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May 19, 2023

Music and Mental Health at CMCB

The aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic has sparked important dialogue around self-care and mental health, making the importance of mental wellness an unavoidable conversation. While there certainly is not a singular solution to the various mental health issues we all face, there are a variety of resources available when it comes to how we manage our own mental wellness. And thanks to our team of board-certified arts and health professionals, CMCB is a leader in a proven and effective option – music therapy.

In the past year, our own Rachel Chao MPH, MSSW, MT-BC, Community Engagement and Clinical Manager and Chris Perry MT-BC, Senior Director of Community Engagement Programs have spoken a lot about the importance of mental wellness and how that relates to music. In December, they joined Psychiatrist Stephen Tourjee, MD, and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Eastern Massachusetts for their Big Talks event series: Men, Mental Health, and Music, breaking down stigmas around men, mental health, and care, while exploring how music can benefit a path to wellness. Last month, as part of our Community Conversation Series they spoke about youth mental health and music therapy’s use in mental health treatment in their presentation – Listening in: Music and Youth Mental Health. And just last week, they brought these concepts and ideas to life with their Freedom Trail Clinic! 

On May 9 and 11, as part of two hour-long sessions, Rachel and Chris visited North Suffolk Community Services, an outpatient center that supports adults with substance use and mental health diagnoses. They fostered a safe space for active music-making and led participants through several activities showcasing the possibilities of how each participant could support themselves with music. The participants engaged in activities like active music making and lyric substitution, activities that formed the building blocks for creating agency around how each participant interacted with the music-making. “A comment we kept hearing from the participants was how much it meant to come together,” says Rachel. “People mentioned to us how meaningful it was to be together, in one space, and express themselves through music. It felt like an honor to be there, and to help create that space for them.”

These sessions with North Suffolk Community Services provided an opportunity for self-expression, a chance to learn about new coping skills, and a space for connection, discussion, and togetherness. The safe environment allowed the group to access deeper topics and decide their own boundaries around how they interacted with the music. “Ultimately, people could share how much they really wanted to share,” Rachel said. “Some people shared a favorite song, and just wanted to listen and be with others. Some people took the opportunity to open up and share what lyrics meant to them, or the impact a song had on their lives.” 

Music can be a powerful tool when it comes to mental health, and the ability to interact with it in a communal setting can really open people up to the possibility to be vulnerable, expressive, or even silly. There really is no limitation to what you can explore through music! As we continue to focus on meeting people where they are and engaging in more of these discussions and workshops, we hope to find more opportunities to gather through music with communities throughout Boston. If you’re interested in learning about how to bring music and music therapy to your community, contact Chris Perry, Senior Director of Community Engagement Programs at cperry@cmcb.org!

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