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Music Therapy and Mental Health

I cannot believe that May is already here, but with May comes National Mental Health Awareness Month. As one of the four music therapists here on staff, I have the opportunity to work with individuals, both adults and adolescents, recovering from substance abuse. Today I am going to share with you an intervention that some may refer to as lyric adaptation and others as fill-in-the-blank songwriting. This style of intervention uses a song’s lyrics and replaces words with blanks, in turn allowing each individual to create their own personal lyrics without being overwhelmed at the idea of writing an original song.

I typically use this lyric adaptation intervention with adult groups (both men and women) to focus on motivation for hope for the future and to overcome negative past circumstances and relationship. The song that used is “I and Love and You” by Avett Brothers. This song can be interpreted as needing to move on from something in your life, reflecting on the way one was living, and having a sense of hope for someone to forgive and take them in after all they’ve done. To keep the focus and approach I have for this song, I exclude the second half of the second verse (“that woman she’s got….you in the morning time”) because of the potential for discussion to veer in another direction.

Lyric sheet and lyrics adaptation sheet for resources of the intervention being discussed

As I pass out the (pre-printed) lyrics, I ask the clients to uncover what the artist is writing about and to try to figure out what story he may be trying to tell. Once everyone has lyrics, I sing the song, then hold a brief song-discussion (the amount of time spent depends on the session length). I open the song discussion by asking for their thoughts and what they found while I was singing. From there I will begin discussing the topics that were listed above (moving on, reflecting, hope, etc.). After the song discussion has come to a close, I explain the lyric adaptation activity and pass the worksheets out. If your clients do not typically have pens, be prepared to provide them. Once everyone has their worksheet, I sing through the song, leaving out the lyrics that have been discarded and guiding the clients through the writing process giving support as needed (e.g. giving clients examples when they are unsure of what to write). When everyone has completed their lyric adaptation, I encourage the clients to share one line, or a portion, of their song with the group.

If you would like more information about this intervention and/or the resources (lyric adaptation worksheet or lyric sheets), contact Katlin Ross at

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