Time to relax

Posted: March 24, 2011 in Techniques

No, I haven’t been relaxing lately, but work has gotten a lot busier (a good thing), and among all the other stuff going on, it’s been hard to update this blog.  But I’m currently working with a number of clients who have anxiety issues, and as such, I’m trying to add some relaxation exercises into my sessions.  Right now, I’m doing progressive muscle relaxation (PMR), the process where you tighten up different parts of the body, then relax to release tension.  It’s been working quite well.  I started doing this with my adult groups, and I’ve been pleasantly surprised to see the results, especially with my lower-functioning group.  The occurrence of distracting behaviors in those sessions have gone way down since we started.

PMR is a technique used by many therapy professionals, not just in music.  I was looking around on the internet to see some recommendations, and found a number of articles about method.  They all recommend finding a quiet place, which makes sense – it’s hard to relax if there’s a lot of stuff going on.  How music helps is that it further blocks out distractions.  Music also has a natural calming effect, making it an ideal means to address PMR.

This is one of only a few major areas of music therapy that encourages the use of recorded music.  It’s hard for the facilitator of the relaxation process to instruct if they’re focused on playing piano.  The big problem I’m finding with this is finding appropriate music.  It should be purely instrumental – vocal lines tend to distract from the instructions, and they also draw people’s attention to lyrics.  It also should be fairly even –  no big swells, no really clashing chords, no fast sections.  I’ve been trying to find my notes from college to see what else I need to be considering, but those are the big ones.

So I’ve been going through my collection, and I’ve been having a tough time.  I don’t have a lot of relaxing music – I prefer my music to be exciting since I tend to listen to it while I’m working or driving.  I’ve been to the library to get a few CDs, but it’s hard to know what will work.  I grabbed The Most Relaxing Classical Music Album in the World EVER (volumes I and II), and some of those work, but I don’t know exactly what their criteria was.  Eine Kleine Nachtmusik definitely does NOT fit my standards (even though Mozart generally puts me to sleep).  The recording of Gymnopedie No. 1 was orchestral, and seemed a lot less appropriate than the piano version (which is one I have been using).  There’s also a few that would work better for some imagery – Clair de lune, for example.

So that’s what I’m working on.  I’ll take some suggestions if you have ’em.  Thanks for reading!

-Jesse

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