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Music Therapy and Youth

by Brian McBay
Welcome To 48

“You just don’t understand”. “My parents don’t get it”. “No one knows how I’m feeling”.

Taken at face value, these statements make it seem like youth are pushing us away or being anti-social. Under the surface though is a driving need for connection and validation. For many youth, music meets both of these needs.

“What song really gets you right now”? Most youth will be able to answer this question in a heartbeat and explain clearly why certain lyrics or the mood of a song speaks to the heart of what they’re going through. Regardless of the struggle, issue or emotion, someone has written a song about it that validates in a way that few other things or people can. In music therapy, listening to music that speaks to youth is often the starting point. When the music therapist hears and accepts the youth’s music, the therapeutic relationship becomes a safe place for the youth to explore other treatment options.

Music Therapy tools and activities to try at home:

  • Songwriting is a tool that can channel a youth’s emotions and express them in a safe and creative way.
  • Singing can not only build a youth’s confidence but can also facilitate emotional release.
  • Creating a playlist that begins with songs that validate tough emotions and slowly moves to music that represents a desired emotional state can facilitate independent emotion regulation.
  • Try asking them if they would be willing to share with you a song they’re listening to. Go into this with an open mind and try to make affirming statements such as “I like the sound of his/her voice” or “that beat is cool” even if the song or genre is not your favourite.
  • Be as authentic as possible. Ask your teenager what they like about the song or the artist. Modeling an accepting and non-judgmental attitude will go a long way towards establishing a positive connection.


If you are interested in learning more about music therapy or pursuing it as an option for yourself or a youth in your family, you can visit the links below.

Canadian Association of Music Therapists:
https://www.musictherapy.ca/
Music Therapy Association of Ontario
https://www.musictherapyontario.com/