Lyric analysis is used in psychosocial music therapy treatment to assist music therapy clients in identifying personal issues, exploring emotions, and relating to the experiences of others. In this AMTA-Pro podcast, our colleague Karen Miller presents a Quick Reference Guide to Lyric Analysis for music therapy clinicians. The clinical tool, built on a solid foundation of theory, research, and practice, is an easily accessible system for clinical decision-making. It is also intended to assist therapists and their clients in moving from the identification and expression of therapeutic material to positive action, thereby facilitating practical steps toward problem solving. The Quick Reference Guide is included in the text section of this AMTA-Pro podcast.


A Quick Reference Guide to Lyric Analysis

AMTA-Pro Podcast April, 2019

Karen Miller, MM, MT-BC

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1. Introduction

2. Rationale for developing the quick reference guide as a tool for music therapists

3. Common psychosocial music therapy techniques, including lyric analysis

4. Best practice components: theory, research, practice

5. Process for developing the quick reference guide as a tool for music therapists

6. 3-stage process of lyric analysis: explore, relate, apply

7. An overview of the Quick Reference Guide (see below)

 

Quick Reference Guide to Solution-focused Lyric Analysis in Psychosocial Music Therapy Treatment

Recommendations and Procedural Menu

Introduction

The Quick Reference Guide to Solution-Focused Lyric Analysis in Psychosocial Music Therapy Treatment is a procedural guideline for the use of lyric analysis as a tool within psychosocial music therapy treatment. The tool is intended for use by professional music therapists as well as music therapy students and educators. While lyric analysis is widely accepted as a method used to assist music therapy clients in identifying personal issues, exploring emotions, and relating to the experiences of others, the present tool is intended to pool information gained from research and clinical experience that will inform best practice by providing an easily accessible system for clinical decision-making. The tool is also intended to assist therapists and their clients in moving from the identification and expression of therapeutic material to positive action, thereby facilitating practical steps toward problem solving.

The Quick Reference Guide was built within the theoretical framework of cognitive behavior therapy (CBT). Resulting recommendations are consistent with CBT principles as well as informed by both research and practice, intentionally providing a solid foundation of theory, research, and practice upon which to base clinical decisions.

The tool may be useful when clinical goals are centered on the amelioration of various forms of distress. It is intended for work with clients exhibiting psychosocial needs who demonstrate verbal skills and reality-based cognitive processes sufficient to complete the steps involved. Emotional, social, cognitive, and communication ability should be considered carefully in the decision-making process along with other factors outlined in the guide.

Guidelines presented were gathered from existing peer-reviewed publications as well as from extensive clinical practice. Those recommendations found in published research are referenced throughout the document. The Quick Reference Guide to Solution-Focused Lyric Analysis in Psychosocial Music Therapy Treatment was developed by Karen Miller, MM, MT-BC, while Professor of Music Therapy at Sam Houston State University, with research assistance from the following graduate students:

Mary Kate Becnel, MM, MT-BC Alexandra Brickley, MM, MT-BC Joyce Chun, MM, MT-BC Marcus Hughes, MM, MT-BC Karina Melara, MM, MT-BC Chen Peng, MM, Zachary Pollard, MM, MT-BC Nicole Rogers
Sarah Rossi, MM, MT-BC Hannah Sopher, MT-BC
Annie Vandervoort, MM, MT-BC Michael Way, MM, MT-BC

NOTE: ( ) denotes research reference throughout the document.

Song Choice Recommendations

Consider client’s choice vs. therapist’s choice of song and the benefits of each (2,6,8,9,10,11,21,22)

Be aware of client’s potential associations (4,6,8,11,15)

Identify positive and negative messages in songs before choosing – consider the usefulness of each (6,8,15)

Choose music and lyrics that are relatable to clients in their current state (2,4,5,6,8,15,18,19,20)

Pay attention to music style and characteristics; impact of the music as well as lyrics (2,4,5,6)

Consider the impact of repetition in lyrics (6,14)

Realize the power of both music and poetry (lyrics) to elicit emotion (2,4,5,15)

Choose songs that address specific topics and/or cognitive distortions related to the client’s goals (2,4,5,6,8,9,10,11,15,20,21,22,23)

Consult team members on appropriate topics (3)

Song Presentation Recommenadations

Use the Three Stage Procedural Menu as a guide in preparation, being mindful that it may be necessary or beneficial to skip Stage 1 or move in and out of stages in a different order.

Allow ample time, typically 30 minutes or more, for a complete process leading to specific problem-solving (20,21,22,23)

Consider the benefits of live vs. recorded music (7,8,9,10,11,18,19,22,23)

Ensure high quality music and sound to maximize attention and impact (19)

Stress that there are no right or wrong answers when interpreting songs (4,19)

Adapt for varying levels of functioning, including verbal, sensory, and cognitive abilities and medication effects
Give individual copies of lyrics to clients before beginning
 (4,6,8,9,10,11,18,19,20,21,22,23)

Use large, bold font and easy reading format and consider numbering lines (4,19)

Instruct clients to mark lyrics that particularly stand out to them or give other assignment to actively engage clients with the lyrics (10,19)

Have clients re-read lyrics following song presentation (8)

Remain empathetic and use active listening skills to determine direction of discussion (3,4,6)

In a group setting, hear from everyone, and prompt clients to relate to and support one another (4)

Consider use of other modalities (illustration, art, movement, dance) to process the song prior to verbal processing (2)

Unless otherwise indicated, re-play song after the analysis (8)

As appropriate, encourage clients to share song with family, caregivers (11)

Assign specific homework related to discussion – consider use of worksheets as visual cues and structure for homework (1,8,19,22)

Always work within the boundaries of your training and ability; collaborate with team members, and refer clients to other therapists and health professionals when needed; maintain client’s emotional and physical safety as your top priority (4)

 

Three Stage Procedural Menu for Lyric Analysis Following Song Presentation

General Probes for Any Stage

Tell me more about that.

How did that make you feel? (8,9,11)

What does that remind you of? (8,9,11)

You seem (fill in emotion).

Stage 1: Explore (focus on the song)

~ Create probes directly from lyric content (e.g., Let’s talk about lines ________, What does the singer mean when he says ______?) (2,4,5,6,18,20)

~ Other sample probes: (1,4,5,6,8,10,11,15,22)

Talk to me about this song.

What images were going through mind as you listened?

Tell me about the lyrics you highlighted/underlined.

What was the singer/songwriter experiencing?

What is the overall mood or message of the song?

Which lyrics represent thoughts or ideas that are rational or healthy?

Which lyrics represent thoughts or ideas that are distorted, irrational, or unhealthy?

What specific cognitive distortions can you identify in the lyrics?

What does this person do when he or she experiences difficult feelings?

How does that work for him/her?


How can he/she cope?

What would you tell this person?

What is this person most afraid of/angry about/happy about, etc.? (Follow up with, What are YOU most afraid of/angry about/happy about, etc.? then continue at Stage 2.)

Who can this person depend upon, and for what? (Follow up with, Who can you depend upon, and for what? then continue at Stage 2.)

Stage 2: Relate (focus on the client, including the client’s identification with the song, connection to the songwriter, client’s own thoughts, feelings, and behaviors)

~ Create probes directly from lyric content (e.g., How do you relate to the line ______?)
 (2,4,5,20,21,22)

~ Other sample probes: (1,2,4,5,6,8,9,10,11,21,23)

In what ways is your life like this person’s life?

What would you like to be different?

How does the song connect with what you are going through?

How do you relate to that?

Which of those thoughts or feelings have you experienced? When?

Which lyrics stand out most to you?

What makes them stand out?

What emotions or personal experiences/memories are triggered by those lyrics?

When have you felt that way?


What was, or is, going on in your life that causes you to relate?


What was going through your mind when you heard this?


What was going through your mind when you felt that way?

What makes you feel that way now?

What needs to change?

Describe what a better future would look like.

What is going through your mind now?


What is the quick, passing thought that triggers/triggered that emotion?

On a scale of 1-100, how much did you believe that thought?

How much do you believe it now?

 What evidence can we find for that thought being true?

What evidence can we find for that thought being false?

If that thought is likely false, what true statement can we make to replace it?

Stage 3: Apply (focus on coping and follow through)

~ Sample probes: (1,4,6,8,9,11,20,23)

When you have felt that way, how did you cope?

What coping strategies have you tried?

How did they work? What happened? And then what? And then what? And then what?

What are your options?

What will be the consequences of that option? And then what?

(repeat for other options)

What would you tell a close friend or family member in a similar situation?

Next time you feel that way, what will you tell yourself?

What seems to be the best direction or choice?

What is the first step?

What will you do today to get started?

May I follow up with you to see how it went? (Assign specific homework related to discussion.)

References


1. Beck, Judith S. Cognitive Behavior Therapy: Basics and beyond. New York: Guilford, 2011. Print.

2. Bednarz, L. F., & Nikkel, B. (1992). The Role of Music Therapy in the Treatment of Young Adults Diagnosed with Mental Illness and Substance Abuse. Music Therapy Perspectives, 10(1), 21-26. doi:10.1093/mtp/10.1.21.

3. Boenheim, C. (1966). Music and Group Psychotherapy. Journal of Music Therapy, 3(2), 49-52. doi:10.1093/jmt/3.2.49.

4. Dvorak, A. L. (2017). A Conceptual Framework for Group Processing of Lyric Analysis Interventions in Music Therapy Mental Health Practice. Music Therapy Perspectives, 35(2), 190-198.

5. Edgar, K. (1979). A case of poetry therapy. Psychotherapy: Theory, Research & Practice, 16(1), 104-106. doi:10.1037/h0085863.

6. Heimlich, E. P., & Mark, A. J. (1990). Metaphoric Lyrics as a Bridge to the AdolescentâTMs World. Paraverbal Communication with Children, 159-173. doi:10.1007/978-1-4613-0643-6_10.

7. Hilliard, R. E. (2006). The effect of music therapy sessions on compassion fatigue and team building of professional hospice caregivers. The Arts in Psychotherapy, 33(5), 395-401. doi:10.1016/j.aip.2006.06.002.

8. Ho, M. K. (1984). The Use of Popular Music in Family Therapy. Social Work, 29(1), 65-67. Retrieved January 21, 2017, from http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.2307/23714274?ref=search- gateway:1ef22f67741f6661fe52abdffd94003b.

9. James, M. R. (1988). Music Therapy Values Clarification: A Positive Influence on Perceived Locus of Control. Journal of Music Therapy, 25(4), 206-215. doi:10.1093/jmt/25.4.206.

10. Jones, J. D. (2005). A Comparison of Songwriting and Lyric Analysis Techniques to Evoke Emotional Change in a Single Session with People Who are Chemically Dependent. Journal of Music Therapy, 42(2), 94-110. doi:10.1093/jmt/42.2.94.

11. Lelieuvre, R. B. (1998). “Goodnight Saigon”: Music, fiction, poetry, and film in readjustment group counseling. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 29(1), 74-78. doi:10.1037//0735-7028.29.1.74.

12. Maultsby, M. C. (1977). Combining Music Therapy and Rational Behavior Therapy. Journal of Music Therapy, 14(2), 89-97. doi:10.1093/jmt/14.2.89.

13. Montello, L., & Coons, E. E. (1998). Effects of Active Versus Passive Group Music Therapy on Preadolescents with Emotional, Learning, and Behavioral Disorders. Journal of Music Therapy, 35(1), 49-67. doi:10.1093/jmt/35.1.49.

14. Nunes, J. C., Ordanini, A., & Valsesia, F. (2015). The power of repetition: Repetitive lyrics in a song increase processing fluency and drive market success. Journal of Consumer Psychology, 25(2), 187-199. doi:10.1016/j.jcps.2014.12.004.

15. Sargent, L. (1979). Poetry in Therapy. Social Work, 24(2), 157-159. Retrieved January 21, 2017, from http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.2307/23713665?ref=search-gateway:912083b6ff7392e3266b89282b21ef4f

16. Silverman, M. J., & Leonard, J. (2012). Effects of active music therapy interventions on attendance in people with severe mental illnesses: Two pilot studies. The Arts in Psychotherapy, 39(5), 390-396. doi:10.1016/j.aip.2012.06.005

17. Silverman, M. J. (2007). Evaluating Current Trends in Psychiatric Music Therapy: A Descriptive Analysis. Journal of Music Therapy, 44(4), 388-414. doi:10.1093/jmt/44.4.388

18. Silverman, M. J. (2009). The Effect of Lyric Analysis on Treatment Eagerness and Working Alliance in Consumers Who Are in Detoxification: A Randomized Clinical Effectiveness Study. Music Therapy Perspectives, 27(2), 115-121. doi:10.1093/mtp/27.2.115

19. Silverman, M. J. (2009). The Use of Lyric Analysis Interventions in Contemporary Psychiatric Music Therapy: Descriptive Results of Songs and Objectives for Clinical Practice. Music Therapy Perspectives, 27(1), 55-61. doi:10.1093/mtp/27.1.55

20. Silverman, M. J. (2010). The effect of a lyric analysis intervention on withdrawal symptoms and locus of control in patients on a detoxification unit: A randomized effectiveness study. The Arts in Psychotherapy, 37(3), 197-201. doi:10.1016/j.aip.2010.04.001

21. Silverman, M. J. (2015). Effects of educational music therapy on illness management knowledge and mood state in acute psychiatric inpatients: A randomized three group effectiveness study. Nordic Journal of Music Therapy, 25(1), 57-75. doi:10.1080/08098131.2015.1008559

22. Silverman, M. J. (2015). Effects of Lyric Analysis Interventions on Treatment Motivation in Patients on a Detoxification Unit: A Randomized Effectiveness Study. Journal of Music Therapy, 52(1), 117-134. doi:10.1093/jmt/thu057

23. Silverman, M. J. (2016). Effects of a Single Lyric Analysis Intervention on Withdrawal and Craving With Inpatients on a Detoxification Unit: A Cluster-Randomized Effectiveness Study. Substance Use & Misuse, 51(2), 241-249. doi:10.3109/10826084.2015.1092990

About the Podcast Speaker

Karen Miller, MM, MT-BC is a Neurologic Music Therapist and Associate Professor of Music Therapy at Indiana Wesleyan University. Prior to joining the faculty at IWU, Professor Miller served for 18 years as Professor and Director of Music Therapy at Sam Houston State University. She additionally acquired more than 10 years’ experience in clinical music therapy practice, providing services to a wide variety of populations in Florida, South Carolina, and Texas. Areas of specialization include music therapy in the psychiatric treatment of adolescents, and Neurologic Music Therapy in the treatment of patients suffering from strokes, traumatic brain injuries, and Parkinson’s Disease.

Ms. Miller has presented clinical and research material regionally, nationally, and internationally. Her research is published in the Journal of Music Therapy and Music Therapy Perspectives. She is a Past-President of the American Music Therapy Association’s Southwestern Region (SWAMTA) and has served the American Music Therapy Association (AMTA) as a long-standing Assembly Delegate and as co-chair of the organization’s Academic Program Approval Committee.

As Director of Music Therapy at SHSU, Professor Miller contributed to both qualitative and quantitative growth of music therapy programs through endeavors such as overseeing the development of graduate programs in music therapy, developing the on-campus SHSU Music Therapy Clinic, and establishing a wide variety of practicum and internship programs. Professor Miller gained prior university teaching experience at both the University of the Pacific in Stockton, California, and The Florida State University in Tallahassee, Florida.

Ms. Miller is also a singer/songwriter and has produced two CD’s of original songs.

Her music education and music therapy studies were completed at Oklahoma Baptist University (B.M.E.) and The Florida State University (M.M.).