Musictherapy.org defines music therapy as an established healthcare profession that uses music to address the physical, emotional, cognitive, and social needs of individuals of all ages. Music therapy improves the quality of life for persons who are well and meets the needs of children and adults with disabilities or illnesses.
So what, pray tell, is music therapy plus? Allow me to demonstrate:
You know those days when you can’t even get up the energy to pray or read the Word? You’ve cried till every last tear duct is dry, and you still feel horribly inconsolable. You’re not quite suicidal; however, everything else pales in significance compared to the way you feel at this moment in time.
You know at the back of your mind that solutions to your problems exist–or if not solutions, at least something to ease the despair as you deal . . . yet, you feel too drained to make the least little effort it would take to help yourself out of the doldrums. Then out of nowhere, the lyrics or melody of a song comes to mind, and you momentarily become energized enough to throw off the seven layers of covers under which you are wallowing and shuffle over to your sound system, load the song, and hit play.
There it is: the song that does it for you. You listen to the melody as it reaches inside you, connects with your spirit, and winds itself around you. The words trigger a memory or two, and you wrap your arms around yourself and rock and cry. You put the song on repeat as you silently apologize to your neighbors and climb back beneath your covers fortified with a box of tissues.
The first run-through, you use a quarter of the box. The second run-through, you start identifying with the words and maybe humming a few bars. The third run-through, you think you and the songwriter might have been twins separated at birth. By the fourth run-through, a shower and a change of clothes seem like they might increase your enjoyment of the song, so you pop it out of your sound system and take your portable player into the bathroom. You turn up the volume (sorry again, neighbors) as you turn on the water and adjust the temperature. As the water cleanses your body, there begins an imperceptible lightening of your spirit.
You step fresh and clean onto the bath mat and rub the goose pimples from your arms. You don’t realize that they’re not from the cold, but from the resuscitation of your indwelling spirit. As you brush your teeth and sway a bit with the music, you don’t even realize you’ve stopped counting how many times the song has played. You do notice that your eyebrows need some work, so you pull out your trusty tweezers and handle it then and there. A few minutes later you realize that your messy hair doesn’t really allow your fabulous pluck job to be seen to its best advantage, so you brush it out and pull up your hair into a lovely high bun that accentuates your cheekbones and your fabulous eyebrows.
As you pull on jeans and your favorite sweatshirt, some small insignificant part of you realizes there’s room in them that wasn’t there before. You’re finally losing that extra weight, but it’s of no import because now you’re harmonizing with the song, a brush substituting as an impromptu mic as you envision yourself on the stage of a packed arena, singing the low part of a trio as you face the audience
You wander into your bedroom and absentmindedly begin making the bed and straightening up your room. In your mind’s eye you’re still in that arena facing the crowd, but now the other members of the trio have stepped into the shadows and the spotlight shines on you. You take a deep breath–then you begin to praise God; from the bowels of your belly you speak about this day, the day your journey of praise began, the day music therapy became part of your life, the day you didn’t realize you were living out scripture, but because you did, you are here today to proclaim victory in the name of Jesus!
As you speak, you take the stairs off the stage leading you into the arena and walk down the aisle to the section where the Spirit is leading you. You stop, turn, and look her in the eye. As you hold her gaze, you tell her that no matter how alone she feels, she is not alone; that it’s okay to get angry, cry, and be resentful of all the healthy people around her. That it’s all part of the process and it won’t always be this way. You feel her spirit ease with the acknowledgment, and you continue on down the aisle ministering as the Holy Spirit leads.
That’s music therapy plus.
Although I do sing as part of a trio, and I do hope one day to be a pastoral counselor and combine that with worship, what I’ve shared above is just a glimpse of my vision. With no stage and no spotlight, I can still triumphantly proclaim the victory of praise and prayer over the mental illness of manic depression in my life. I didn’t know it then, but I had latched onto a godly principle, “for the spirit of heaviness, put on the garment of praise” and allowed it to work in, through, and for me.
After many years of such music therapy, my faith grew to the point that when, on Wednesday, June 27 of 2008, the pastor called for those with mental illnesses to come forth to be prayed for, I went down to the front of the church with a sense of expectancy. As I left that altar and returned to my seat, there was calmness to my spirit, and the clamor of my mind was eased.
I went about the months after timidly, silently monitoring the changes in my mental capacity–afraid to make a definitive declaration of healing in case I had a relapse. After about six months of monitoring myself, I realized that my highs and lows around menstruation had leveled off, the mental midget I became at certain times of the month was no longer in evidence, and I had begun once again to take pride in my appearance. The weight loss program I’d begun four months earlier was having excellent results, and that in itself boosted my spirits even more. Finally, the Spirit convicted me, and I told my pastor that I had indeed been healed six months earlier. He matter-of-factly shared with me that he knew that already . . . LOL. You see, not only is he my pastor, he’s also my brother-in-law and as such entwined with my life. He’d already noticed the changes.
I had previously developed systematic coping strategies for my mental midget days, and I had a pattern of withdrawing when the world became too much, so I had to be cognizant and purposeful in retraining myself and moving away from habits and patterns that were no longer needed or acceptable in a life where God had shed light on my darkness.
Any good columnist knows the power of a disclaimer, so this is mine: Firstly, I am not a therapist and have no degree in counseling; however, you could consider that I have a PhD in miracles experienced.
Secondly, as noted above, music therapy is a fully recognized method of therapy which does and has work(ed). According to Musictherapy.com, it is considered a misconceptionthat there is one particular style of music that is more therapeutic than all the rest–this is not the case. All styles of music can be useful in effecting change in a client or patient’s life. The individual’s preferences, circumstances and need for treatment, and the client or patient’s goals help to determine the types of music a music therapist may use. That being said, “music therapy plus” is my own coined phrase for utilizing the tenets of music therapy and infusing it with the additional factor of the Holy Spirit, using gospel music only. Finally, I am not submitting this as a quick fix or guaranteeing your outcome. However, I will ask: dare you ignore this possibility? I encourage you to search through God’s Word, find a scripture that speaks to you, find a song that uses it as lyrics, and begin your experience in music therapy plus.
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© 2009 by D.S. White, Author of Age is Just a Number: Adventures in Online Dating
D.S. White is a Leasing Consultant and resident manager of the apartment complex in which she lives. Age is Just a Number is the first blook she authored. She has also published Incremental Stages of Ladee Soul: Poetry by Karen Baker and is currently co-editing a cancer anthology entitled Defining Moments: Men and Women Share Cancer Stories of Love, Loss, Hope and Courage due for release October 1, 2011.