Music Therapy and Relaxation

March Newsletter

Music and Its Many Uses  

People utilize music for a huge array of tasks. You can turn on the olympics and see any number of athletes with big headphones on trying to pump themselves up. You can also imagine how great it can feel when the radio meets your mood and you belt out a favorite tune on your drive. A college student studying will often play some music in the background to help them stay focused and many people do the same thing, but for relaxation instead of concentration. Relaxation, specifically, is what I want to focus on with today’s newsletter. When talking about how a music therapist helps clients with relaxation, a likely term to see is “iso-principle” But what is the iso-principle?


As a music therapist, we are trained to meet our clients where they are at and help take them where they want to be. What this really means, especially when we are talking about relaxation, is playing music that may be more upbeat or seemingly “loud” and gradually changing the style of playing to soothing, quiet, simple music to help the client move to this stage of relaxation and calm as well. This concept is called the Iso-Principle. Often times when I am working at the hospital, even sometimes in the schools, I will get called in and see a patient who is upset and is having a hard time calming. When I first walk into the room and get my guitar out I watch for their body language, are they moving quickly, frantically, sporadically? Are they making large movements? I then check their volume…are they screaming at the top of their lungs? Are they crying intensely? Once I take note of these things, I match the patient where they are at. If that means they are screaming and moving quickly… I will also play loudly and as quick as their movements are.

You might be thinking, “what good is that going to do? Aren’t you trying to soothe them?” The answer is yes, I am trying to soothe them. But think of it like this… Imagine you are trying to get ready for work and you have a big business meeting at 8am. You slept through your alarm and woke up 20 minutes late. In this scenario, let’s imagine that this also means that the kids are 20 minutes late. You rush through trying to get ready and get the kids ready because now you only have a half hour before you have to leave. You still need to shower, eat breakfast, feed the kids, make lunches, oh and you forgot to get all of the soccer gear ready for your childs’ after school practice. Now you have  5 minutes to leave and your partner says, “I still need to shower!” You are beyond frustrated and just want to scream. You are definitely going to be late to the meeting. Notice how you might be feeling in a moment like this. Now imagine someone coming up to you with a guitar playing “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” as beautifully and quietly as possible…Yeah that’s not going to help at all. In fact it might even make you more angry!

Validating how others are feeling is a vital part of the process to help others calm and return to baseline when they are potentially screaming and hitting people out of frustration.

As a music therapist, we are trained to meet our clients where they are at, validating their emotions that they are experiencing in that moment, and gradually move into more soothing and relaxing music. Sometimes we gauge this off of looking at the heart rate monitors and synchronizing our tempo with their internal tempo, their heart beat. Sometimes we just watch their physical movements and volume. More often than not, this use of the iso-principle will help individuals move into a more calm and relaxed state of being. It can be a very useful and powerful tool for so many individuals who need it!

Contact Us!Check out these links for more information: Video –

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