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Music and Mental Health From Sonny’s Blues

A short story by James Baldwin, Sonny’s Blues, depicts the difficult journey of two brothers who attempt to reconnect after being separated for many years. Music throughout the story heavily impacts the characters’ lives and the overall narrative. Jazz music deeply interests Sonny. Furthermore, he utilizes it to manage his difficult past and dependence. The anecdote showcases how music can function as a compelling device for emotional expression, processing trauma, and overcoming addiction. Consequently, this essay maintains that music therapy, as demonstrated in Sonny’s Blues, effectively promotes mental well-being. By examining music’s capacity to facilitate emotional expression, trauma processing, and addiction recovery, this essay will showcase the transformative ability of music therapy for individuals encountering mental health concerns.

Individuals’ physical, emotional, cognitive, and social needs are addressed by using music in clinical treatment called music therapy. The American Music Therapy Association identifies the term ‘music therapy’ as the clinical use of evidence-based music interventions intended to achieve individualized goals within a therapeutic relationship constructed by a trained professional who has concluded an authorized course in music therapy (Aigen & Hunter, 2018). This intervention approach is known for its constructive effect on mental health care treatment for depression, anxiety trauma, and addiction. Moreover, recent research confirms that music therapy can enhance social skills while also elevating mood levels, effectively reducing anxiety (Ambegaonkar et al., 2022). This intervention is also linked to improving pain management capability while enhancing cognitive function and emotional expression.

The American Music Therapy Association has approved music therapy as a viable treatment strategy. Additionally, the organization suggests utilizing it in healthcare environments. Individuals of all ages and backgrounds can collaborate with accomplished music therapists who have attained a comprehensive education and training program (Goodman, 2011). Improvisation, singing, songwriting, and music listening are music-based interventions they use. The interventions provided are personalized to meet the individual’s distinct requirements. Music therapy has displayed noteworthy potential as a clinical treatment for enhancing mental health (Goodman, 2011). Healthcare settings are encouraged to use music therapy by the American Music Therapy Association. In addition, the organization emphasizes the significance of skilled experts in administering productive musical therapy treatments.

Sonny grapples with expressing his emotions verbally in Sonny’s Blues. He struggles to articulate the agony and distress he has faced. Nevertheless, Sonny finds emotional expression through his love for jazz music. Sonny can express his feelings through the piano in a way that words cannot. Music is a powerful tool for emotional expression. In the Journal of Music Therapy, a study discovered that music can aid those struggling to express their emotions verbally (Robb, 2014). The research revealed that using music can be an efficient way to promote emotional expression. Besides, music therapy interventions can advance the emotional wellness of people with mental health conditions.

Listening to music can promote positive emotions such as joy, happiness, and relaxation. Based on the study findings, listening to enjoyable music led to increased positive emotions among participants (Zou & Kim, 2022). Also, the impact peaked when participants selected their tunes. Overall, music presents a unique and compelling method of expressing emotions. Music was how Sonny communicated his pain, suffering, and deepest emotions. Research has proven music to be beneficial for promoting emotional expression and enhancing emotional welfare. Music therapy can assist in the clinical treatment of individuals battling mental health issues.

As Sonny in Sonny’s Blues confronts the challenges of his traumatizing past, music provides him with a powerful coping mechanism. Sonny finds that playing the piano aids in his processing of pain and hardship. Also, it bestows upon him a sentiment of tranquility and reassurance. The utilization of music therapy is a valuable tool for addressing trauma and promoting healing (Sanfilippo et al., 2021). Researchers have discovered that music therapy may play a role in aiding individuals in processing traumatic experiences and reducing PTSD indicators. Also, it can increase overall wellness. According to a study in the Journal of Traumatic Stress (van Hooren, 2014), music therapy may help with PTSD symptoms.

Additionally, it can give people a harmless and enjoyable strategy to handle their trauma. Anxiety, depression, and hyperarousal—symptoms associated with PTSD—showed significant reductions among individuals who underwent music therapy interventions. It seems that music therapy could effectively treat PTSD.

In the Journal of Music Therapy, a study has been published stating that music therapy can aid individuals in processing their traumatic experiences. In addition, it offers a secure and encouraging atmosphere for them to accomplish that. The study discovered that music therapy interventions positively impacted emotional control, reduced distress, and established feelings of safety and trust (Robb, 2014). In helping individuals cope with trauma, music has transformative power. Processing the pain and suffering from his past was made possible for Sonny through music. Music therapy can safely and effectively process traumatic experiences and promote healing. Music therapy can be a rich resource to enhance psychological well-being and overall wellness. It provides a caring atmosphere for the expression and handling of emotions.

The central theme of musical influence is explored in Sonny’s journey toward recovery from addiction in Sonny’s Blues. Playing the piano allows Sonny to find purpose and meaning. In addition, he can direct his energy towards a positive source. Music therapy has demonstrated efficacy in addressing addiction and fostering recovery. According to a study by Sanfilippo et al. (2021), people with substance use disorders may experience decreased cravings and improved moods through music therapy. Those who engaged in music therapy interventions reported decreased cravings and negative feelings and increased positive feelings. Individuals who did not partake in music therapy did not encounter such advantages.

An alternate source of pleasure for individuals recovering can be found through music therapy. Individuals struggling with addiction can experience pleasure and enjoyment through music therapy. A study published in Music Therapy Perspectives states that it also provides a secure and positive outlet for self-expression (Silverman & Furman, 2014). The examination discovered that music therapy could assist those in recovery in discovering meaning and direction. In addition, it has been known to foster feelings of capability and effectiveness. The ability to promote healing and facilitate addiction recovery is inherent in music. Music helped Sonny conquer his addiction. In addition, it supported him in finding a reason and purpose to live. Reduction in cravings, improvement in mood, and discovery of new sources of pleasure and enjoyment are some benefits individuals in recovery can experience through music therapy (Goodman, 2011). Furthermore, it can support them in uncovering new paths to handle their addiction. Music therapy can be a compelling instrument to enhance mental health and promote general well-being by providing a positive and supportive environment for self-expression and emotional processing.

In conclusion, music helps us communicate, heal, and express ourselves. We may enhance our mental health by playing, singing, or listening to music. As we examine music therapy as a treatment, we may create a world where music is acknowledged as a vital tool for mental health and community. “Sonny’s Blues” shows the healing effect of music. Sonny’s use of music to deal with trauma and overcome addiction shows how music can be a powerful tool for emotional expression and mental health treatment. Music therapy reduces PTSD symptoms, improves drug use disorder cravings and mood, and promotes emotional control, safety, and trust. Thus, music therapy’s potential to improve mental health and well-being must be investigated.


Aigen, K., & Hunter, B. (2018). The creation of the American Music Therapy Association: Two personal perspectives Music Therapy Perspectives36(2), 183–194.

Ambegaonkar, J. P., Matto, H., Ihara, E. S., Tompkins, C., Caswell, S. V., Cortes, N., Davis, R., Coogan, S. M., Fauntroy, V. N., Glass, E., Lee, J., Baraniecki-Zwil, G., & Dhokai, N. (2022). Dance, music, and social conversation program participation positively affect physical and mental health in community-dwelling older adults: a randomized controlled trial. Journal of Dance Medicine & Science26(4), 255–264.

Goodman, K. D. (2011). Music therapy education and training: from theory to practice Charles C. Thomas Publisher

Robb, S. L. (2014). Journal of Music Therapy: Advancing the Science and Practice of Music Therapy Journal of Music Therapy51(1), 1–3.

Sanfilippo, K. R., Stewart, L., & Glover, V. (2021). How music may support perinatal mental health: an overview Archives of Women’s Mental Health24(5), 831–839.

Silverman, M. J., & Furman, A. G. (2014). Employment and membership trends in the American Music Therapy Association, 1998–2009 Music Therapy Perspectives32(1), 99–108.

Van Hooren, S. (2014). Music Technology in Therapeutic and Health Settings, by Wendy L. Magee (editor), Technology and Disability26(2-3), 187–188.

Zou, Y., & Kim, J. (2022). Application research of music education to improve the mental health of college students under the background of 5G Mathematical Problems in Engineering2022, 1–10.


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