There’s evidence to suggest that music can be a powerful tool to help the brain heal when someone has experienced trauma. Award-winning psychiatrist and clinical researcher Norman Doidge observes that music can change the brain and its rhythms: “Brain scans show that when the brain is stimulated by music, its neurons begin to fire in perfect synchrony with it.”1 Here are some ideas you can try.

Music as an expressive tool.

Music can be one way to express things that you might struggle to communicate in other ways. One sexual abuse survivor shared, “Music has always been a big part of my life . . . Being able to sing and write songs was a gentle route through my history and back into myself.”2 Maybe you already play an instrument or have always wanted to learn one. Maybe you write poetry. Try writing a melody to go with one of your poems. See if singing or playing can be a productive expressive tool for you.

Music as a relaxation tool.

Trauma can cause a lot of stress as triggers arise in daily life, and research has shown that listening to music can help with relaxation. For example, one study of university students showed that listening to music reduced the presence of stress hormones in their bodies. Try putting together a playlist of your favorite relaxing songs that you can listen to when your stress level is elevated.

Music as a therapeutic tool.

You also might want to pursue working with a music therapist, a trained professional who uses music as a tool to help you heal. According to the American Music Therapy Association, benefits include everything from “positive changes in mood and emotional states” to “enhanced feelings of control, confidence, and empowerment.”

When it comes to your healing, variety can be one key to help you keep progressing on your journey. Music might be a tool you’ve never used, and it offers some great benefits. Experiment to see how it might be able to help you find relaxation and expression.

1. Doidge, Norman. (2016). The Brain’s Way of Healing: Stories of Remarkable Recoveries and Discoveries. New York: Penguin Books.

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