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, 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.