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5 Women, Voice-work and Psychotherapy

July 16, 2016 • Lisa Perry

Paying attention to your voice can improve your life. Because the sound of our voice affects how we feel, voice-work be a huge aid in psychotherapy. As thoughts descend from the “head” and emotions come up from the “heart”, our “soul” is revealed through the voice

Disowning the low voice

Dawn is a 47 year old woman who almost always speaks with a very high pitched voice. She said in exasperation: “Whenever I answer the telephone, I’m told to put my mother on the phone. I’m an adult! This is so frustrating!” I asked her to experiment with vocalizing on lower pitches. After doing so for about 15 seconds, she said: “I feel very frightened. I’m not allowed to sound like this! This is my father’s voice and he always hollered.”

Embracing the high voice

Stefany is a 35 year old woman who sings in a community choir. She tells me she’s an Alto. She is convinced she could never sing the part of Soprano. She says: “My voice doesn’t do those higher notes.” At some point during psychotherapy, I encourage her to explore her upper vocal range. She tells me this makes her feel quite vulnerable and weak. She starts to cry and recalls to me how it was not very safe to be a female in her family growing up. Over time, as she explores and becomes more comfortable with her upper range, she finds herself embracing her femininity too.

Voice-work improves social skills

14 year old Brittany tells me she is feeling very sad because “people don’t like me”. She said her teachers get upset with her for being disruptive and her peers think she’s rude. She is talking very loudly to me, even though I am sitting very close to her. Her teacher tells me: “she always speaks with this same loud voice, regardless of the circumstances”. The teacher adds: “her whole family talks this way too”. Brittany is stuck in a particular way of sounding but is not truly aware of her capabilities. She can easily learn to expand her voice so that she can enjoy herself within a variety of social situations.

Voice-work and sexuality

Nicole, a 38 year old married woman, confides to me that she has been feeling depressed for several years now. Adding in that she does not feel inspired in her life, she acknowledges that she has not had a sexual appetite in years as well. Observing how she breathes, I notice she is expanding and contracting her rib-cage only. There is little movement observed in her abdomen and her upper chest does not move much either. With some guidance, Nicole discovers a very full, deep and resonant sound in her voice. Over the next few days, she notices longings for sexuality in her life. Her sexual appetite has returned, but she realizes she is still not attracted to her husband. She knows she is in a quandary now.

The choked voice

33 year Betsy is crying through choked tears, as she tells me about how she has been having trouble reading bedtime stories to her children at night. She acknowledges she has been feeling stressed lately, but most upsetting to her is that her throat has been tightening up on her a lot. She notices the same thing has been happening to her at work too, especially when engaging with certain customers. She doesn’t know what to do.

*The above scenarios are inspired by true encounters. However, each vignette has been altered such that similarity to any actual individual would be purely accidental.

Lisa T Perry Counseling in AshvilleLisa T Perry, MEd, LPC, CCMHC, VMT-R is a Licensed Professional Counselor and registered Voice Movement Therapy Practitioner. She is very aware of how voice and psyche interact and can integrate voice-work into her psychotherapy.


Categories: Expression, Voice

Breathing, Imagery and emotions

July 16, 2016 • Lisa Perry

Everyone knows that our emotions and our breathing is connected. We’re often advised to “take a deep breathe” when we are upset. Classes in Yoga and meditation have sprung up everywhere we look. But very often, we are given seemingly simple advice to “just breathe” and we don’t know exactly where to go with that.

About 15 years ago, I was taught a simple breathing exercise by a singing instructor. Over the next few days, after practicing this way of breathing, I experienced very strong memories and emotions. I developed a severe sore throat and I even came down with bronchitis. I had no idea what was happening to me. Although very unpleasant at the time, this experience led me down a very positive and life changing path.

How we feel affects how we breathe

We sense that how we feel affects how we breathe. We take note of more rapid and shallow breathe when we feel anxious. When shocked or surprised, we may suddenly suck in our breath. When frightened, we may hold our breath. When tired, we widen our breath into a yawn. We may sigh when exasperated or relieved. Strong reactions like nausea, fury, sexual stimulation – all evoke changes in breathing.

How we feel affects how we hold ourselves

Our emotional reactions greatly influence our body in other ways as well. Our muscles tense and relax and form different postures in relation to how we feel about ourselves and others. We may find ourselves stiff and tight or more relaxed and flexible. Our posture may be leaning towards or contracting away from a particular person or situation.

How we use imagery can change our breathing

We can focus our attention and use our imagination to influence how we hold our body. Any muscle that we focus upon can be relaxed and/or tensed. In doing so, we can change the shape of the instrument that our body breathes through. For example, just like we can choose to squeeze and then relax our fist, we can also choose to squeeze and then relax other muscles that support breathing. We can experiment with muscles in our stomach, chest, back, sides, neck, throat, shoulders, pelvic floor, etc.

We can create more subtle shapes and varying levels of tension with more holistic images. If we use our imagination, we can breathe through so many different shapes and sizes. If we use our imagination, we can breathe into and touch many parts of the body that may normally be guarded and protected.

Culture and Breathing

I remember learning about a tribe that believed their lungs were in their thighs. Could you imagine how they might have experienced their breathing? I dare you to walk around for a while and try this out for yourself! It really is quite astounding.

For purposes of survival and to fit into our societies, most of us have learned to hold ourselves in ways that can be habitual and limiting. Most of this is not in our awareness. We just walk around the way we do. We just hold ourselves the way we do.

If you were to observe an infant, you might notice the way they breathe is very different than the way we have learned to breathe. For example, have you ever noticed the uninhibited expansion and contraction of the belly? How many among us fly so freely as we “mature”?

Breathing the tube

Imagine you have swallowed a very flexible and malleable tube that extends from your mouth through to your “bottom”. (See how my words are affected by culture here?) This tube can have different lengths and widths. You can tighten it to make it rigid or breath into it to expand it outwards like a balloon. Try out some different images:

Piccolo or Flute – Shorter or longer and very narrow.

Saxophone – Very long and very wide.

Breathing and Emotion

When you have some quiet time, allow yourself to really breathe the entire instrument of your body. You can play with different images. When we explore different ways of breathing our body, we wind up expanding into areas that we don’t typically reach. Sometimes this can bring up different emotions.

For instance, you can imagine your body is like an accordion. The accordion can start in the position of a fully exhaled rigid structure. In this position, your body is more collapsed inward and there is limited space to breathe from. Notice what this feels like. Does it remind you of anything?

You can imagine this accordion expands all the way to its widest and fullest position. You can breathe your entire body, noticing what every nook and cranny feels like. What does it feel like to breathe all the way into your back? What is it like to expand your mid chest fully? What it is like to explore the dimensions of your body 360 degrees around like you are a full sphere?

If you are feeling courageous, playful or just plain curious, you can expand the breathing into sound. You are now playing the instrument you had been breathing. When we vocalize we:

  • extend the breath out more fully
  • experience more vibration and felt sensations
  • engage another part of our brain where emotions lie even more closely

So, next time someone tells you to “just breathe”, you might have some more ideas about how to do that!

Lisa T Perry Counseling in AshvilleLisa T Perry, MEd, LPC, CCMHC, VMT-R is a Licensed Professional Counselor who simple cannot separate emotion from the body. She likes to incorporate breath-work productively into her counseling work.














Crazy Thoughts

July 16, 2016 • Lisa Perry

Personally, I think we’re all a little crazy. Why do I think that? Because I’m human and all humans are vulnerable to crazy thoughts… at least some of the time.

Have you ever paid attention to your thoughts? I mean literally. Have you ever observed the exact phrases that run across your mind? Have you ever noticed that sometimes – maybe not all the time – but at least sometimes – that what you are thinking is not actually based in fact?

Definitions of Crazy

What is crazy anyhow?

The Definition of CRAZY according to Merriam-Webster include terms such as:

  • “full of cracks or flaws”
  • “being out of the ordinary” and
  • “distracted with desire or excitement”

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I think we all need a little more extraordinary in our lives. Sometimes we need to get away from logical and practical and actually get more into our “right minds”. And haven’t you ever noticed the beauty in imperfection? Check out a plant or a tree. If you look closely, do you see the marvelous cracks and flaws?

Where do my crazy thoughts come from?

Our thoughts can come from so many places. We can pick up thoughts from images, emotions, dreams, memories, conversations, media, our senses, etc. The list goes on. We can pick up stuff from almost anywhere. After all, we are all connected. We can hear something on the news; We can remember something from our past; We can “hear” things that have been “recorded” into our memory banks, this list goes on.

Be kind to your crazy human self

Shame never helps. Shame only makes us feel more alone, and dare I say, crazier. How would you treat a loved one if you knew they were struggling with feeling a little crazy? Would you shame them or would you try to help them out? Perhaps you’d even relate to what they are feeling. What would you want if you were in that same space?

Have a sense of humor about crazy

Have you ever noticed that comedians act a little crazy? It’s funny. It’s fun. Sometimes we are laughing so hard it hurts. Sometimes what we laugh about is actually what we find to be the deep down truth. It’s all mixed together somehow – in this big crazy life.

Be creative with your crazy self

Sometimes crazy can be just the right fertilizer to produce wonderfully juicy fruit. Creative problem solving always calls for Brainstorming. We are told to allow all thoughts and ideas flow during the process. Divergence comes before Convergence. Amazing music can come from experimenting with unusual sounds; Great art can come from combining different kinds of media, Compelling stories can come from trying to connect two seemingly disconnected words. Just like there is no stupid question – there is no truly crazy idea.

Choose crazy and Enantiodromia

Anything taken to its extreme turns into its opposite. Sometimes you just have to go with it. Find a safe place and let it out. You can tell yourself “I’m choosing this right now”. That way you can feel just a little bit more in control.

Set “safety” parameters for crazy

When choosing to go with crazy, set some parameters that make you feel safe. For instance: if crazy might be loud, you can choose a place that allows for sound without feeling embarrassed or like you are bothering somebody else. If crazy might be physical, you might choose a place that has objects that won’t hurt yourself or others or things that have value. If indulging crazy may lead to tears or strong emotional expression, you may want to schedule a crazy time with yourself that gives you time to transition to something else. You may consider having your social supports in the wings.

When to call a counselor

If you are feeling overwhelmed or if you just want a little extra guidance and support from an expert, seeking help from a qualified counselor can be wonderful too.

Lisa T Perry Counseling in AshvilleLisa T Perry, MED, LPC, CCMHC, VMT-R is a Licensed Professional Counselor who can find the silly in the serious.






Categories: Expression, Mind-Body, Voice