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  • Ava Marvin, MT-BC

The Best Of: Music Therapy - Relaxation Edition

Most people know what a useful tool music is, and how powerful it can be to help us relax! Music therapists use music for relaxation in sessions daily. Today, I want to share my greatest relaxation hits of 2019. These 2 relaxation interventions are so easy, just about anyone can use them!


1. The Ocean Drum

What is it:

On our Instagram this week we shared our holiday gift guide, and the ocean drum was at the top of the list! The Ocean Drum is a large flat cylinder with beads inside. The head of the drum is made out of a plastic material. As the beads roll around, it creates an amazing "ocean-like" sound!


Engaging the Senses:

Not only is the Ocean Drum great for relaxation interventions because of the ocean sounds it creates, the drum also engages multiple senses!

  • Auditory: The ocean drum can actually get pretty loud, especially if you flip it upside-down over your head. This can be great for people who seek auditory input, though it may be too load for people with auditory sensitivities.

  • Visual: The Ocean Drum is also very visually stimulating. Watching the beads roll around is mesmerizing, and there are colorful fish inside to provide even more visual stimulation.

  • Tactile: As the beads roll around and you touch the drum, the instrument also creates a great vibration for tactile input. I encourage group members to touch different parts of the drum as we slowly move it around in a circle.

The combination of these three sensory inputs makes the ocean drum both relaxing and regulating for a variety of sensory systems.


How to use it:

  1. Like any instrument, take time to practice playing the ocean drum. The beads can roll out of control with the slightest movements. Practice getting the feel for carefully rolling it around before using it as a relaxation tool for the first time.

  2. The ocean drum is relaxing by itself, but I also like to play regulating music in the background when using the ocean drum. This provides a steady rhythmic beat for the person holding the drum to move to, and a soothing melody to engage the rest of the group in relaxation while they're waiting for a turn with the drum.

  3. We love using the song "Sound of the Ocean Drum" from our latest album, Move. Sing. Breathe. available at dynamiclynks.com/shop!


Bonus Tip:

A client discovered this need trick in one of our sessions, and now its my favorite thing to do with the ocean drum!

I often dim or turn off the lights during a relaxation intervention. When doing this, try putting a flashlight under the ocean drum and moving it around for extra visual, sensory stimulation.


Where to get an Ocean Drum:

Ocean drums come in different sizes and designs - we like to buy ours from West Music.


2. Music Assisted Relaxation

What is it:

Music Assisted Relaxations (MAR) are a commonly used tool in music therapy in which music helps guide and support a relaxation. The relaxation involved might involve a script for guided breathing or a visualization. In a guided relaxation without music, it can be common for the person to lose focus at times. Adding music to the relaxation helps keep the mind involved in the relaxation and help the individual stay in the moment. Engaging the mind with more auditory input can help prevent mental wondering and improve the relaxation experience!


How to use it:

  • In MAR, it is important that the musical qualities and shape match what the relaxation prompts are. For example if the cue is to take a deep breath in, the movement of the music should reflect that deep breath - such as moving up the scale to a higher pitch.

  • I suggest finding a relaxation script online, or simply guiding the individual to take deep breaths in and out in time with the music.

TIP: Be sure to leave space between the talking or reading of the script to allow the client time to process, find the rhythm of their own breath, and listen to the music.

Check out this video of my favorite “go-to” simple and beautiful guitar progression for a music assisted relaxation that I created years ago!


How will you use these tools for yourself or the individuals you serve? Let us know!

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