Group Therapy and Music

Group therapy is highly effective when music therapy is involved because music has such a powerful ability to evoke emotions.

In group therapy, it’s typical for three to twelve people meet face to face with each other and a trained therapist helps them to discuss their personal troubles.  Members of the group therapy session give feedback to each other and explore their own thoughts and feelings about what others say or do. This interaction is the crux of group therapy because awareness is raised and new ways of interacting with others can be tried. 

Music therapy can contribute to the goals of group therapy in many ways. Let’s look at some of the benefits of adding music therapy techniques to the group therapy experience. 

Instilling safety and trust in the group are the first goals of group therapy. Confidentiality is stressed and respectful feedback is encouraged. Using music selections to describe emotional situations is a non-threatening way to begin discussion of healthy ways to communicate thoughts and feelings.  By analyzing song lyrics and stories, alternate ways of thinking, expressing emotions and behaving can be discussed without confrontation in the early stages of group therapy.

As group therapy continues and more trust is built, more self disclosure is fostered. Often, interpersonal problems which brought the person to the group may surface. Using simple musical instruments, such as drums to engage in a “drum dialogue” or a “drum circle” can also provide options for exploring feelings and behavior in non-verbal ways. The opportunity to try new behaviors in the group provides more information and awareness through feedback on the members’ interpersonal interactions.  

Group members can hear how they are perceived by others. Are they seen as controlling, passive, fearful, or insensitive to others? Are they seen as cooperative, empathic, and able to risk new behaviors? Clients can see some of their own issues in the expressions of others and they can get immediate feedback on their own expressions. Through the respectful support and confrontation of group therapy clients can begin to try new interpersonal skills.

Music therapy can also help to celebrate gains made in group therapy. Progress and breakthroughs in group therapy should be duly noted and remembered.  Picking a song or even writing lyrics to make one’s own song is a way of noting the accomplished goals of group therapy. Leaving with a created song or a song picked by the client or the group to note their gains is a way to keep the goals and progress committed to memory. A skilled music therapist can even help group members to create their own song.

Building trust, discussing emotions that arise, trying new interpersonal skills, observing non-verbal behavior, and using music to commemorate gains made are just some of the ways that music therapy can add to group therapy. Music can enrich and deepen group therapy in memorable ways.

For more information about group therapy and music get a copy of the book Still a Minstrel.



"Readers will enjoy the struggles of a garage band to the bandstand with local and world-renowned legends. Suess guides us through those years as the music changed us and we reflected those changes in our music"

- Doug Spartz, Founder,
Minnesota Rock/Country Hall of Fame


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