Why A Therapist Recommends Playing Guitar To Mental Health Patients


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Having a therapist for a sister, I know how difficult this profession can be. After all, your job is to assist individuals in dealing with conditions that no one – not even the professionals with decades of experience – can offer a long-term cure for. Since the illnesses of the patients are incomparable to common colds, diabetes or even cancer that has a physical manifestation, every treatment tends to follow the trial-and-error method. Meaning, if exercise 1 does not work, you move on to exercise 2. If that cannot provide relief to the person’s troubled mind still, you opt for exercises 3, 4, etc.

When all else fails, my sister tends to recommend learning how to play guitar to the patients. At first, I could not fathom the logic behind it. I was like, “Hmm, so can it be any form of a guitar? What about the brand, does it matter, too?” Such questions undoubtedly earned a frown from the therapist in the family, but she did enlighten me on why playing guitar can be beneficial for mental health patients.

1. It Promotes Calmness

The #1 triggering factor for most psychological disorders is stress. You can effortlessly acquire it when you need to study nonstop for your final exams, your boss announces that the business is doing well and so they will have to terminate people, or you are already old enough to get married yet you don’t even have a prospective partner. When various stressors hit you from all directions at once, you may not be able to contain the situation, and the stress activates your condition.


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Now, based on a 2005 study, making music in a recreational manner is said to reduce the stress level of the musicians at a genomic level. What it entails is that the effect of playing guitar can regulate the genes that are responsible for making you respond to stressors. Thus, once you practice using the instrument for at least an hour every day, nothing may bother you again, psychologically speaking.

2. It Improves Brain Function

“We’ve seen when you sing or play an instrument, it doesn’t just activate one part of your brain,” said Dr. Francis Collins, M.D., Ph.D. of the National Institutes of Health. “A whole constellation of brain areas becomes active. Our response to music is separate from other interventions such as asking people to recall memories or listen to another language.”

Any mental disorder that you have heard of (e.g., depression, anxiety, anorexia, mania, etc.) may have different symptoms and manifestations, but they are all the same in one respect. Each of them affects the normal brain function of an individual and alters their ability to make sound decisions, remember significant things, and understand real situations.

Playing guitar, nevertheless, is an activity that therapists suggest as new researches show that it can counter all those negativities. For one, music can sharpen your memory and increase your mental alertness. It also allows the blood to reach various parts of the brain, which helps you to feel more alive than ever. You will also be able to accomplish multiple tasks at once without getting overwhelmed. The more you practice with the instrument, therefore, the more your psychological health may improve.

“It actually modulates levels of the feel-good hormones dopamine and opioids in the brain, says Dr. Daniel Levitin, Ph.D., neuroscientist, musician, and consultant for Fender’s guitar-learning app Fender Play.


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3. It Encourages You To Socialize More

Have you seen buskers in the subway or on a sidewalk? These are typically the random musicians who sing and play their instruments in public. All the passersby are welcome to stop by to listen to them, dance, and even give some monetary donations. When you look at the situation from afar, it is as if everyone knows each other due to the way they sing and have fun together.

In reality, it is this kind of openness that most – if not all – mentally troubled people do not possess. They tend to isolate themselves from the world; that’s why no one can reach out and pull them out of the darkness immediately. They refuse to talk about their issues in front of their loved ones as well. Nonetheless, everything – including the emotions that you have bottled up inside – may come out through playing guitar. After all, music is a language in its own right, and you don’t always have to hear the lyrics to figure out the feelings of the musician. “Phone calls and digital communication, with friends or family members, do not have the same power as face-to-face social interactions in helping to stave off depression,” says Alan Teo, M.D., M.S., lead author, assistant professor of psychiatry at Oregon Health & Science University, and researcher at the VA Portland Health Care System.


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4. It Is An Excellent Form Of Distraction

Furthermore, being able to play the guitar is beneficial in times when you know that your condition is active. Considering you are already aware of your triggers, then you can tell when your anxiety or depression, for instance, is about to come. At that moment, you can reach for your guitar and start playing any song that comes to mind until your nerves calm down.

Using music as a form of distraction is more effective than smoking or doing drugs. As mentioned above, the tunes can travel to the parts of your brain that nothing else can go to. It will work even if you know that you are trying to distract yourself.

Final Musings

I hope you won’t take this advice as an excuse to avoid seeing a therapist. The truth is that you still need to talk to one to be able to know other forms of treatment that might also work for you. Music therapy is beneficial for some but not for all. Nevertheless, you are free to try playing guitar for healing purposes and seek the same perks above.

Good luck!

Top Acoustic Guitar Players

When we think about the people who are best at playing guitars, we easily picture the best lead electric guitarist that we somehow heard for the last few decades. Maybe our parents or someone in the family used to be a fan of some of the most talented guitarist that can smoothly pick the strings in different ways. With that, we can assume that some of the greatest guitarist out there that we didn’t know is predominantly acoustic players and that many of these individuals are pioneers in their respected genres. So we suggest that you get ready to chill while we count down some of the greatest acoustic guitar players out there.

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James Taylor – James Taylor is a man that is possibly the best singer-songwriter of all that contributes a lot in the music industry in the last decades. James Taylor surely knows his way around playing an acoustic guitar. That is because some of the greatest songs attribute a fair amount of success to Taylor’s ability to craft and perform tasteful lead licks. The thing with James Taylor is that along with his great songs; he is one of the top finger pickers of acoustic guitar that ever make his way to the mainstream. He used his guitar-picking talent to get a valuable spot in the list of the best guitarists of all time.

Stephen Stills – Another singer-songwriter that knows how to showcase his talent through acoustic music is Stephen Still. He is often the unsung hero of the guitar world due to his uncomplicated finger-picking style. Still’s edge among other guitarists is his love for basic skills. He can potentially transition it into a complicated technique. During Stephen Still’s heyday, he earned the respect of many legendary guitarists, and that includes Jimi Hendrix. Also, for public information, Cosby’s and Nash’s most successful songs are noteworthy because of Still’s incredible skills as well.

Michael Hedges – Michael Alden Hedges is one of the most accomplished music guitarists on the list. His capability of using a hammer on, harmonic slaps, alternative tuning, and a lot of different techniques made him the most influential solo artist that ever lived in history. Hedges can add a totality on the new vocabulary of the acoustic guitar sounds by just playing and trying new styles. He can make people wonder how all the tones can come from a single acoustic guitar. People know him as a talented guitarist that amazes them in an instant performance. Hedges earned a spot in the list of greatest musicians that released an album in both instrumental and vocal compositions.

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Bob Dylan – People know Bob Dylan because he single-handedly revolutionized the industry of folk music. His performances and lyrical abilities seem effortless, and that makes him one of the greatest singers in history. Dylan’s acoustic guitar talents also have no exceptions because he’s known to contribute most of the picking patterns in the world of acoustic guitar tricks. He also masters the art of open tunings that allows him to craft some of the catchiest licks in folk music. The techniques he learned from jazz, folk, and blues musician to create a significant style that trademark’s his own.

Robert Johnson – People may not know who Johnson is at his time, but his music is everywhere. His poorly documented life didn’t stop him from achieving a rise to a legendary spot. A lot of people might recognize the elements of his music through the influence of modern finger-picking styles. A pioneer of the Delta Blues, Robert Johnson refined the guitar techniques of other musicians on his time. He also managed to influence later generations with his consistent display of the combination of songwriting and guitar playing absorbed in the shortest span of three minutes.

Chet Atkins – Chet Atkins is an artist that brings finger-style guitar picking to a different level. Chet would often play a baseline with his thumb and pick the harmony and melody of the song with the remaining four fingers. As a session player in Nashville, his effortless dexterity seems to influence some of the legendary guitar musicians out there. These include Eric Clapton and George Harrison. Atkins influence in today’s acoustic guitar-picking patterns is visible in the style of modern country guitar masters like Brad Paisley and Keith Urban.

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Tommy Emanuel – Tommy Emanuel is an Australian acoustic virtuoso who idolizes Chet Atkins who eventually got to record songs with him. Though Tommy Emanuel first trained himself with the styles of Atkins, he ultimately took the method to a whole new level. He managed to create a version of the infamous Travis picking style. Aside from his love in country music, Emanuel is also proficient in blues, jazz, and even classical styles. Tommy’s proficiency and groove on the acoustic guitar is something that people should see.

These talented acoustic guitar musicians made history in our music industry. All of them created an impact that made the modern finger-picking style become more identifiable, top-notched, and extraordinary skill.

50 Christmas Songs That Sound Impeccable With An Acoustic Guitar

Acoustic songs are one of the sweetest things we could hear, and when it comes to Christmas songs, there is no nothing purer than the sound of the guitar with it. It is perfect for the simple gathering of the family on Christmas Eve where all the family members gather around to celebrate and commemorate the birth of Jesus by singing Christmas songs. We have heard several versions with the grandeur of a piano and the full orchestra, but nothing beats the simplicity of these songs sung with a humble acoustic guitar.

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Living Life Without Music: It Made Me Sick!

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How does music affect us? There’s a song that says music can heal our soul. What does it mean? It means music can help us deal with stress and cope with the overwhelming emotions that we experience in life. Whether it is joy, sadness, anger, hatred, grief, disgust, or fear, music can help us deal with it. If food nourishes the body, it is music that rejuvenates our mind. Read More

50 Timeless Acoustic Songs

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Indeed, music can immortalize words, emotions, and feelings, and when it comes to touching songs that give goosebumps to us every time, there is no other way to play it other than with the calm and romantic strum of the guitar. Acoustic songs are sung to confess love, celebrate life, reminisce, and tell a story. It is most common in country music. Read More

Why Musicians Suffer Depression

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Musicians are more likely to experience depression than most people. Susan Biali Haas, MD, shares that “creatives are at higher risk for mental illness (I can vouch for that personally) and according to Andreasen it at least partially stems from “a problem with filtering or gating the many stimuli that flow into the brain.” For this reason some writers, myself included, organize their lives in order to be isolated from human contact for long blocks of time.”

We have even heard about famous people who took their lives because they suffered this mental health condition. It may be hard to believe because some of these people were successful in their craft, and whatever happened to “let the music heal your soul?” We may never know and understand their reason, but we can still make a difference in the lives of those who are continuing to create great music. First, let us identify the possible causes of depression. They can be either physical or psychological. Read More