Adventures in Music Therapy Songwriting

When people find out that I write my own music therapy songs, they usually have lots of questions.  How did you start writing songs?  Is it hard?  Do you prefer using your own songs to others’ songs?

These questions came up again last week during a presentation for speech & language pathologists, and I made a note right then and there to share my thoughts here on the blog.  So here it is: my “Adventures in Songwriting” series, starting at the very beginning (a very good place to start, if you ask Julie Andrews).

When I started my first practicum as a new music therapy graduate student, the first place I went for help was the internet.  I’d never written a song in my life, and had no idea where to start.  I was to work with seniors in a nursing home, so I typed “music therapy hello songs for seniors” into Google.  Can you guess how many results that yielded?  Yep…not many.

That was the moment I realized I was going to have to start writing my own songs.  I started with a simple hello song, which ended up taking less time than learning an existing song would have.  It wasn’t great, but I used it throughout that entire first practicum.  Everyone seemed to enjoy it, and what amazed me most was that by the end of the semester, the whole room was singing along.  To a song I wrote.  It was a pretty cool feeling.

Even with a few successful songwriting experiences under my belt, I still didn’t feel 100% confident as a songwriter.  I continued to rely on Google to lead me to songs I could use in music therapy practicum sessions.  But the more specific the goals and objectives for my clients, the harder it was to find the right song that fit each unique situation.

It wasn’t until beginning my internship that I began to feel comfortable sharing my songs with people other than my clients.  The positive feedback I received from my supervisors definitely helped, as did the fact that my clients were making progress because of the songs I was writing just for their needs.  Not to mention that the more I wrote, the easier it got.  Isn’t that the case with so many things in life?

In my next installment of this series, I’ll talk about the actual process I use to write my songs.  In the meantime, if you have any songwriting questions you’d like for me to answer, please leave them in the comments!