Music Therapy Intervention Series: Lyric Discussion

Written by Kristen Van Dyke, MT-BC

*Note: The goal of this blog series discussing music therapy interventions is to give more information about the field of music therapy and what a music therapist does. For the safety of all those involved, only a licensed, board-certified music therapist should carry out these interventions. However, at the end of each blog, there will be a suggestion of how the benefits of the intervention may be carried out at home in a safe way.  

When you think about why you love your favorite songs, there are most likely a few different criteria that you consider: the beat, the overall sound, the singer’s voice, etc. More times than not though, I would bet that it’s the song lyrics that keep bringing you back. The lyrics of a song have the power to meet us right where we are or even bring us to a different place emotionally. Lyrics are a way of feeling heard and validated by someone that we are not even in personal connection with. 

Board-certified music therapists use music interventions to address the individual treatment goals of a client in a therapeutic relationship. Music therapists don’t typically teach an instrument in a music therapy session; rather, the therapeutic qualities of music are brought forth as an instrument of change. Music therapists use many interventions in the following categories: 

  • recreative (using songs that already exist),
  • composition,
  • improvisation, and
  • receptive (active music listening). 

Song lyric discussion is a recreative intervention where music therapists or the client can choose a song to inspire discussion based around the lyrics. 

The therapeutic purpose and objectives for song lyrics discussion are: 

  • To provide an opportunity for clients to enjoy their preferred genre/artist 
  • To promote a technique where difficult emotions can be expressed and discussed via the song 
  • To provide opportunities for choice and self-expression
  • To assist clients to understand feelings associated with current issues (Grocke & Wigram, 2007)

After listening to a specific song, a variety of questions may be used by the music therapist to spark a guided, therapeutic discussion. The therapist designs the questions and guides the discussion in ways that effectively address the client’s specific treatment goals. Some examples of the types of questions a music therapist might ask are: 

  • What do you like about the music/song? What do you think about the artist/band?
  • Are there particular lyrics that stand out as being meaningful to you?
  • Does the song remind you of anyone or any situation in your life?

Thanksgiving is a time when families and friends come together. Josh Groban has a beautiful song called “Thankful.” If you are looking for something to do in between the big dinner and dessert, consider sitting around the table and playing this song. Below the song are some sample questions that could create a conversation with your family.

  • What are some things that you are thankful for this season?
  • What are some ways that you feel you or our society in general are “caught up inside ourselves?”
  • The song says, “It’s up to us to be the change.” What are some ways that you or this family could be the change?

In a time when heads are consistently buried in phones, this can be a nice family activity that opens the door for a conversation. Happy Thanksgiving! 

Grocke, D. & Wigram, T. (2007). Receptive methods in music therapy: Techniques and clinical applications for music therapy clinicians, educators and students. London, UK: Jessica Kingsley Publishers. 

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