Did you know that your own singing voice can be a powerful therapeutic tool? Whether you consider yourself a singer or not, gaining control and connecting with your voice can help you work through deep emotional transformation.
Patricia PE Janssen is a singer and sound therapist based in Belgium. She runs Constig, offering singing lessons and workshops as well as sound therapy, taking a holistic approach which treats your voice is an integral part of yourself.
We asked Patricia to tell us more about sound therapy and how it relates to musical listening and expression.
Q: To start off, could you tell us how you got started in sound therapy?
By accident to be honest… I had been working as a singing teacher and sometimes people would request group sessions. As I find it rather difficult to organise them as “real” singing lessons, I designed a workshop based on relaxation exercises, through which the voice would be re-discovered in a natural way. This proved to be something that not only helped to release tension in the voice, but also in the body, and related to that, with issues they were dealing with on a mental level.
For me, the main focus is finding and accepting your own voice.
As the voice is more than your vocal folds alone, I try to approach it as holistically as possible. I combine insights and techniques based on scientific research as well as voice work already practiced. To give some examples, I use stimulations from Lichtenberger (also know as sound-related singing), as well as exercises from Linklater (freeing the natural voice), but also classical singing techniques, as well as my own.
As a member of EVTA (European Voice Teachers Association), I regularly attend symposia to stay on top of what’s happening within the field of voice research, and sometimes even take part in it (together with some of my singing students).
Most of my colleagues work with external tools, whilst I work with what is already available to us: our own body. I always start from a level of relaxation, and then, through breathing, making sounds and having them travel through different parts of the body. Sometimes we can feel resistance, and then we try to get through that using breath and sound.
It is interesting, because you can work through issues without having to explain what they are. There is no need to find the specific wording. You don’t even need to be truly conscious of what exactly it is you are dealing with. This can be very freeing, as often it is very hard having to talk about certain life events or thought processes, and here there is no real need to do so. It does happen of course, rather often to be honest, but only if they want to, and always at the end of the session when the burden is already (partially) released.
One of my patients was always feeling very limited in her dealings with the outside world. She would hardly ever speak up in public, her voice sounded muted, she lacked self-confidence, and overall she was very insecure, even though she is a very talented person who knows what she is doing.
Initially, we mainly worked through breathing, as she was unable to release her breath. Slowly she would start to allow herself to make sound, and often would be surprised by the volume she produced when she wasn’t paying attention to it. Gradually, she evolved to liking her voice and feeling confident in speaking up.
She recently changed jobs, and is now thriving in an environment that suits her personality, regularly speaking in front of company audiences and delivering her message loud and clear.
Being a singer, you are always very aware of your instrument: yourself. Everything that is going on has an impact on your performance. If you have an “off day” or you just had good news, it will make a massive difference in how you are on stage.
Also working as a therapist, with the voice as an instrument, has made me even more aware of the impact the outside world has on us, as well as the impact our voice/performance has on the audience.
In a way, we are storytellers, and we tell our stories using someone else’s words and pitches. Sometimes it can be very difficult to master a song, because you have lived it yourself and emotions may run freely whilst performing it. Transforming your own past into a piece of art, accepting yourself along the way, and bringing that message across to the audience, is one of the most rewarding experiences. When people tell you afterwards that they were moved, touched, or they understood what you were trying to say – even when it was in a language they don’t know – you feel truly privileged.
The same goes for people who feel relieved and reconnected after allowing themselves to live through their fears and limitations through their own sound, and to accept them as part of who they are as a person. Their audience is the outside world, in which they are then able to be their true selves. They feel more confident to use their voice and to make a contribution to the world.
Sound therapy is a way to observe your inner self without having to be someone other than yourself. There is no pressure from the outside. You can learn a lot about processes you are usually unaware of, as they live in your unconsciousness.
Thanks again, Patricia, for joining us here on EasyEarTraining.com and sharing these interesting insights into the power of sound therapy. You can learn more about Patricia and her sound therapy work at Constig.be.
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