Greengages garland sprinkled with red berries sitting on a wooden table in a circle. In the middle there is a small black sign that reads, "New Year," with white, blue, and purple painted fireworks.

New Year, New Interventions

A women sitting at a table with her laptop and planner opened, while she is writing on a pink sticky note.

As the new year is getting started, if you are anything like me you are probably searching around looking for new intervention ideas to use with your sessions. If you work with women within a substance abuse recovery program, you have hit the music therapy intervention jack pot. Today, I am going to share with you four of my favorite interventions that I use with this population.

Intervention #1: “The Sun Will Rise” Lyric Adaptation

Focus: Finding the positive in the negative

Materials: “The Sun Will Rise” by Kelly Clarkson chord sheet, lyric sheets, guitar, highlighters, pens, inspirational quotes list, and lyric adaptation worksheet

A women sitting in a grain field while watching the sunrise.

Process: Music therapist (MT) will pass out the lyric sheets and highlighters. He or she will instruct the individuals to highlight lyrics that relate to their life while the MT sings through the song. After the song is complete, the MT will open up a discussion based on the song’s content and lyrics the individuals highlighted, asking probing questions as needed. Once discussion has come to a close, the MT will transition into the lyric adaptation explaining the process by walking through the structure of the lyric adaptation and providing the list of inspiration quotes to give the individuals options. He or she will then pass out the lyric adaptation worksheet. While the individuals work on their lyric adaptation, the music therapist will play a soothing chord progression using finger-picking. When the individuals have completed their lyric adaptation, the MT will request the individuals to share their favorite line they adapted. After all the individuals have shared their favorite line, the MT will end the group with the challenge to keep finding the positive in the negative situations throughout life.

Intervention #2: “Bird Set Free” Lyric Analysis

Focus: Powerlessness and freedom

Materials: “Bird Set Free” by Sia chord sheet, lyric sheets, guitar, and highlighters

Women standing on the shore facing a body of water hold a pennant that reads, "freedom."

Process: Music therapist (MT) will pass out lyric sheets and highlighters. He or she will instruct the individuals to highlight lyrics that relate to moments in their life where they felt powerlessness and freedom, while the MT sings through the song. After the song is complete, the MT will open up discussion processing the individuals’ personal view of the song’s content, ask the question, “What do you believe was the reasoning for the artist writing this song?”, lyrics the individuals highlighted asking probing questions as needed, and process the feelings of both powerlessness and freedom. Once discussion has come to a close, the MT will end the group with the challenge to continue to gain the confidence and allow yourself to be a bird set free within your own life.

Intervention #3: “Scars” Lyric Discussion w/Art Reflection Activity

Focus: Identifying pain and strength

Materials: “Scars” by Miranda Lambert chord sheet, lyric sheets, guitar, highlighters, color pencils, comfort door examples, and comfort door materials.

The picture of a brief poem, "Internal Bleeding," in a book. It reads, "Time heals all wounds, is a fallacy, is only something people say, when the cut, was just skin deep."

Process: Music therapist (MT) will pass out lyric sheets and highlighters. He or she will instruct the individuals to highlight lyrics that holds significance in their life and/or gives them a greater understanding of their own scars, while the MT sings through the song. After the song is complete, the MT will open up the discussion asking the individuals to describe the song in one word. He or she will then ask how that one word might reflect or relate to their lives. Then the MT will shift the focus to the lyrics that the individuals highlighted, asking probing questions as needed. Once discussion has come to a close, the MT will then transition into creating comfort doors. Before handing out any materials, he or she will explain the project through showing examples and explaining that on the outside they will write one or more of their current struggles or challenges (eg. Anxiety, fear, depression, guilt, shame, etc.) and on the inside they will write what is helping them get through these challenges (eg. Inspirational quotes, bible verses, people, etc.). While the individuals are working on completing their art work, the MT will play a soothing chord progression with finger-picking. When the individuals have completed their art work, the MT will encourage the individuals to share at least one struggle and/or challenge they put on the outside and at least one way that helps them overcome that struggle and/or challenge. Once everyone has shared, the MT will end the group with the challenge to start utilizing these reminders by stating, “You have already identified what your current struggle and/or challenge is and how to face it head on and overcome it, so start now. You have everything you need.”

Intervention #4: “Recover” Lyric Analysis w/Encouragement Reminders

Focus: Encouragement

Materials: “Recover” by Natasha Bedingfield chord sheet, lyric sheets, guitar, colored card stock, and colored sharpies

"You Got This," written in chalk on the pavement, with leaves randomly placed on the ground.

Process: Music therapist (MT) will pass out lyric sheets and highlighters. He or she will instruct the individuals to highlight lyrics that relate to within their recovery process, while the MT sings through the song. After the song is complete, the MT will open up discussion by asking the question, “What emotions arise while listening to this song?”. MT will follow the group asking probing question based on responses. Then he or she will shift the discussion into what lyrics the individuals highlighted, asking probing questions as needed. Once discussion has come to close, the MT will transition into the individuals making their own encouragement reminders. He or she will challenge the individuals to pick out a 1-3 lyric lines that motivates them and encourages them to continue in their recovery treatment. The MT will then explain the individuals can choose any color card stock and sharpie to then write those lyric lines down. While the individuals are working on these, the MT will play a soothing chord progression using finger-picking. When everyone has finished writing and decorating their encouraging lyrics, the MT will ask each individual to share what lyric line they chose for themselves. After everyone has shared, the MT will end the group with the challenge to hang up their lyric lines or put them in a place they will see them often to constantly keep encouraging them throughout this process.

If you have any questions or would like any of the resources that I use with these intervention, please feel free to contact me by email at, katlin.ross@star-center.org. Happy New Year!


About the Author : Katlin Ross

Originally from Vancleave, Mississippi, Katlin E. Ross graduated from Mississippi University for Women in Columbus, Mississippi with a Bachelor of Music Therapy in 2017. She completed her clinical internship at Star Center, Inc. in Jackson, Tennessee in May 2017 and received her MT-BC credential in March 2018. Katlin joined the Star team full time in November 2017.

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