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  • Ava Marvin, MT-BC

Building Empathy through Music Therapy

This February we have been talking all about LOVE on our social media pages to celebrate the Valentine's Day season. Valentine's Day is one of my favorite holidays! It is a whole holiday focused on love and showing others that you care about them, which I believe is very relevant to focus on in my music therapy groups. In this blog post we will share some of our favorite music therapy interventions to build these skills year round!

Defining Love:

  • One way we can define love is - simply caring about another person!

  • In my groups, I like to encourage my clients to explore their own definition of love by selecting their favorite songs about love.

  • After listening to the song, I engage them in a lyric analysis and examine how that song defines love to them.

  • You can repeat this with several songs to compare and contrast different interpretations of love.


Why is Love Important?

Compassion and Empathy Defined (via Merriam-Webster)

  • Compassion: "sympathetic consciousness of others' distress together with a desire to alleviate it"

  • Empathy: "The action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another"


Building Compassion and Empathy Skills for All Ages

  • I strongly believe that gaining an understanding of love, empathy, and compassion is an element of social skills that should be taught.

  • One part of teaching our clients how to navigate the world is acknowledging that there are many different types of people they will have to interact with.

  • Interacting with a sense of love, caring, compassion, and empathy can facilitate more positive interactions with others.

  • By learning to prioritize another's needs and bring them joy, we can actually create positive feelings and emotions for ourselves!

  • For example: In a group of young adults I work with who have a variety of disabilities, one of my group members was feeling very sad. She wanted to participate in the group to try and feel better, though she was holding back tears. I gave her the leadership role to ask her peers what instruments they wanted and pass them out. By shifting her focus to others through this task, it put a smile on her face and she was able to fully join the group with no more tears!


Music Activities for Building Compassion & Empathy

Mirroring:

Music and Movement

  • Pair up group members.

  • Make one member of each group the leader, the other member will be the follower.

  • Instruct the followers to copy exactly how the leaders move, in time with the music.

  • By mirroring their peer, the follower must fully attend to what that person is doing!

  • This helps activate mirror neurons in the brain which can help build empathy for another person.

  • By engaging in this intervention you have to really practicing being "in someone else's shoes" by feeling and moving the way they do.


Compliments: Take and Pass Game

Giving compliments is a great way to make new friends and nurture strong relationships!

  • Seat group members in a circle.

  • Pass an object around the circle in time to music (like this snowflake with compliments written on it).

  • When the music stops, the person holding the snowflake picks a friend to give a compliment to!

  • One of our favorite songs to use for this activity is Kind by our friend Stephanie at Music for Kiddos.

  • You can also practice social phrases during this activity such as "thank you".


L-O-V-E Songwriting

I love using Nat King Cole's classic, L-O-V-E song with all ages during the Valentine's Day season!

  • Play the original song for your group and discuss what L-O-V-E means to the singer.

  • Write the letters "L" "O" "V" "E" on the board or piece of paper.

  • Have clients work together to re-write the song, defining what love means to them for each letter (L is for..., O is for..., etc.)

By encouraging groups to define "love" they are given an opportunity to really think about who they love and what makes love important to them.


Friendship Cards

  • Check out last years Valentine's Day post where we share the "Friend in Me" Group Game.

  • Group members can take turns selecting some fun friendship cards and practice using these new social skills!


Easy Ways to Practice Empathy & Compassion

Helping out your friends

  • A simple way to show others that you care about them is by lending a helping hand!

  • In session, I encourage group members to do this by holding instruments for each other and by passing out/cleaning up instruments.

  • Attending to a peer's needs in this way can be a technique to practice building compassion.


By personalizing and understanding "love" this season, we can give our clients an outlet to express this sometimes challenging topic through music.


To learn more about our social skills groups where we work on all of the skills above, email us at info@dynamiclynks.com


Stay tuned to our Instagram & Facebook for even more intervention ideas all year long!

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