What’s Songwriting Got to Do With Therapy?

by Krylyn on August 17, 2011

In my experience, many people view songwriting as some mystical process that only few, gifted people are endowed with. It’s sometimes difficult for me to address this because songwriting has always come quite easily to me. But I liken it to other skills I don’t have that I am mystified by and try to see the process through the eyes of someone who doesn’t have (or doesn’t think they have) the gift.

First and foremost, it’s a matter of perspective.  For me, songwriting has always been about healing rather than performance. I’ve been able to find my voice through my songwriting, tap into thoughts and feelings I didn’t know were there, and express myself in a creative way when it wasn’t safe to do so otherwise. It’s not necessarily the end product (i.e. the finished song) that’s important, it’s the process of writing the song, which includes (at least for me), getting in touch with feelings, being vulnerable, not censoring my words, etc., that truly matters. The healing is in the process.

Second, it’s about defining what a song is. Most people I’ve asked think about songs in terms of what they hear on the radio, those polished, professionally recorded sound nuggets that we sing in the shower, in our car, and when we think no one is listening. That’s certainly ONE definition. But what about instrumental music with no vocals, or vocals with no instruments (a capella), nontraditional instruments, or songs with no rhyming or chorus or strings of words that make sense? To look at music only as that which is presented to us through media is, in my opinion, to miss the point altogether.

There’s plenty of books and classes and information on the internet about the mechanics and theory behind writing songs. But most of that is geared toward getting your song published, recorded, and on the radio, which is great if that is your goal. The type of songwriting I do, however, is focused more on expressing thoughts and feelings and telling real, personal stories.

So, when someone asks me what songwriting has to do with therapy, I generally talk about these ideas:

  1. Looking at a situation from someone else’s point of view
  2. Dealing with process rather than outcome
  3. Defining our terms
  4. Telling our stories
  5. Validating how we feel
  6. Tapping into thoughts and feelings we didn’t know were there

As a psychotherapist and coach, these are the ideas I explore with my clients. My question then is, what does songwriting NOT have to do with therapy?

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