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Music: A Mental Health Tool

Music: A Mental Health Tool

Contributed by LS Webb, Community Engagement Manager for Walden Sierra

Those of us who play a favorite song to feel better-- or a sad song to reflect on a personal loss-- know that music and mood can go hand-in-hand. Dr. Galina Mindlin, MD, Ph.D. has co-written a book with neuroscientist Don DuRousseau and psychologist Joseph Cardillo that takes this common-sense concept a "note" or two further. Your Playlist Can Change Your Life offers guidance from Dr. Mindlin, whose New York practice has provided Brain Music Therapy (BMT) to over 500 patients, on how to apply some of the science in which BMT is based at home in a non-clinical way. The authors wrote the book to give people more of an awareness of how brain music therapy works and of its practical applications. As Dr. Mindlin says in an interview posted by Fox News, “the most important research is research you can apply. . . Everyone listens to music.”

Dr. Mindlin and her colleagues believe that playlists can be used outside of therapy, with a little bit of guidance, to help relieve anxiety, improve mood, sharpen concentration or memory, or help us sleep better. Choosing the songs for a personal playlist is just that—very personal. As Dr. Mindlin says in an interview in Smithsonian Magazine (January 2012), we should choose something we already like and then play the music multiple times to decide if the piece makes us calmer or more energized. Once we understand the effect on us of the music we love, we can create playlists for different purposes. If we can memorize pieces that, for example, make us calm when we are feeling anxious, then we can replay them in our minds whenever we feel the need. Combining music with imagery or smells activates even more areas of the brain to help us get to the mood or mindset we are trying to reach.

Brain Music Therapy itself features a side-effect-free process in which a patient’s own EEG recording is converted to a one-of-a-kind musical frequency. Mindlin’s patients get 2 pieces of music created from the brain waves—one to “relax” and one to “activate.” This kind of therapy can be used with other forms of therapy and as a stand-alone therapy, depending on the patient’s needs. The effectiveness rate of this form of neurofeedback is 82-85%. Studies performed by Mindlin and colleagues Rozelle, Kahn and Mitnick, and those performed in France and Canada by Dr. Levine, indicate that BMT proved effective for patients

  • with substance abuse and/or dependence seeking relief of withdrawal symptoms during detoxification
  • with anxiety disorders (generalized anxiety disorder/GAD, panic disorder and social phobia)
  • who had suffered a traumatic loss.

To see a short video about BMT, you might visit

For more information about Walden (Walden Behavioral Health’s) range of mental health services, contact us if in Maryland at (301) 327-2555

Note: No post of Walden (Walden Behavioral Health’s) Behavioral Health Blog is to be considered medical or therapeutic advice.


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