By: Maralize Carreon

What is Expressive Music Journaling?

Expressive music journaling is a form of music therapy that is used to process trauma, grief, anxiety, and to navigate mental illness (Benson). According to Travis Benson, expressive music journaling is a combination of improvisation and emotional songwriting that aids in self-reflection and mindfulness. Using both of these tools can help you strengthen your self-expression and find light through the darkness. Expressive music journaling is a useful strategy for discovering positive coping mechanisms.

Songwriting in Expressive Music Journaling

Songwriting produces similar healing properties to that of poetry. One might say that songwriting is a form of poetry. Regardless, both use the method of articulating traumatic experiences through expressive writing that can bring relief (Carroll). Engaging in songwriting that focuses on working through difficult emotions has proven beneficial to those suffering from depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (Benson). 

Songwriting, in particular, forces one to assess their past, present, and future. Creating lyrics from addressing these three time periods is standard in the process. Diving into whatever period of time that caused you grief and expressing how you feel through lyricism proves to be therapeutic. This notion is strengthened by Rebecca Fairchild and Katrina McFerran’s research on songwriting in children who experience homelessness or family violence. Indulging in the process served as an escape from the ongoing abuse and trauma the children experienced and resulted in a feeling of agency over their situations (Fairchild & McFerran). Songwriting allows you to gain control of your emotions and allows you to release them in a healthy and reflective way. According to Professor Felicity Baker, a music therapy researcher at the University of Melbourne, songwriting “has the power to convey messages and emotions, to build or rebuild a person’s identity.” It helps individuals overcome the barriers that stand between them and healing. Expressive lyricism opens the door to reconnecting with your emotions and how you feel about yourself. As stated by Benson, songwriting works in tandem with improvisation to promote healing through expressive music journaling.

Improvisation in Expressive Music Journaling

Improvisation, the act of letting an unfiltered stream of thought control where the narrative of a song goes, works in expressive music journaling to relieve immediate tension by speaking what is on your mind without having the time to dwell on what should be written or said. Moreover, in the improvisational process, looking back at what was sung or written and analyzing the meaning behind the lyrics helps you understand and conceptualize what you are feeling. Expressing yourself uncensored and without judgment frees your thinking, which in turn leads to a better expression of self and opens you up to vulnerability (Benson). Vulnerability is an important step in allowing yourself to experience your authentic self. Unlocking and realizing our authentic selves contributes to the overall healing process. Practicing improvisation as a method of music therapy helps you discover your inner psyche and the way you shape the world in front of you (Benson). This can be useful when trying to understand why you feel the way you feel and can provide some form of solace and clarity. Improvisation works hand in hand with songwriting to guide you through the process of dealing with pain through their healing properties.

Expressive Music Journaling and the Healing Journey

You can discover your raw self by practicing expressive music journaling through both songwriting and improvisation. Putting words onto paper and transforming that into music in this way is healing to you, the writer, in more ways than one. Benson affirms that expressive music journaling can help you shed light onto your true self “by understanding and expressing [your] moments of heightened awareness and emotion.” It provokes mindfulness and has shown to improve mental health amongst those who engage in this form of journaling. The Love Story, in the same way, tackles the struggles we face from traumatic experiences and mental hurdles by channeling our emotions through journaling and embracing art. Our program leads you through your emotional responses to life’s experiences to practice mindfulness and self-awareness, just as expressive music journaling does. Executing these methods of journaling can bring you peace of mind and calmness within your soul.

Begin Journaling Here.

References

Benson, Travis. “We All Get Found Sometimes”: an arts-based heuristic study on a queer music therapist’s expressive music journaling. Diss. 2020.

Carroll, Robert. “Finding the words to say it: the healing power of poetry.” Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2.2 (2005): 161-172.

“Healing the Mind through Songwriting” Healing the Mind through Songwriting | Australian Research Council, https://www.arc.gov.au/news-publications/media/feature-articles/healing-mind-through-songwriting.  

Fairchild, Rebecca, and Katrina Skewes McFerran. “Music is everything”: Using collaborative group songwriting as an arts-based method with children experiencing homelessness and family violence.” Nordic Journal of Music Therapy 28.2 (2019): 88-107.

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