Change up your practice by incorporating stress-reducing music into your sessions and waiting area
We’ve all heard how music can transform the body. It can change sleeping patterns, reduce blood pressure, and alleviate stress. Massage therapists use it to calm patients during treatment. Should therapists follow suit?
For some clients, even those who are looking forward to counseling, sitting in the waiting room before a session begins may create even more anxiety. Some clients may suffer from agoraphobia or have a driving phobia, and they are simply at their peak stress level. Others may be nervous talking to a stranger for the first time. Playing stress-reducing music in your waiting room – and even during a session – may alleviate some of the anxiety your patients feel.
Music’s Effect on the Body
Before you choose a soundtrack to play in your office, consider how different sounds and tempos will influence your patients. Music that is upbeat and has a positive message may inspire clients to think optimistically. A slower beat may calm their minds and even draw tension out of your clients’ muscles. A faster beat may make them feel more alert.
The University of Nevada’s Reno Counseling Services suggests that the tempo of music can influence and reduce stress. “Native American, Celtic, Indian stringed-instruments, drums, and flutes are very effective at relaxing the mind even when played moderately loud. Sounds of rain, thunder, and nature sounds may also be relaxing particularly when mixed with other music, such as light jazz, classical (the ‘largo’ movement), and easy listening music.”
Gabe Turow, a visiting scholar in the Department of Music at Stanford University, says, “We may be sitting on one of the most widely available and cost effective therapeutic modalities that ever existed. Systematically, this could be like taking a pill. Listening to music seems to be able to change brain functioning to the same extent as medication, in many circumstances.”
Your Waiting Room Music: With or Without Lyrics?
While some people enjoy listening to music with lyrics, it may be best to play music without words in your waiting area. Besides the chance of overstimulation, lyrics could bring up unwanted emotions in your clients.
For example, a client may have just learned that a family member was diagnosed with an untreatable form of cancer. Even if the client felt calm on his or her way to the appointment, a sad song might bring up overwhelming emotions.
Similarly, particular songs have a way of jogging the memory, and clients with PTSD may feel triggered when hearing a song from their past.
The Benefits of Playing Stress-Reducing Music in Session
You don’t need to go back to school to study music therapy before using it as a tool in counseling sessions. Music allows clients to play an active role in their treatment. While many clients will be willing to participate, they might not know how to start. For the apprehensive, ask if you can play calming music, gradually introducing lyrics softly, as background music.
Ask your music-motivated clients to come prepared to a session with a small “soundtrack” of the current issues they are facing, with two to three songs, tops. Then, ask them to explain why they chose those songs. Depending on the interventions, this method could be used regularly during counseling.
Creating a Stress-Reducing Music Soundtrack
If you’ve decided to play music in your office, spend time thinking about the specifics of how you employ the sound. Will you use a CD on repeat or an iPod on shuffle, or will you stream the soundtrack via Bluetooth? If you choose to use a streaming service such as Pandora or Spotify, be sure to subscribe to the full version so that commercials don’t interrupt the stress-reducing music.
Another option is to introduce your clients to soundtrack planning. Courtney Armstrong, a licensed professional counselor, says in Counseling Today, “Prompting clients to create music playlists has also been tremendously helpful for my clients, especially those who are healing from grief and trauma.”
If you decide to implement stress-reducing, background music in your therapy sessions, save time by creating soundtracks that will play for hours without needing a human to change the songs. You have enough to do besides play DJ.
As you can see, music can play an important role in your practice. Another transformative thing you can do is use the best practice managment system to streamline your practice processes, so try out SimplePractice today for free.
Do you play stress-reducing or noise-canceling music in your waiting room or during sessions? What would you add to your office playlist? Let us know in the comments section below.