The Brain Science Has Finally Caught Up

“A song can go through the side door and sometimes be more effective than talk therapy.”

A therapist said this to me on the phone just last week. She had heard a few of our songs on a radio program featuring new music from our project Mercy Great Enough: Finding Hope After Abortion.

She expressed gratitude for “songs that care for people’s emotional and therapeutic needs.”

It has been an interesting journey creating and living out the ministry of Music for the Soul. From the very beginning, even more than a full decade before the ministry was founded, I personally witnessed the power of a song to turn someone’s life around.

In fact, my awareness that this was even a possibility began with a therapist in the Los Angeles area telling me, “I used your songs with clients over the weekend.”

It has been 26 years since that happened. In the intervening years I’ve had many therapists describe to me the moment when one of our songs provided the pivotal breakthrough moment for someone who was stuck.
One therapist told me that a song got her client to open up about a traumatic event in her life when two years of therapy had failed to do so.

But I’ve also met many therapists through the years who have resisted the idea that a song could be helpful. I believe a lot of this has been due to the fact that up until now there was no body of academic research to support the claim. There were no studies to which I could point.

I have a distinct memory of being at the world conference of the American Association of Christian counselors (AACC) standing at our booth and being largely ignored while therapists swarmed a large collection of books set out on tables across the aisle from us.

Don’t get me wrong. Nobody loves books more than I do. And I get that therapists are intellectual, highly educated people who have had to do a lot of reading to attain their credentials. They are used to reading and thinking deeply about how the human mind works.

But I couldn’t help thinking in that moment that there needed to be a way to convey the efficacy of songs as a healing tool – some new education that needed to take place. I felt as if logic dictated that songs create a different response in people or else, why would singing have been such an important part of all cultures in recorded history?

That’s why I was so delighted when a Vice President with the AACC recently said to me,” The brain science has finally caught up to you.”

In all fairness, I’m sure the science was always there before I came along.
It’s the way that God created us. It’s just now that many more people have been studying the effect of music on the brain. Things that I’ve been saying are true because of my own personal and anecdotal experiences have been studied and validated by the scientific community.

If you have interest in the topic I highly recommend you read This is Your Brain on Music by Daniel Levitin. Though I’m certainly no scientist, I also devote a chapter to this topic in my book Music for the Soul Healing for the Heart.

Yes, I recognize the irony. I just referred you to two books, not to a song.

You’ve got to have a sense of humor!