Music is KEY to Good Health after Crisis

As a native of the South, I wanted to make a contribution to the field of Psychology through my research on the Katrina survivors in Mississippi and Louisiana. Another reason, was I wanted to identify if individuals who experienced crisis became resilience as a result of listening to gospel music.

Many families’ lives were changed the day Hurricane Katrina touched US soil. For some, houses were destroyed and sentimental belongings ruined. For others, their community was in a state of shock and utter disarray. Even worse, other families and friends were mourning the loss of a loved one who died that day or in the days to come. Hurricane Katrina left its mark, but it did not take away many families’ sense of hope, their ability to make meaning out of the situation, or their faith in God.
Throughout recorded history, people have used the arts as a tool to help cope with life’s unexpected events. “Music is a means of communication that helps express our emotions and fears. Music is a healing experience and historically, music has been used in major life event from prehistory on—that’s how people cope with these life events.
Music is one of the modalities of Expressive Arts Therapy which uses the expressive arts—movement, art, music, writing, sound, and improvisation—in a supportive setting to facilitate growth and healing. It is a process of discovering ourselves through any art form that comes from an emotional depth.
Music is a significant mood-changer and reliever of stress, working on many levels at once. Over 2,300 years ago, Aristotle spoke about music and its ability to communicate the emotional states of humans:
Music directly imitates the passions or states of the soul...when one listens to music that imitates a certain passion, he becomes imbued with the same passion; and if over a long time he habitually listens to music that rouses ignoble passions, his whole character will be shaped to an ignoble form.

National Network stated, “Families that learn how to cope with challenges and meet individual needs are more resilient to stress and crisis. Health families solve problems with cooperation, creative brainstorming, and openness to others, according to David Reiss.”
Judith Rubin investigated the literature of the arts and found the arts had been beneficial during traumatic times. She stated it is a form of secondary prevention when creative activities are made available to individuals who have experienced trauma and especially for those who are highly vulnerable for psychological problems. Rubin feels using the arts as prevention early on gives individuals an opportunity to avoid lengthy emotional damage.

Shirley Kaiser found the following:
If you have paid much attention to how you respond to a variety of music, you may have noticed that some music seems to energize you; some music can move you to tears or spark a special memory of a time, place, food, or perhaps a certain person. Some music seems to make you relax, feel less stressed, and feel happier. Some music fills us with deep spiritual attunement.

For the human heart and mind, music is a gift that brings hope and comfort through even the darkest times. “In the midnight hour of the soul, when we feel most besieged by grief and alone in sorrow, music offers solace in the recognition that, although the rhythms of our lives fluctuate between joy and despair, the song remains”.
According to Miles, “You’ll become a more proficient music user as you learn how music has helped people do everything from fight cancer pain to wait more patiently” Miles’, Tune Your Brain explained what to listen to and how in order to:
• Energize: Wake up, prepare for performance and confrontations, recharge, exercise, get cheap and legal thrills
• Relax: Manage stress and anxiety, go to sleep, gain patience and people skills, control panic attacks, meditate, eat more slowly, speak more freely
• Focus: Enhance your IQ, facilitate memory and learning, concentrate, and prolong your attention span
• Heal: Overcome pain, recover from illness or injury, stimulate your immune system, stay calm during medical procedures and surgery
• Uplift: Break bad moods, treat depression, escape from negative thought patterns, fight chronic overeating, overcome shyness
• Cleanse: Vent feelings and frustrations to manage aggression and repressed anger, face grief, and handle problem relationships
• Create: Solve problems, access right-brain imagery, adopt creative habits for more innovative work and play, enrich your sex life

“Music has a way of stirring our innermost feelings and all of our senses, of tapping into parts of ourselves unlike anything else. Music is a universal language that has the ability to speak to us deeply and uniquely”.
Elizabeth Scott, Stress Management Expert found, Music affects the body and mind in many powerful ways such as brain waves, breathing and heart rate, state of mind, and other benefits. “Music with a strong beat can stimulate brainwaves to resonate in sync with the beat, with faster beats brining sharper concentration and more alert thinking, and a slower tempo promoting a calm, meditative state”.
According to Music Therapist, Patti Catalano:
Music is an important part of the healing process as we cope with natural disasters, terrorism, war, assault, sexual assault, and accidents. “We know that there will always be some sort of stressors in our lives and something that will be needed to help us rebuild as a community (should that stressor affect us more broadly). Through music, we can help pull together people as a community to deal with such losses. Music, as a powerful invention, is there to help us work through the inevitable losses and to return us to a place of joy and hope.
The Native American culture has a rich tradition of healing with music. The Navajo nation employs music healing ceremonies that can last more than a week. Ojibwa Midewiwin healers have an entire repertoire of songs to treat the sick. The Cherokee people have songs specifically targeted to treat ailments from snakebite to fever. Miles also stated that Chinese healing music is based on theories of balancing yin and yang, correlating the five tones of the scale with organs in the body. Strickland found that gospel songs like Will the Circle Be Unbroken?, Oh Mary Don’t You Weep, and This May Be the Last Time speak of overcoming adversity, of maintaining hope despite despair. “Faith in an eventual triumph over earthly pain is a hallmark of gospel music. Such songs of solace and hope sustain and encourage people through emotionally difficult times”.

The participants from my research found gospel music to be the solace that carried them through the storm. The lyrics to their familiar and favorite songs gave them reassurance them of God’s promises. Gospel music served as a reminder of God’s unconditional love despite the storm. It helped them to cope with the sadness and depression that had taken over their emotions. The participants reported being caught off guard and not prepared for Hurricane Katrina. They related knowing God would see them through and being true to his word. Consistently the participants shared how the healing power of gospel music resulted in them becoming resilient and their faith was strengthened.


Author's Bio: 

Dr. Sonara Carter-Barber, a Consultant is passionate about how music is used as medicine. Her journey began in 1995 when she counseled individuals affected by the Oklahoma City Bombing. This led her to pursue a PhD in Expressive Arts Therapy with a focus on music. She conducted research on the Relationship between Music and Levels of Resilience during Crisis. Dr. Sonara found, inspirational music helped the Katrina survivors in Louisiana and Mississippi to become resilient.

Dr. Sonara’s has been in private practice for over 10 years. She specialize in teaching people to use Music as Medicine for creative expressions, growth and development. Her goal is to enhance one’s personal well-being while encouraging them to use music to tell their story.

Dr. Sonara also has conducts teleconferences on the use of music for healing and to tell one’s story. She is available for private consultations, public speaking, and can create customized programs to address the specific needs of groups and organizations.

Dr. Sonara lives by the philosophy that, “the more we invest now into the lives of others, the less we’ll be required to pay later”.

Dr. Sonara resides in Los Angeles, California.

Contact for Dr. Sonara are:



Skype: sonara.carter.barber