How Music Therapy Helps Children & Teens Cope with Mental Health Challenges
At Camber (previously KVC Hospitals), we provide treatment to the youth we serve through a diverse range of experiential therapies and therapeutic techniques, including talk, music, play, horticulture, virtual reality, equine and more. We have found that there are many different therapeutic techniques that can help children cope and open up about their experiences, and giving them new and different ways to do so is important.
No two people are the same, so we implement therapy and treatment plans that are tailored to the unique needs and interests of each individual we work with. The youth we serve are in very influential and vulnerable developmental stages in their lives, making it even more important to find techniques that work best for each of them.
If you know a child struggling with their mental health, we’re here to help. Call us at (913) 890-7468 or fill out this form.
Music therapy is an artistic and effective way we connect with the youth in our care. Children and teens who have experienced trauma or toxic stress often struggle to connect through traditional talk therapy. Music offers them a different way to express themselves, talk about difficult experiences, and work through emotions. Music can also provide soothing sounds or beats that help youth regulate their emotions and learn more about their triggers.
At Camber, youth are able to use pianos, guitars, synthesizers, maracas, tambourines, rain sticks, drums, and other musical instruments to express themselves and work with the music therapist to process through difficult emotions. They can even utilize software to record the music they create with our music therapists and are then able to take it with them anywhere they go after they discharge. Resources like this that they can use once they have left our facilities are important tools for continued healing and help them with emotion regulation in their daily lives.
Camber’s Music Therapists
Camber has two amazing Music Therapists who work with the youth at our inpatient hospital and residential treatment center in Kansas City.
Xavier has been a music therapist for four years and has primarily worked with children, teens, and adults receiving mental health treatment. His musical background is based in percussion and saxophone performance. In music therapy, Xavier likes to use each person’s musical preference to help them meet treatment goals through music composition, improvisation, therapeutic singing and playing instruments.
Hillary is a musician and music therapist originally from Saskatchewan, Canada. She moved to Kansas City in 2011 to complete a Masters in Music Performance at UMKC. She then went on to receive a Masters in Music Therapy from the University of Missouri – Kansas City and has clinical experience from the Center for Behavioral Medicine and Ozanam and Gillis Home. In addition to working with the youth at Camber, she also teaches music at Harmony Project KS, is in a band called Fourscore, and teaches yoga. On weekends, she provides free music therapy to youth at the Jackson County Family Court Juvenile Detention Center. Her favorite artists to rock out to include Elton John, Janelle Monáe, Bruno Mars, P!nk and TOOL!
Read the stories below from Xavier and Hillary to see how they use music therapy to connect with clients to help them feel safe and open up about their depression, trauma and other mental health challenges.
Xavier: I was working with an adolescent boy receiving treatment at one of our hospitals. He always verbalized his appreciation of music therapy and said that it helped him cope with the depression he was experiencing and abuse he had experiences that left lasting emotional pain for him. This boy often asked me to play older songs for him to sing along to, like “Take Me Home, Country Roads” by John Denver. He enjoyed singing along and would share memories he was reminded of through these songs. Music therapy was an outlet for him that helped him feel comfortable opening about his abuse and depression. It was very motivating for me to influence his coping and growth through music, which I am so passionate about.
Hillary: One of the music therapy groups I lead is at Camber Kansas City, working with the clients in our adolescent girl’s unit twice a week. I always like to check in with the clients prior to a session to find out the types of music they enjoy and get a feel for the current atmosphere on the unit.
One time, one of the girls mentioned a group called BTS, and when I looked them up, I found out they were a K-Pop (Korean pop) group. This particular client had challenges responding to the self-love activities performed on the unit. She participated, but when asked her thoughts she would say, “I just really don’t care.” I decided to spend more time looking into this favorite group of hers to see if I could find a therapeutic application with their music that would help her engage, develop rapport and begin a healing discussion.
It turns out that BTS discusses numerous difficult topics in their music, such as mental health, the pressure to succeed and female empowerment! After listening to their music and learning more, I discovered they would be a positive influence for the girls and could help encourage therapeutic conversations on topics that can be difficult to talk about. When I told the client that we would be playing BTS, her eyes lit up. Through the course of the first session with BTS, the client opened up about her struggle with depression. Even though the songs were in a different language, we were able to do some great processing by talking through the lyrics and how each client related to them.
Xavier: There was a teenage boy being treated at one of our hospitals who I would engage in one-on-one music therapy sessions. During our time together, we focused on therapeutic singing and I taught him how to play the piano. This boy enjoyed learning new artistic skills that also helped him manage his emotional pain. He often verbalized that music helped him stay occupied because he kept himself focused on bettering the new skills he was learning. It gave him a positive and productive outlet. Once he was able to leave our hospital, he asked to continue music therapy after he transferred from Camber to his new providers. This made me feel amazing. To know that I not only helped this young man with his behavioral challenges but also helped him find a new hobby he loved was inspiring to me.
About Camber (Previously KVC Hospitals)
Camber helps children and teens who are struggling with depression, anxiety, the impacts of trauma, suicidal thoughts, and other mental health challenges. Each year, we help thousands of youth through our network of inpatient hospitals and psychiatric residential facilities by providing treatment, care, and skill-building so they can understand their diagnoses, connect to their support network and thrive.
If you’re looking for a rewarding career where you can help children heal from behavioral health challenges, visit our Careers page.