How Music Can Be Mental Health Care

In The New York Times, Christina Caron has a new piece on the benefits of music therapy for stress, depression, and anxiety—including a teenager who, previously on drugs for anxiety, found healing with music: 

“The therapy session begins when Isobell, 17, picks up a guitar.

Her fingers, adorned with silver rings and black nail polish, are positioned to play the first chord of Lana Del Rey’s “Candy Necklace.”

Then she starts to sing, her voice a melancholy, breathy soprano that seems to float across the room.

White noise coming out of my brain
Turns off for nothing

Isobell’s therapist, Caitlin Bell, accompanies her on the piano.

Although they are actually sitting in a medical clinic — the Louis Armstrong Center for Music and Medicine at Mount Sinai-Union Square in Manhattan — the space feels more like a musician’s living room, with sheet music on display and wooden bookcases that line the walls, each housing different instruments.

Music therapy, while still a relatively small field, has grown over the last decade. . . . 

Scientific research has begun to explore why music appears to have such a strong effect on health and wellness, particularly mental health, where sounds can serve as a conduit to lift someone’s mood, help them reflect and reduce stress, anxiety and depression.

When she was 14, Isobell’s treatment for anxiety looked very different. At the time, she was seeing a psychiatrist. But after trying two different medications, she felt that they ‘weren’t really doing anything.’

She was starting to feel discouraged, until her doctor — knowing that she loved to play the guitar and write songs — recommended that she try music therapy.”

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