By Spencer Northey LMFT
Music inspires my life and my work as a therapist. The words of my favorite artists and the rhythms through which the words are expressed help me recognize and discover more about myself, my loved ones, my friends, and my clients.
In my 20s I went to a sold-out concert in a football stadium. The crowd roared when we saw the lead singer and the band make their way to the stage. I pictured the musicians as larger than life. In person, they all seemed so tiny. I felt overwhelmed imagining what it might feel like to be someone tens of thousands of people would cheer for. I felt small thinking about how little I mattered to the rest of the stadium compared to the musicians up on the stage.
Suddenly, my friend turned to me and asked our other friend to take a picture of us together. (Oh my goodness — remember life before selfies?!) I felt connected to my friends as we celebrated this night and the memories we were making together. The band struck up a popular song and the crowd let loose singing along. For me, the song represented passions, fun, summer, and youth. During those magical moments, I was singing along about MY passions, MY fun time, MY summer experience, and MY youth. I realized that throughout the stadium, this song had tens of thousands of different meanings for the different people joyously singing along. For some, this was a song they fell in love to. For others, this was a song celebrating more free time after getting an advanced degree. For others, this was a song encouraging them through a tough time.
Artists create from their minds and hearts and then release their precious work and invite a multitude of different meanings and interpretations depending on who encounters and connects with their song. Music often inspires me. It helps me validate my feelings and sometimes leads me to deeper insights. I often hear my own thoughts and voice in the lyrics and musicality of my favorite songs.
As a mental health therapist with a particular emphasis on love and relationships, I hear my clients’ voices and longings in music as well. When I leave my therapy office, the songs I listen to during my commute often reflect a therapy session from earlier in the day. Sometimes hearing a certain song helps me to authentically process a therapy case. Hearing a song that is particularly on point can seem like a coincidence and sometimes it is. But sometimes I think we are pre-disposed to find meaning in music based on our current experiences in life, work and love.
I spent a long time thinking about what kind of blog would be a helpful contribution to the DC therapy scene. I do well with structure, so I wanted to develop an ongoing theme. It dawned on me that I should write about the connections I find between music and therapy. Sometimes I will respond to the song as if the song is my client. Sometimes I will just write about a song I find especially inspirational or relevant to recovery.
As I explore each song, I consider the artist’s context, but I am also summoning my creativity and my professional experience. Each song will represent expression, struggles, and triumphs that I have worked through myself and with my clients. I hope others will enjoy the songs, the psychology and the sounding board.