Music Therapy – Chapter 8

In chapter 8, one instance that caught my attention was Messner’s thought about how pleasant it was to listen to Roxane sing in the mornings. This led me to consider music therapy. If music can be used to evoke emotions, then surely it can be used to relax or calm, but also to communicate. In an article titled “Crying in Music Therapy: an Exploratory Study,” Yadira Albornoz explains that music therapy typically employs music in a number of different ways. These ways include “improvising, composing, re-creating, and listening to music.” (Albornoz 31) She also explains that the emotional responses range from happy to painful and saddening (31). The subject of this essay intrigued me, because I would have expected music therapy to include crying, as it is, for me at least, a way to release pent up emotions and stresses. As such, I would assume that in music therapy, tears would be a normal and expected response.

Albornoz notes that tears are a “common phenomenon,” but it is also noted that there has been minimal research, if any, conducted on why tears are such a widespread reaction to musical therapies (31). As a reader, this is at once confusing and understandable to me. In a scientific discipline such as psychology, it seems that this widespread reaction would provoke a great deal of research, however, none has been done? That alone is confusing. On the other hand, however, it makes sense that this reaction would be seen as normal and would not raise a lot of questions.

But what is music therapy? To understand what Albornoz addresses, we must construct a working definition of what music therapy is. According to the American Music Therapy Association’s (AMTA) web site, “music therapy is the clinical and evidence-based use of music interventions to accomplish individualized goals within a therapeutic relationship.” (AMTA) One of the key points that the AMTA cites as a possible area of effectiveness in music therapy is the ability to better convey one’s feelings (AMTA). This relates back to my previous week’s research about music and emotion, perhaps music therapy is one area I could focus on in my research paper?

Now that we have a definition for music therapy, we can begin to follow along with Albornoz’s research into the response of tears to music therapy. Albornoz notes that Sigmund Freud “considered crying to be a healthy catharsis of repressed negative emotional energy” (32). Albornoz also discusses the fact that clients responded well to their therapists crying during sessions (33). This surprises me, as I would have expected the therapists would be expected to keep a distance from the sessions and their clients, emotionally. However, Albornoz explains that a majority of therapists polled have “moved away from a classical understanding of neutrality” when they work with their clients (32). I take this to mean that the therapists have opened themselves up to a more emotional relationship with their clients rather than a purely clinical and distant relationship. With that knowledge, I can begin to see how this shift in relationship, from detached to an emotional engagement, could lead to the expression of emotions in both parties during music therapy. Another curious fact is that Albornoz states that only one of the therapists reported feeling bad that he cried during a session, citing his belief it may have brought anxiety onto the client (33).

However, there is another category of thought. According to cognitive psychologists, crying is brought about by any number of events, and this group of psychologists believes that emotional responses, such as crying, are choices (Albernoz 33). This train of thought seems strange to associate with musical therapy, because if emotions were a choice, would it not make more sense to discuss the questions that led to those choices to feel emotions?

In the summary of the paper, Albornoz covers some of the research implications, which I felt could be a pertinent place to look at in order to pull questions for my own future examination. One comment that Albernoz makes is in regard to the emotion associated with crying in the context (47). It is stated that, of the research done on crying in these contexts, it tends to be about that experience in relation to a negative response (47). I think that it could be interesting to compare and contrast the types of emotions that are associated with crying across other branches of therapy as well. However, one of the largest questions raised for me in my research about music therapy and emotions is this: How does music help people without musical training express themselves?

Works Cited

Albornoz, Yadira. “Crying In Music Therapy: An Exploratory Study.” Qualitative Inquiries In Music Therapy 8.(2013): 31-50. Academic Search Complete. Web. 21 Oct. 2015.

“What is Music Therapy.” American Music Therapy Association. American Music Therapy Association, n.d. Web. Accessed 21 October 2015.


One thought on “Music Therapy – Chapter 8

  1. katelynzander says:

    I really enjoyed this avenue of research. As I mentioned in class my friend works for a non-profit organization that help girls recover from being victim to human trafficking. They have just implemented a music therapy program to help the girls express themselves and help others understand their emotions/experiences.

    I have done research on art therapy before and heard stories of parents or teachers whose children used art as a therapeutic expression. Since music is just another form of art, I agree that it has a large impact on the therapeutic process the individual is going through. I wonder if people who are more visual would respond more to image based art therapy and those who are less visual would benefit more from music therapy. I believe you’ll need to be able to elaborate in your paper how the brain and body responds to music. Bring to the foreground the physical effects of music may help us to understand how music affects people’s minds, even someone who is without musical training. You can correlate these findings to how these physical effects stem from emotion or visa versa, how emotion stems from the physical effects.

    I found it interesting that you explained crying in relation to music therapy was seen as a good thing rather than a negative. This allows you to dig deep into why music helps distinguish hurt, fear, and/or anger. Someone suggested in class that you could research how the psychologist is affected by this therapy and how the emotional connection with a client affects their overall well being, Is this why such therapy is seen as useful, because there is a deeper understanding between the psychologist and client?


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