The Voice as a Means of Self-Expression

The connection between the voice and self-expression may seem self-explanatory – indeed, using the voice is a key aspect to any form of verbal communication. However, there is an important distinction between ordering a meal and exploring the voice as a means of empowerment, affirmation, and healing analogous to the difference between expressing hunger or telling someone the time versus expressing sorrow or telling someone your story. In music therapy, therefore, the voice is regarded as an important tool for self-expression not only for its connection to verbal communication but because of its ability to explore and convey inner anxieties, emotions, experiences, memories, and identity.

Self-expression is crucial. It is key to communicating how we feel, our thoughts, opinions, needs, and wants. It allows for the release of emotions. It highlights individuality while allowing us to share, bond, relate, and empathize with others. In music therapy, therapists combine the importance of self-expression with the power of music to further dig deep into the individual’s emotional, physical, and spiritual experiences. Music opens the door to important verbal discussions as well as, and this will be the main topic of discussion in this article, singing in order to effectively empower and heal individuals through the use of the voice.

Singing can be a powerful, whole-body, emotional experience, and through encouraging individuals to sing, music therapists hope to help people get in touch with and articulate their feelings through an experience that is both creative and often pleasurable. Though singing may make individuals feel nervous or vulnerable, as many have difficulty overcoming the fear of sounding bad or making mistakes, working through this anxiety can have positive effects in itself, as often parts of the self are projected onto the voice and treatment of the voice. The hopeful end result of this process is the use of the voice as a way of empowering a person’s expressive and self-reflective capacities while providing them with a coping mechanism which draws on the individual’s inner resources in order to work through trauma, stress, anxiety, identity crises and insecurity.

By combining singing with music, individuals have the opportunity to be verbally expressive while being supported by music and all of its positive effects. Cognitive science has demonstrated that music engages the body and brain in ways that little else can, lighting up emotional, physical, and linguistic centres. The music’s character, therefore, has the ability to evoke emotions and memories, which can provide individuals with the opportunity to explore different aspects of the themselves and their experiences. By engaging the creative self in the growth and healing process, singing gives individuals the opportunity for holistic empowerment through its ability to promote self-expression.

What is Music Therapy?

We’ve all heard about the many amazing qualities of music, and chances are you’ve even experienced them for yourself. Music has the capacity to provide a non-verbal creative outlet that can benefit individuals both through its production and by its perception. The benefits of music are so tangible and profound that it is used as therapy to provide support and aid to a wide variety of individuals ranging in age, ability, background, and level of musical experience. It has been shown to improve health in many diverse areas, including cognitive functions, motor skills, emotional development, and social skills. It can facilitate interaction, self-awareness, communication, personal development, and self-expression. Therapies can be practiced in a group or one-on-one, and as such can promote both inter- and intra-personal growth. Music therapy takes a holistic approach to healing and improvement and works to address mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual aspects of participants in order to exercise the full potential of music’s health-promoting capacities.

The far-reaching benefits of music therapy mean that it can be used to address a wide variety of needs and is subsequently practiced in a number of diverse institutions. Music therapists can be found in hospitals, prisons, day treatment programs, community programs, long-term care facilities, schools, mental health facilities, substance abuse and addiction centres, and so on. Music therapy has the ability to improve the lives of individuals struggling from emotional trauma, developmental delays, brain injuries, mental health issues, speech and language impairments, and chronic pain. It is used in neonatal care, critical care, obstetrics, oncology, and palliative care. Because of music’s ability to treat the whole person, it is an effective therapy for those who may have complex, multiple, or ongoing concerns.

Therapy can be either active or receptive. Active music therapy involves creating music the instruments, their voice, or other objects, and allows for the patient to express themselves through art and sound. Receptive therapy is where the therapist plays music, and the patient listens while free to draw, move, or meditate. Generally, the types of therapies used is up to the discretion of the therapist.