Intervention Inspiration Series: Songwriting

As a new initiative for MTSA this summer, we are choosing to share different ideas for Music Therapy practice in the hopes that this will provide a valuable resource for beginning music therapists and as inspiration for practicing therapists. Every Monday, a different intervention idea will be presented. They will be very basic and will be best as beginning inspiration to be varied and adapted for different clinical settings. They may include specific music, but will typically only indicate the style of music to be incorporated.

The following basic format will be given for each intervention: 1) Activity, the type of intervention; 2) Target population, the intended client population for the intervention; 3) Materials, the instruments and supplies required; 4) Goals/Aims, ideas for goals or aims that could be addressed in the intervention; 5) Method, a detailed description of what would occur during the intervention; 6) Comments, an explanation of why this intervention is applicable for the given client population and how the goals/aims are addressed; and 7) Evaluation, questions to allow for reflection on whether or not the intervention was effective for a particular client or clients.


by Jisca Whichers


Photo Source


Rewriting the lyrics of familiar songs to reflect personal goals.

Target Population:

Women who are in a rehabilitation program for substance abuse

Co-morbidity include Anxiety Disorder and Depression


Piano or Guitar for accompaniment

Easel or whiteboard with markers

Fill-in-the-blank sheets with writing utensils


– To help the women develop emotional self-awareness

– To create a level of group support and community

– To use song lyrics to stimulate reminiscence

– To use song writing to encourage cognitive working out of future plans

– To decrease depressive symptoms

– To decrease reported level of anxiety

– To encourage the women to develop a sense of agency


The group of clients sit in a circle formation.  The music therapist asks them to remember hopes and dreams that they had when they were children.  They then have the option to share.  The music therapist then encourages them to think of more recent dreams and goals, and writes the ideas on the whiteboard.  The group enters a short discussion about the power of dreams, the reality of disappointment and the advantages of forming goals.

The music therapist asks the clients to just listen as he/she performs “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”  After singing and playing through the song once, he/she invites the group to sing along a second time.  The music therapist then distributes a fill-in-the-blank version of the first stanza on a sheet of paper an a writing utensil to each client.  Each client personalizes the stanza by writing about her current dreams or goals.  They do not have to worry about rhythm scheme and flow.  The therapist might first give an example on the whiteboard if clients appear reluctant or confused.  Clients can then volunteer to allow the therapist to sing their personal version of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”  The therapist wraps up the intervention by inviting the clients to sing along on the original verse.


Women undergoing treatment for substance abuse often have a hard time forming intimacy.  Many of them have experienced some form of abuse, and therefore have trust issues.  Also, in many cases, drug and alcohol addiction drives family members and friends away.  In some cases, clients only maintain close contact with drug dealers.  Openly sharing past and future dreams with the rest of the class might be intimidating for many of the women.  Rewriting the words of a familiar song may be a less intimidating way to share feelings than verbalizing them.  Sharing with the rest of the group is entirely voluntary.  This activity will likely become more successful if repeating over several sessions, because the clients will begin to build trust and become more comfortable.

Many women struggling with substance abuse also have co-occurring disorders like major depression and anxiety disorder.  This activity is based on thinking back and thinking ahead in a positive light.  Many clients likely feel trapped in their current situation, so the therapist must intentionally encourage and demonstrate a positive outlook.


Did all participants join in singing along?

Did any participants decline to give input about past or future dreams?

Did participants interact with the rest of the group by making eye contact?

Did participants show verbal on nonverbal support to input from other participants?

Were participants able to view future dreams in a positive light?

Was discussion sparked by the activity?

What could extend the discussion in the future?

Was the whiteboard effective?

Did the time required to rewrite the verse leave enough time for the other activities?

What comments did participants make about engaging in this activity?


About Laurier MTSA

We are a student association at Wilfrid Laurier University and most of our members are students in the Music Therapy program. We exist to educate about, promote, and support the work of music therapy, and to support the academic, career, and personal needs of the Music Therapy Students. Our mandate is to unite prospective, current and alumni students while promoting our profession in the larger community.
This entry was posted in Intervention Ideas and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Comments or Questions? Please let us know!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s