Please complete this brief survey. is a resource for Board-Certified Music Therapists (MT-BC) who are uniquely trained to provide music therapy services of any kind. This website also aims to educate students, patients, families, employers, contemplative non-employers, and the general public. Please read the Music Therapy Activities Wiki homepage for more information.

Lyric Analysis and Lyric Divergence is defined as the expansion from existing songs or lyrics to any broader use, individualized topics, or generalized discussion. Lyric analysis uses live or recorded music to listen to song lyrics and prepare for discussion and counseling. Topics may focus on personal situations with questions about stressors, loneliness, isolation, coping skills, supports, and healthy alternatives to drug/alcohol use or maladaptive behaviors (Silverman, 2010). 



Anger Mangement: This section contains specific activities to work on different concepts of dealing with anger issues. 

Anti-Bullying Activities: Anti-bullying activities are meant to help those being bullied respond in an appropriate manner and facilitate increased self-esteem.

Blackout Poetry: The specific technique of blackout poetry is elaborated upon.

Specific CounselingThis section will contain specific songs and specific questions that could accompany each selection to help guide a session with counseling.

Circling Words and Phrases: Patients will identify personally meaningful words and/or phrases while listening to the song. Individuals may then share which words and/or phrases they selected and explain their significance (Baughman). 

Composer's Attitudes: After listening and following along with a song's lyrics, have the group list several topics or emotions the composer may have been thinking about while writing the song.

Cut & Paste SongwritingKey lines from various songs will be compiled into a list to be used to form individual poetry collages.

Life Review and Reminiscence: With either patient preferred music or songs that address topics to focus on, lyric analysis may be used to facilitate life review and reminiscence.

Lyric Analysis with Activity: Use lyric analysis to lead into a related activity, or represent the lyrics in an alternative way.

Lyric Analysis with Counseling Techniques: Lyric Analysis should always use counseling techniques, but consider using the lyrics to guide the discussion.

Lyric Extension Questions: Questions are devised from specific lines of a song's lyrics and which directly relate to the individual's own life, evoking deeper self-examination and reflection (Baughman).

See Mondegreens for Clear Communication: to print and share a fun handout with groups, then "talk about articulation, pronunciation, cadence, breathing exercises, singing technique, self-expression, sincerity, socialization, reciprocity, active listening, and caring for others" (Riley, 2012).

Music-Based Discussion: Ask questions about tempo, instrumentation, the mood, what you like, what you don't like, what it makes you think about, how it makes you feel, etc. to encourage active listening. 

Song Comparison: After listening through two songs, facilitate a discussion comparing the similarities and differences in musical style, timbre, lyric content, levels of emotion, kinds of emotions, ways of expressing emotion, etc. (Baughman).

Topical Discussion: Non-personal issues addressed in songs, "whether physical (i.e. nuclear war) or emotional (i.e. divorce)," may help a group interact appropriately before emotional topics and personal issues are able to be introduced.


  • Patients will suggest songs, which offers you a wonderful opportunity to build your relationship, bring the most patient preferred materials, and often, discover a new song ripe for lyric analysis.
  • Ask quiet individuals questions, or redirect monopolizing individuals to respect the contributions of others. Also remember that some people prefer to observe and will still absorb a lot through listening.


Green Book of Songs is a massive thematic guide to popular songs. Search by topic rather than keywords and refine your search by genre or "hits only." Save 40% and pay only $5.95 for an annual subscription with the coupon code: musictherapy (Erfurt, 2011).

Songfacts enables you to search for songs by category.

SongMeanings is a great website to search for song lyrics and read user submitted comments such as lyric interpretations, song or artist contextual information, or explanations of references, terminology, etc.

Song about mental illness from a Depression Wiki. Quality music related to the AA 12 step message collected through annonymous song submissions.


Baughman, Pam. Lyric Analysis Techniques. Retrieved January 24, 2013 from

Erfurt, Michelle. (May 2, 2011). Special Offer: the Green Book of Songs By Subject. [Web log comment]. Retrieved from

Riley, James E. (September 20, 2012). Mondegreens for Clear Communication. [Web log comment]. Retrieved from

Silverman, Michael J. (July, 2010). The effect of lyric analysis intervention on withdrawal symptoms and locus of control in patients on a detoxification unit: A randomized effectiveness study. The Arts in Psychotherapy, 37(3), 197-201.

Silverman, M. J. (2011). Effects of Music Therapy on Change Readiness and Craving in Patients on a Detoxification Unit. Journal of Music Therapy, 48(4), 509-531.

Further ReadingEdit

Smith, Rachel. (2011). Category archive for: lyric analysis. [Blog archive]. Retrieved from


James E. Riley, MT-BC

Daniel T. Evans, BME

Elisa Aven, MT-BC

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