Your earliest relationships and your life experiences influence how you relate to others. Depending on your unique experiences, how you relate to others may feel comfortable and easy. Whereas for others, it may feel uncomfortable and hard. Music can help you explore how you relate to yourself and others in ways that can feel safe and inviting.
This is especially true if you work with a music therapist. Working with a music therapist gives you the opportunity to explore different ways of relating. In this blog post, I’ll share with you some ways that music can help you explore the way you relate to others. I’ll do this first by looking at music and the attachment relationship. Following that, I’ll connect it to music therapy.
The Importance of Attachment
But first, what is the attachment relationship? The attachment relationship is the relationship that you develop early in life with your caregiver. This relationship contributes to your attachment style. The attachment style that you develop in early childhood determines how you relate to others as adults.
That means that how you experience your relationships with your partner, friend, or family members is influenced by your attachment style. In the context of therapy, it even affects your relationship with your therapist. These attachment styles also affect your relationship with yourself.
There are four attachment styles: secure, insecure/disorganized, avoidant, and ambivalent/anxious-ambivalent.
Music and the Attachment Relationship
There are specific ways that music can mirror the attachment relationship. Some of these ways relate to how music is often used in early childhood. For example, music is soothing in the form of lullabies. Such music can help young children feel safe and secure enough to sleep. As well, it can help ease their pain.
Yet music can also serve as a form of playful expression and communication. Young children can feel seen and heard when making music together with responsive adults. There can be a back-and-forth exchange that is enjoyable.
Your Attachment Style Influences How You Relate to Others
As I mentioned, your attachment style influences how you relate to others. However, this isn’t a one-sided thing. The attachment style of the other person also comes into play. The dynamic of a relationship is determined by the attachment styles of the two people in that relationship.
As I also mentioned, though, how you experience your relationship with yourself and others are also influenced by your lived experiences. While your early childhood experiences shape you and the way you relate to others, your lived experiences play an important role in how you experience relationships.
Types of Life Experiences That Influence How You Relate to Others
Were you bullied as a kid? Have you experienced violence or sexual assault? Traumatic experiences also influence the way we relate to others. If you experienced trauma as a child, it may have negatively affected your attachment style, unless you were already securely attached to your caregivers. 
There are no definitive findings on whether or not trauma experienced as an adult has an effect on attachment style, but there is no doubt that trauma influences the way you relate to others.  A combination of your lived experiences and your attachment style developed in early childhood determine how you interact with and relate to other people.
Music Therapy Helps You Understand How You Relate to Others
Maybe it’s not surprising then that music can be helpful within the context of therapy. When music is used in therapy, it can be a powerful means for self-discovery that can help you better understand your relationship with yourself and others. Through this process of self-discovery, you can explore new ways of engaging with yourself and others.
This is due to a variety of reasons. One reason is that music can mirror the attachment relationship. Music can be soothing and comforting. When you feel scared or anxious, it can help you to come back to yourself in the present moment. Music can help you to tap into the mind-body connection.
But music can be activating as well. It can bring up memories and feelings. These can be pleasurable or painful but can be processed in the session.
Music can also serve as a means for expressing yourself and relating to others in ways that can feel safe and are engaging, yet fun. Using music within a therapeutic relationship with a music therapist helps you to feel safe exploring how you relate to others.
Music Therapy Sessions to Explore How You Relate to Others
With this, music helps you improve your relationship with others. And a music therapy session is a great place to explore the way you relate to others.
Exploring Your Attachment Relationships with Music
For one thing, music therapy can serve as an exploration of attachment relationships. What do you think “secure attachment” sounds like? Does your attachment style have a particular sound? What does it sound like in relation to another person’s attachment style? Using music as an illustration and metaphor for attachment relationships and styles helps us to better understand ourselves and others. Because music helps us explore how we relate to others, there’s no better place to do that than in a music therapy session.
During music therapy sessions you can take a step back and look objectively at how you’re relating to your therapist. In a session with me, we might process that together, or you could work it out through the music. Having music as a medium for the therapeutic process is a great way to explore your attachment style and how you relate to others. The important part is the therapeutic relationship between you and your music therapist.
Music-Making as a Reflection of Attachment Style
When playing music with me, you might begin to realize how you relate to others. With that, you may also learn about your attachment style through making music in session. Maybe you notice that you don’t give people enough space. Perhaps you feel scared when we play music together. This is all good data to collect and then process with me during our sessions.
Listening to Music Can Bring Up Memories to Process
When listening to music or a particular song, you might recall a memory inspired either directly or indirectly by the music. Such memories or associations could be related to your experiences with your caregivers during childhood or adolescence. Or they could be related to your early friendships and other pivotal moments from when you were younger. Particular lyrics may stand out to you and take on new meaning as you reflect upon your relationships. Recalling and processing these kinds of experiences in session can help you examine areas for healing and growth in your relationship with others and to yourself.
The Therapeutic Relationship in Music Therapy
Although the therapeutic relationship is different than any other relationship in your life, it still acts as a mirror to your reality. How you engage with your therapist says a lot about how you relate to other people. However, in this relationship, it is safe to share what’s on your mind and what you’re feeling.
Making music within a therapeutic relationship helps you feel supported in processing the difficult experiences you’ve had. It reconnects you to pleasurable and meaningful experiences. It also helps develop a better ability to communicate with another person. In our sessions, you might discover what you like, what you don’t like, what you need, what worked, and what isn’t working for you.
What You Can Expect From Music Therapy With Me
Now that you know how music therapy could help you to explore how you relate to others, you may be wondering what it might look like to work with me at SoundWell Music Therapy. Below I go into a little more detail about what working with me is like.
In music therapy sessions, I usually start with a check-in of some sort. This can be asking what you want to listen to. Is there a song you feel connected to today? What do you need to hear? There’s no right or wrong answer. It’s whatever you need at that moment. As a way to check-in, it’s a good way to gauge where you are in the moment and where the session might take us.
Helping people feel empowered in their lives is important to me. Because of this, my sessions promote autonomy. This is especially important for people who have had their autonomy taken away from them. The ways in which this could be taken away are varied. However, it often goes back to life experiences. If you’ve experienced any type of trauma that has removed your autonomy, you need a safe space to reconnect with yourself. You can’t relate well with others unless you’re connected to your needs.
To help you develop this, I provide you with opportunities to express what you want or need. Choosing a song is a first step, but that can also translate to choosing an instrument, vocalizing, improvising, or choosing guided meditation. I follow your lead.
Sometimes you may not even want to engage with music in any way. And that’s ok. What’s most important is that you feel seen and heard by me as your therapist. Music isn’t always needed.
Exploring How We Work Together
Although I give you autonomy, music therapy is a negotiation. I do this by providing you with choices. Do you want to play by yourself, or can I play with you? Shall we vocalize together? Do you want to make a playlist with me or do it as homework?
It’s all about noting what choices you have and also what choices I have to help you. Ideas that I suggest in a session are meant to help you understand yourself better. With that, I’m also here to help you better understand how you relate to others. Engaging with music together supports that, but I also understand that that can sometimes feel like too much.
Music therapy sessions with me are meant to provide you with opportunities to take ownership of what you want or need. My job is to guide you where you need to go. By giving you opportunities to tell me what’s working for you, it can be easier for you to tell others what you need.
Processing Your Experiences
When it comes to processing a music therapy experience, everyone is different. Sometimes we can leave the experience as is without talking about it and let the music speak for itself. Other times, we may process the experience.
For example, if you’re more withdrawn or if there’s a change in affect while we play, we can talk about what came up for you. I might ask you what it was like playing together or listening to a song you chose with me. Maybe a memory has come up for you in need of processing. Remember, the music therapy session is safe place to explore your thoughts and feelings in regard to how you relate to others.
Next Steps for Exploring How You Relate to Others
If you’re ready to take a step toward exploring the way you relate to others through music, 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.