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Lyric convergence, predominantly songwriting, is broadly defined as the utilization of thoughts, experiences, and any variety of linguistic inputs from the patient and narrowing these verbalizations to some specific, unified, and concrete product.

Songwriting is used to assess mental health, enhance quality of life, adjust to and understand illness, assist in coping, facilitate self-expression and identity formation, review life, strengthen memories, progress through the grief process, enable inerpersonal communication, represent social, family, and individual protective factors, and address most other patient needs or objectives (O'Callaghan & Grocke, 2009).

Silverman (2003) used contingent songwriting in a psychiatric hospital to transfer positive behaviors learned within music therapy to the unit and meetings with treatment teams.


Blues Songwriting: Blues songwriting builds on a familiar harmonic progression (I-I-I-I-IV-IV-I-I-V-IV-I-I) and makes lyric creations easy as well. Call and response and repetition can make a simple idea sound complete.

Fill-in-the-Blank/MadLib Songwriting: Using a popular song, remove words to be filled in. For higher functioning indidivuals, you may select songs that cue more in-depth, self-expressive responses. Check out this sample "Roar!" Prompted Fill-In-The-Blank, or this Prompted Responses to We Will Rock You PDF for group members to individually complete and then each take turns speaking/freestying/singing while the group keeps the beat. 

Goodbye Songs: The music therapist may choose to collaborate with all medical staff involved with an individual soon to leave a facility to recollect, "medical milestones, personality traits, and humorous events" as the discharge song is sung to a familiar melody by everyone (Robb, 1996).

Grief Songwriting Protocol: Seven-session group songwriting protocol focusing on five identified grief process areas of understanding, feeling, remembering, integrating, and growing (Dalton & Krout, 2006).

Lyric Replacement/Piggyback Songwriting: Use an existing melody, chord progression, and/or topic to rewrite a new version.

Music as an Information Agent: may be written in advance of clinical application in order to teach non-musical objectives for transfer, including academic, social, or procedural information.

Poetry Therapy Songwriting: Write group or individual poems, haiku, or proverbs and then set to complementing music. Perhaps poems may be written as homework, alongside journaling. See the National Association for Poetry Therapy's home page, or read their Integrative Medicine Packet.

Rapping: The use of rapping and the multiple applications that rapping can be used in.

Song Quotes Songwriting: A great way for individuals to focus on their own project and then express themselves confidently within a group. It is also a great way for an MT-BC to assess an individual's functioning level, cognitive orientation, mood, interests, musical preferences, and abilty to interact with others.

Songwriting "from Scratch": There are a great variety of approaches and books about songwriting. If you feel confident with patient preferred guitar styles, you can help write a wholly original song.

Songwriting to Establish a Therapeutic Relationship: Robb (1996) used songwriting, perhaps during initial assessments, in the form of an interview to provide information and facilitae expression of interests and feelings to the melodies and structures of songs such as, "Luka," by Suzanne Vega.

Word Substitution Songwriting: Sing well-known, repetitive songs then substitute individualized words or phrases, i.e., "This little _______ of mine, I'm gonna let it shine," or "I'm gonna _________________, down by the riverside!"



Dalton, Thomas A. & Krout, Robert, E. (2006). The Grief Song-Writing Process with Bereaved Adolescents: An Integrated Grief Model and Music Therapy Protocol. Music Therapy Perspectives, 24, 94-107.

O'Callaghan, Clare, & Grocke, Denise. (November, 2009). Lyric analysis research in music therapy: Rationales, methods and representations. Arts in Psychotherapy, 36(5), 320-328. 

Robb S. L. (1996). Techniques in Song Writing: Restoring Emotional and Physical Well Being in Adolescents who have been Traumatically Injured. Music Therapy Perspectives, 14, 30-37.

Silverman, M. J. (2003). Contingency songwriting to reduce combativeness and non-cooperation in a client with schizophrenia.The Arts in Psychotherapy, 30, 25-33.

Further ReadingEdit

This Songwriting Game uses five colors from a playground ball pit to compose pentatonic melodies.

Check out Songwork to learn about several elements of songwriting through videos. Put in a little extra effort and pay a little fee, and you can earn a few CMTE credits!


James E. Riley, MT-BC

Kayla Breland, MTI

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