Music & Art as Therapy: A Look at Different Styles of Treatment

I’m sure to some people, just the idea of music or art as therapy seems a bit cheesy or weird, especially if you’re not a particularly creative person. A few years ago, when i last lived in Vancouver, I worked at the lesson centre for a Long & McQuade music store. That location was lucky enough to have a music therapist on staff, and though she exclusively worked with kids with autism, I was able to see first hand, the positive effect music therapy has. There has been a lot of research done to show it has a similar effect on chronic pain as well. And art therapy works much in the same way. Music and art are centred around emotions, and it is beneficial for chronic pain warriors to be in touch with their feelings, and further more, it can provide distraction, causing the brain to focus on a specific task and “forget” about pain for awhile.

IMG_2265The extent of my talent in the visual arts

Very rarely will physicians and specialists recommend these alternative types of therapies to patients. Even psychotherapists probably won’t immediately suggest this type of practice. Perhaps if their patient is a particularly creative, and they are aware of that it may come up as a suggestion to try. These kinds of therapies are something I discovered on my own. Mostly because I am creative. I have played the piano for 27 years, and have always used it to calm my nerves. Though I am a terrible visual artist, it can be fun to paint sometimes. Writing is another form of art that can be beneficial because it works similarly to music and art as far as distraction. Of course, I’m also a writer, so maybe that’s just easy for me to say (and do). So what about for those people who are not “creative” or perhaps lack the skill? There are still a few options:

  1. Buy some cheap canvas and paints from the dollar store. Even if you are terrible… paint! Or draw. Or buy clay and build little creations. The point isn’t to make something beautiful. The point is to a) let your emotions take charge and express your inner feelings, and b) provide a distraction from the pain.
  2. If you already own an instrument, fantastic! Nothing is stopping you from playing it. So go do that.. now! (or after your finish reading this post). Even if you’re playing badly. Take some time to learn a new piece or chord. If you don’t have an instrument, you can rent guitars fairly inexpensively. If you are more interested, lots of places provide lesson (i.e., Long & McQuade) or you can find private teachers. If you’re less interested, blast your favorite tunes from your smartphone and sing (and dance) along at the top of your lungs. Terrible singer? Who cares?! Once again, that’s not the point.
  3. I mentioned writing as well. Journaling isn’t too difficult because you can literally write your feelings. Or if you’d like to try something more creative, write a short story, or some poetry. No one ever has to read it (unless you want them to) but you may discover a hidden talent. If not, at least you probably weren’t in pain for the hour you spent on it.
Chopin’s Nocturne No 1., Opus 72 (in e minor) – It’s also tattooed on my left arm.

There are certified music and art therapists out there, if you are more inclined to get a bit of direction, or prefer a person to follow up with you directly. Otherwise, try some of this out on your own and see where it gets you. It can be fun, distracting, and full of self-discovery.

For more information on these topics, check out the links I found below.

Also, I believe this is my 10th post on this blog! Thanks for sticking with me! I hope there are many more posts to come for all you Chronic Pain Warriors!!