Mental Health Session Ideas #4

Last week, I posted some additional therapeutic revolution ideas for the mental health settings. Read below for some more of my original and adapted ideas.



Mood Playlists

Goals: Elevate mood; increase positive coping skills; increase emotional awareness; increase mood regulation

Therapeutic Revolution: I borrowed this idea from a colleague, and adapted her idea to fit my own style. You can read her original idea here, as the rest of this info is my own adaptation (with her permission). What I love about this idea is that it presents a therapeutic revolution that encourages patients to create their own adaptation as a tool for recovery. During this session, I present a playlist of songs (all recorded) that evolve from a particular emotion and transition into a desired emotion. During this therapeutic revolution, I ask the group to share any feelings, emotions, or moods the song is trying to evoke or evokes from them personally. While we listen to each song on the playlist, I write all ideas on the board. At the end of the playlist, I have the group go back and select one word from the list for each song, simply for clarity. I then ask the group to determine if there are any patterns or connections between the chosen emotions. What I aim for the group to see is the evolution of feelings from one mood state to another, hopefully with a gradual change.Mood Playlists I guide the group from a discussion around the purpose of changing our mood and how we might use this as our own tool within recovery. I offer a handout where patients can create their own playlists, with mood change suggestions such as: sad->happy; lonely->peaceful; tired->energized, etc.

Considerations: This exercise works well for all functioning levels. I choose songs that are immediately recognizable and tend to exaggerate a certain emotion, for teaching purposes. This conversation can revolve around concepts such as iso-principle, emotional awareness, mood regulation, and positive coping skills. This conversation can also lead to discussions around music preference and how certain songs/styles can make us all feel differently (which is always okay).

Adaptations: This is my own adaptation on someone else’s idea! I’d be curious to know how you would adapt for yourself 🙂

Takeaway: This exercise can allow patients to consider their own music choices and how their mood is affected by those music choices. The main takeaway would be for patients to consider how they might be able to alter their choices in music listening for the purposes of mood regulation.



Self-Care: Intro to Music Relaxation

Goals: To increase relaxation, decrease anxiety/agitation, educate on positive coping skills

Therapeutic Revolution: Rather than focus on one type of therapeutic revolution for relaxation purposes, I guide a group through a few short music relaxation exercises. I first start the group with a discussion on self-care and what that means to them. This conversation can vary depending on the group, but I guide them towards considering a “new level” of self-care during this group. I then ask them to rate their relaxation state on a scale from 1-10 prior to starting any exercises. I then instruct the group to prepare themselves for relaxation (finding comfortable position, closing eyes, focusing on a spot on the floor, etc.) The exercises then follow this format, using live music (I tend to use keyboard for this):

  1. Singing and/or music listening – with a focus on the imagery of the lyrics; attempting to picture what is being described within the song
  2. Music listening – (same as above)
  3. Music and breathing exercises – guiding the group through music assisted breathing exercises
  4. Music assisted relaxation and guided imagery – closing the exercises with a short guided imagery script set to purposeful music

Considerations: I use keyboard for these exercises, as I find that easier to support the exercises musically compared to guitar (which is personal to me). I also choose very descriptive songs for the first 2 exercises, such as Country Roads, Somewhere Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World, etc.

Adaptations: I often adapt the exercises based on mood and overall feel of the environment, remaining flexible to the unit (e.g. interruptions made by staff, patients entering/exiting for various reasons, etc.). This is where improvisational flexibility is key and remaining adaptable to the varying circumstances that arise within the hospital setting.

Takeaway: What I love about this structure is that it presents an “intro” to music relaxation and various relaxation exercises. I challenge the group at the end to consider how these exercises relate to the idea of self-care and how they might incorporate one of these exercises into their own routines.


These are what have been successful for me recently. Please comment below with any questions or feedback. I’d love to hear if anyone tries out an idea and how they work out for you!

4 responses to “Mental Health Session Ideas #4”

  1. Hey Erin!

    I wanted to thank you for your blog on Music therapy and ideas for interventions. I am a social worker who works with the chronically mentally ill. We do a Women’s Group once a month and decided this month to try music therapy. We were very much surprised by the participation of our consumers. Many of our people have Schizoaffective Disorder and are sometimes non-verbal, sleeping, or disengaged. During this group, many were able to relate what emotions each song brought up for them. In the end they stated that they would come again to a similar group. I found your blog and intervations easy to follow and easy to adapt to others.

    Thank You!



  2. Hi Erin!
    I’m a music therapist in Chicago, and I’m wondering what type of music assisted breathing exercises you like to use? Do you do a few different ones? Do you typically use scales?

    Also, wondering where you get your guided imagery scripts–can always use more resources!



    • Hi Stephanie, I typically use scales, or variations of scale movement for breathing exercises. I find that is the clearest and most straightforward, especially for beginners.

      As far as scripts, I have found a few throughout the years online at various websites that I’ve fallen in love with and adapted. I’ve also found that the more I practice them, the more comfortable I am with making up my own, based off of what I’ve practiced. Especially if you are only doing short guided imagery moments, it’s easy to come up with 5 minutes or so on your own. Hope that helps!


      • Hello Erin,

        When you say you use scales, are you talking about having the patients sing scales for breathing? Thank you for any further information.


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