Finding your authentic self is all about getting to know yourself. It’s about looking at all the pieces of you. This includes the parts of yourself that you don’t like. It means being open to voicing your truth and feeling confident in using your voice. Vocalizing in the forms of voicework and vocal play can help with this. In this blog post, I’ll be highlighting some benefits of vocalizing. I’ll also outline a few ways that I use the voice in my counseling and music therapy work and share a few examples so that you can experience some of the benefits of vocalizing on your own.
Benefits of Vocalizing for Self-Evaluation and Self-Reflection
As we enter into this new year, you may be wanting to find and connect to your authentic self. You may be starting to think about how you express yourself or how you practice boundaries and simple self-care. This requires self-evaluation and self-reflection.
Are there changes you want to make in these areas? What do you need to make these changes you want to make in your life? How will you implement those changes in a way you’ll actually do it? Will you recognize your underlying needs and emotions that sometimes get in the way?
One of the benefits of vocalizing is that it can help you to connect to your honest answers to these questions. This is because using your voice therapeutically provides a way for you to express the whole spectrum of your inner feelings in a way that is personal, powerful, and relevant to you. It can help you identify what you will and will not tolerate from others and allow you to enforce those appropriate boundaries. Vocalizing can also help you to recognize that you are worthy and deserving of care.
In my last blog, I talked about finding your authentic self by embracing the shadow self. Now I want to talk more about how to do that. One powerful way to use music therapy to find your authentic self is through vocalizing –use your voice to find your authentic self.
Benefits of Vocalizing as a Way to Find Your Authentic Self
As I’ve mentioned in other blog posts, music is a full-body experience that can support our mind-body connection. Few things can do this better than the voice. It is both a tool and an instrument that we use to express every day, but that we don’t always think about the deeper implications of our voices.
The voice is a tool you can use to connect to thoughts about who you are. It can help express what you’re feeling and what you want to experience. Your voice takes the thoughts and beliefs from your mind and puts them out into the world.
Your voice allows you to express emotions. You may groan when you’re frustrated or chuckle when you’re amused. Sometimes you make a sound that represents how you’re feeling in a way you didn’t even know existed. Using your voice to find your authentic self through music therapy is powerful.
Connecting to your voice can also allow you to connect with your body. Benefits of vocalizing include deep breathing and developing body awareness. Another one of the physical benefits of vocalizing includes the neurobiological benefits that can help reduce anxiety by calming down your body.
Vagus Nerve Stimulation: One of The Benefits of Vocalizing
Vocalizing stimulates our vagus nerve, which is a cranial nerve that starts in the brain stem and is a complex neural pathway that connects to many organs in the body.  One of the things the vagus nerve does is stimulate the tympanic membrane that is connected to sound. “Stimulating the vagus nerve in the right way can bring your body into relaxation states which helps the body heal naturally.” 
Stephen Porges, the father of Polyvagal Theory, believes that “…by calming the physiological and emotional state, the door is opened for improved communication and more successful therapy.” 
All of this is important because it means that making sounds with your voice calms the body down. When you vocalize, your body physically puts you in a place where you can calm down and start to think about what you’re feeling and thinking. Stimulating the vagus nerve is another one of the benefits of vocalizing to find your authentic self.
How Using Your Voice Connects You to Your Authentic Self
The voice can be a powerful reflection of the aspects of ourselves we don’t like. It helps us find the balance between the light and the dark. When you feel ashamed or scared, your voice will reflect that. When you feel confident or excited, your voice will sound clearer.
I see in my own approach to warming up and singing that I need to shake off the cobwebs of my vocal folds and recognize where I’m feeling stuck. These “cobwebs” and how I use my voice to clear them give me information about what I’m experiencing at that moment.
Vocalizing isn’t abstract. The voice is real, as is the physiological aspect of using your voice. You can make it more tangible by adding gestures and movement to your vocalizations. Throw the sound out of your body with a throwing gesture. Notice your body posture and stretch if you find yourself hunching over. Make yourself bigger. Find your authentic self through vocalizing and connecting with your body.
Ways of Experiencing the Benefits of Vocalizing In Therapy
As you can see, there are benefits to vocalizing that can be helpful in therapy. As such, there are a variety of ways in which the voice can be incorporated into the music therapy session. Below I give some examples of things that we may do in session or that I may encourage you to do outside of the session so that you can experience the benefits of vocalizing at home. There isn’t necessarily one set way to do music therapy and I approach using the voice differently with each of my clients during a counseling session.
When I use vocalizations in music therapy sessions with my clients, we always start with a warm-up. Warm-ups are important because it helps get the breath and voice moving. They’re also a great way to check in with yourself to see how you’re feeling physically. The warm-up is a chance to use your voice to connect to your authentic self.
During the warm-up, I lead my clients through a brief visualization grounding exercise. I ask them to connect to their breath. They plant their feet firmly on the ground. I promote deep breathing by suggesting that they breathe with the soles of their feet.
In this video, I provide an overview of the different activities I may use in a vocal warm-up.
We use breathwork in our warm-up, but we also use breathwork throughout the music therapy session to get grounded and centered. Intentional breathing helps you get in touch with your body because music is a full-body experience. Getting in touch with your body is another way to find your authentic self, even though it may feel like it has nothing to do with vocalizing.
After the warm-up, we move on to making other sounds. Toning, for instance, is a great meditative practice. Toning is when you use sounds that include cries, grunts, and groans to open up your vocal cords.  Focused toning uses a vowel sound. It allows you to notice thoughts, feelings, and sensations that arise. You can then reflect on what is coming up to see if it leads to insights about what might be going on in your life.
In this video, I give an overview of how I use toning in my work and provide some suggestions for you to explore toning on your own.
Sighing and Humming
Another type of vocalizing is sighing and humming. Use your voice to create the sound with your breath. Let it fill you up and resonate throughout your body. Feel the vibrations of the voice and see what comes up for you. When you make a sound with your vocal cords, you’re using your full body to express yourself. Sighing and humming are great tools I use in music therapy sessions to connect with your authentic self.
I often use vocalizations as an affirmation tool. Once you’ve identified what you’re feeling, I’ll ask you to identify a simple phrase or a word. We’ll focus our vocalizations on that word or phrase. It can be a monotone sound or a simple melody. We might focus on the rhythm of the sound. The sound should be simple.
Putting It All Together
These different exercises are ways of using your voice to find your authentic self. Sometimes in a music therapy session, I’ll use all of these. Other times we might focus on one or two. It all depends on what you and your voice need that day. The most important thing is that I meet you where you and your voice are to help you find your most authentic self through vocalizations.
Work With Me to Find Your Authentic Self Through Voicework
In my music therapy practice, I work with you to uncover your true self through the use of your voice. If you’re ready to vocalize your way to finding your authentic self and use music therapy to sharpen your identity, be sure to contact me. I offer a free 15-minute phone consultation during which we can talk more about what your needs are. You can schedule here.
Resourceshttps://static1.squarespace.com/static/5c1d025fb27e390a78569537/t/5cb678790d92979ac6744beb/1555462266762/Vagal+tone+and+the+physiological+regulation+of+emotion.pdf https://braintap.com/healing-with-sound/#:~:text=The%20vagus%20nerve%20also%20has,helps%20the%20body%20heal%20naturally https://integratedlistening.com/porges/ https://academic.oup.com/jmt/article-abstract/55/2/221/5003199