – Sara Bareilles
- A Million Dreams – Hugh Jackman