The Therapist Is In

What I know about therapy.

Music Soothes the Soul

Music is often overlooked as a therapeutic intervention: singing, listening, and creating music of any kind will provide an immediate biological and psychological benefit for everyone. In fact, music can be a salvation and antidote to most psychological challenges: that’s why people sing in the shower and while driving the car, or simply listen to music that’s inspiring and distracting from emotional upset. Read More

Am I correct if I say that

Am I correct if I say that music can be advantageous to soothe someone's blues, it can only do so when the music corresponds to the need of the individual? Like, if you just had a breakup, it's not recommended to listen to sad song because it might aggravate the sorrow.

Listening to music is pretty my habit too, I can't live without music. But, sometimes, when I listen to sad songs, I tend to remind myself again the unfortunate events I underwent myself...

you are correct

Thank you for your perceptive comment. You are definitely correct in my opinion. Feeling sad won't go away by listening to sad music. You want upbeat, fun, and singing out loud kind of music to chase the blues. Any kind of creative work that stimulates bad memories is not helpful if you don't want to be reminded of those bad times. For example, 9/11 was very traumatic for me living in NYC and also losing my closest friend in the terrorist attacks. I resolutely stayed away from all the movies about 9/11 and when shots of the burning towers come on TV I change the channels.

I think sometimes sad music

I think sometimes sad music can help you crystalize your thoughts and feel commiserated, ultimately making it easier to move on. Two quotes come to mind:

"When it rains, sometimes the best (or only) thing to do is get soaked." -Unknown

"Sad songs, they say soooo much." -Elton John

Great post...

When we developed the clinical program at Boys and Girls Village, I made it a point, being a product of the Hartt Conservatory music program as a child and the Julliard pre-college, to include music -- along with art, movement, Yoga and an Outward Bound-type challenege and team building program -- as a both a therapeutic modality and a cultural component.

It was great for the kids, and the faculty -- all of whom participated in a number of yearly musical celebrations and festivals.

Music served as a means for both (sometimes astonishing) self-expression and social development for kids who might not otherwise have this outlet.


children and the arts

Thank you for your very perceptive response, Michael. In recent years so many children have been deprived of exposure to the arts because of budget cuts in education. Whether its singing, playing an instrument, acting, painting or any of the arts can help build confidence and a feeling of being an educated person. I think the program you helped design for Children's Village must have also provided a wonderful opportunity for the many kids who don't think academically but do think visually or musically. These children often don't do well in school because our schools usually aren't able to accommodate learning differences and give these children an opportunity to excel and stand out.

Music To My Ears

Music is incredibly therapeutic. I have a "drive to work" mix, a "morning 15 min break" mix, "evening 15 min break mix," and drive home mix. I couldn't get through the day without my fave songs, I don't imagine. I'm a smoker, and I find that listening to music calms my nicotine cravings, though I frequently smoke while enjoying my iPod. However, when I can't get a drag, putting on the right mix has the ability to soothe me. The best track from each mix:

-"It's Dangerous Business Walking Out Your Front Door" by Underoath
-"Retina and the Sky" by Idiot Pilot from the Transformers soundtrack
-"A Bid Farewell" by Killswitch Engage
-"Famous Last Words/Blood" by My Chemical Romance

as the sayin' goes... GOOD

as the sayin' goes...


Music is incredibly

Music is incredibly powerful. A few bars may transport us back to childhood, evoke memories of a love affair, take us back to a concert hall, a place we lived, or a holiday. The poetry in songs may give us new concepts and ways of looking at the world. The music we listen to may keep us stuck in one mood or lift us into another. For me as a musician it is also an adventure - I am always exploring new sounds and combinations of rhythms in free improvisation, musical conversations with other musicians, like dancing with sound.

Music Added Joy to my Dad's end of Life!

I just wanted to thank you for your article, I found it really insightful and moving.

My Step-Dad Bill, passed away 3/18/08 of ALS at age 58, he died one year after diagnosis.

My Mom and I were his primary care-givers in the 13 months from diagnosis to end of life. He was at home with us along with Hospice Care Network of New York which was such a gift!

Bill, loved his I-Pod,he had his music going 24/7. He loved the Stones, Eagles, Bad Company, Aerosmith, Who, 70's rock, acid rock, Jimmy Hendrix, Janis Joplin, anything and everything rock-n-roll.

We decided to encourage him to seek counsel to talk with someone one on one about his end of life fears besides us.

Bill was a quiet man, observer of life, not a big talker. However, music was something he liked to talk about with anyone who would listen.

We got him in therapy with a local therapist, Howard Riesel in Coram, NY. Howard helped Bill download a lot of music into his beloved I-Pod. They talked during the year, and I recall laughing when he came home from his appointment that he just had more music (thinking to myself what-a-racket this therapist is just listening to music the whole time!).

I was wrong to under-estimate the healing powers of music.

It's been six months since his death, recently I was able to pick-up the I-Pod and listen to his tunes.

It brought so much joy to me knowing how much pleasure he had in his final moments listening to his music literally his last breath was to the WHO.

Now his body isn't here, but his soul forever lives in his music and I'm blessed by the gifts.


Hi Laurie, I'm so sorry for your loss; I'm glad that your step-Dad found some relief in music to get through the final stages of this very horrible disease. I agree that the therapist was very smart. For the first time in my career I worked with a man with ALS and his story of the disease's progression in one year is very similar to your Dad;s, He was a wonderful man and it was very painful to see what he went through. He was brave, courageous, uncomplaining, and a very loving husband and father. I also worked with his wife & two daughters and still see one of them since her Dad died, like yours, in March, 2008. My heart goes out to anyone who has ALS and I have the utmost respect for the people like you and your Mom who are caregivers. I hope you and your mother are healing from this awful experience and my prayers are with you. Mark

Margaret Emily

Margaret Emily Anderson
Words 215
Mark Sichel, L.C.S.W.
July 15, 2008
Music Soothes the Soul
When you are down what do you do? You put on music, and what if you are happy? There is also music playing. I completely agree that music soothes the soul. Whenever I mad and I turn on my radio and there is happy music and I eventually become happy. Feeling sad will never go away if you are listening to sad depressing music. You need positive, happy, and singing out loud kind of music to kick those blues away.
Emotions all play a role in what music we listen to. If you are in a bad mood the best thing to do is play happy music. The words in many songs may perhaps give us new ways of looking at the world. The music we listen to may keep us trapped in one mood or boosts us up into another. Music has a way of controlling our emotions. What do you think the artists were felling when they wrote the songs that make us happy, sad, or even mad. They knew that music comes from our emotions and if used right it can soothe the soul. So whatever you are feeling put on some happy music like Mark Sichel would, and sing out loud and be happy. Just let the music soothe your soul.


Thank you for your perceptive comment, Margaret. Music can help with a fake it until you make it attitude. You're angry, put on some music and fake not being angry, and before you know it, You're no longer angry.

Responding to music soothes the soul

I happened upon the "Music Soothes The Soul" posts, having no idea a relative of my former client wrote in.It was an honor to work with Bill, a wonderful man. I have always used music in my therapy, where appropriate. As a lover of music and a guitar player, any element that enhances therapy is a positive. So many clients have difficulty with self-expression. Sharing common interests such as music, is very therapeutic.I encourage clients to bring in poetry, artwork,creative writing, all the time.
As a psychotherapist for 30 years and working with adolescents full-time,traditional therapy doesn't always work.Therapists need to think "outside the couch" so to speak, and use their training and experience to reach clients in ways they haven't tried previously.

Sometimes music is like food.

Sometimes music is like food. At other times it is like a drug. Sometimes music can be medicine.
I am all for music that will lift your mood but I think sad songs have their place too. I find solace in knowing someone else feels/felt the same way I am feeling. You don't feel quite as alone. Stevie Wonder's "Lately", later covered by 90's R&B group Jodeci, has helped me through some break ups. I feel it was penned from the ink of my soul.
If a sad song makes you sadder, find something that will elevate your mood. If a sad song makes you feel like you are not alone going trough this, that someone understands how you feel at this moment, I think it can actually be good for you.
As a DJ, I should start billing myself as a Musical Group Therapist and raise my rates.

Therapeutic songs for kids!

Thanks for your timely article, Mark. I am also convinced of the great therapeutic value of the right song at the right time, with adults and kids as well. I am a psychologist and professional songwriter for PBS have developed this same sort of idea for young children.

Since kids don't have the same history and memory bank with old favorites that have themes, I created songs and activities that deal with some of the most frequent kinds of challenges they face. One song serves as a form of cognitive therapy called "Go Away Bad Thoughts", and others deal with teasing and bullying, reaching out to others, positive thinking, resolving conflict, manners, celebrating diversity, etc.

More on this topic of music as a therapeutic adjunct and song downloads are at

Thanks again!

Dr. Mac

One of the best recent

One of the best recent break-up pop songs is So What by P!nk. Gives you energy and self-confidence.

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Mark Sichel is a psychotherapist in New York City and the author of Healing from Family Rifts.


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