An article written by Dr Anastasia Hronis, B Psych (Hons), M Clin Psych, AMusA, LMusA, Ph.D
Clinical Psychologist and Founder of the Australian Institute for Human Wellness
Music is such a powerful tool. By simply listening to a song, we can feel an incredible rush of emotions. Music has the ability to evoke, shift, alter or strengthen particular feelings within us. It can help us feel connected to a loved one, or a memory from the past. What’s more, music can have many incredible effects on the brain. It has been found to improve memory retention, maximise learning capabilities, improve focus and even reduce experiences of physical pain.
For people experiencing mental health concerns such as trauma and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), music is a tool which can effectively be utilised to address and reduce some of the common symptoms of PTSD including intrusive memories which may lead to emotion dysregulation, negative moods, high arousal and increased reactivity.
Neuroscience tells us that pleasurable music can lead to the release of neurotransmitters associated with reward, such as dopamine, boosting positive feelings and reducing feelings of sadness and fear. In addition to the positive effects listening to music can have, music can also be used as a mindfulness intervention for those experiencing mental health concerns and trauma.
Mindfulness involves paying attention to the present moment, without judgement. It is the quality of being present and fully engaged with whatever we are doing. Music can help an individual ground themselves to the present moment when faced with intrusive memories, distressing reminders, or strong emotions. It involves the conscious act of “noticing” when listening to music. For example, noticing the pace or speed of the music. Noticing the different instruments you can hear playing. Noticing the changes in volume and dynamics of the music. If or when any thoughts or memories arise, noticing these, and allowing them to pass through our awareness and gently refocusing our attention to the sounds of the music, continuously using the music as an anchor into the present moment. In this way, regular mindfulness to music practice under the guidance of a trained clinician can be a useful intervention for people with trauma and PTSD.
About Dr Anastasia Hronis
Dr Anastasia Hronis is a clinical psychologist and founder of the Australian Institute for Human Wellness, an organisation dedicated to meeting the growing need for innovation in supporting mental health and wellbeing. Services include individual and group therapy, specialised wellbeing support for performing artists, seminars for workplaces, school based interventions and psychology informed consultancy services.
Anastasia is also an Honorary Associate at the University of Technology Sydney where she lectures and provides research supervision to the Master of Clinical Psychology students.
As a concert pianist, she has performed around Australia and the world, and has won numerous national and international awards. She has been awarded her Associate Diploma in Music (AMusA) and Licentiate Diploma in Music (LMusA) in piano. She has performed multiple times as a soloist at the Sydney Opera House, with her most notable solo performance being at Carnegie Hall, New York.
Dr Anatasia Hronis will be presenting at the National Conversation on PTSD 2021. Buy your tickets here.
About the session:
In this session, Dr Anastasia Hronis will speak about the powerful role that music can play in reducing symptoms and improve functioning among individuals with trauma exposure and PTSD. The use of music as a tool for recovery will be discussed in the context of compassion focused therapy, and the ability to use music to build compassion for ourselves and others.
1. The positive effects music can have on the brain
2. How to use music as a tool to regulate emotions and reduce trauma symptoms
3. How music can help us build self compassion and counteract negative beliefs about one’s self which can develop as a result of trauma.