Music as Therapy

We recorded this minisode during the COVID-19 quarantine and share how we’re taking careful steps toward a new normal. We discuss the mental and physical health benefits of music and ways to use music as therapy.

Quarantine Check-Ins

Gill’s week was tough, as she was feeling overwhelmed by a lot of work and conflicting emotions. She wrote about in this Instagram post and received supportive comments and messages from folks who are going through similar struggles, which helped a lot. 

Melia is doing better than she has been, with her family starting to make careful moves out of total quarantine. After doing research and talking with the kids’ pediatrician, she and Darren restarted Avery in preschool. After some initial anxiety on the grown-ups’ part, everyone is happier. Melia is able to get some more work done and feels less like she’s in a Groundhog Day-style time loop. 

Using Music as Therapy During Tough Times

We’re all looking for solace and meaning during the stressful time of this pandemic, and music is something that we’ve both used intentionally. Research has shown that music is therapeutic because it can relax our minds and bodies, reduce anxiety and cortisol (the stress hormone), and boost immune response. 

A New York times article analyzing Spotify data (linked below) found that “the most important period for men in forming their adult tastes were the ages 13 to 16 … What about women? On average, their favorite songs came out when they were 13. The most important period for women were the ages 11 to 14.” This tracks for us!

Lately, we’ve been using music therapeutically in these ways:

  • listening to full albums for the grounding experience of slowing down
  • listening to music that transports us back to a comforting time or place in our lives
  • sharing 10 albums that have influenced our taste in music

Gill has also been listening to music with her husband, Brian, especially styles like hip-hop that she’s not as familiar with. 

Here are a couple of other ways you can use music as therapy:

Make a list of your top 3-5 comforting albums and know where to find them. We save Spotify albums to our libraries, but you may own the music and know where to find it on your devices. When you’re in fight-or-flight mode, it’s hard to think straight enough to locate the music that will soothe you, so do a favor for your future self. 

Create some stress-busting playlists in advance.

Make a few playlists that let you feel your feelings — music that resonates with sadness and grief, if that’s what you need, or music that gives you a happiness or energy boost. Research generally finds that “relaxing music” with a slower tempo is better for calming the nervous system, decreasing blood pressure, and settling breathing and heart rate.

Get in Touch

Tell us what you listen to when you need comfort, and share your favorite playlists with us! Email us at or send us a voice memo. We’re going to be taking a season break to work on some other Semi-Together projects, but we’ll still be sending our biweekly e-newsletter. Sign up at

If you’d like to keep getting new audio content during the season break, including new minisodes and a playlist of “Tracks that Transport Us,” we’d love to have you as a Semi-Together patron starting at $2/mo. You can sign up at Thanks for listening!


You Asked: Is Listening to Music Good for Your Health? (TIME)

Can Music Boost Your Immune System? (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

A Simple Trick for Starting Your Mornings off Right (Cupcakes and Cashmere)

The Songs That Bind (New York Times)

Issue #26: Sink, Swim, or Float, with Gill’s album recs (Semi-Together e-news)

Melia & Gill’s Mood-Shifting Music Playlist (Spotify)

Songs We’re Loving Right Now (Spotify)