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A soothing therapy for distressed emotions

Meghana Choukkar Bengaluru, Sep 16, 2016, DHNS 1:57 IST

Smooth transition

Dr Ramya Mohan, senior consultant psychiatrist
You have had a heated argument with your boss and you don’t know how to deal with the rage. Just retreat to your desk, plug in your headphones and listen to the tracks on the album CAPE.

Developed by Dr Ramya Mohan, CAPE or Creative Arts For Processing Emotions is a self-guided music-based therapy. It is the first of its kind, combining neuroscience with music to help people process emotions and recover from mental illnesses.

The album has eight music tracks, with vocals and instructions, of about six to eight minutes each. A fusion of Indian classical music and Western contemporary music, the tracks are accompanied by vocals in Sanskrit and verbal instructions in English for the listener to follow. The first stage of the therapy has individual tracks targeted at processing anger, hate or disgust, fear and panic, grief. In the second stage, the tracks help the listener make a progression from harmony to gratitude, compassion to hope, preparedness to confidence and jubilation to happiness.

The CD will soon be available for purchase on Amazon in India, and is already available in the United Kingdom.

An alumna of Bangalore Medical College, Ramya has been a senior consultant psychiatrist and medical educator with the National Health Service of UK (NHS). A talented musician and artiste herself, she incorporates art into the prevention and treatment of mental illnesses. “As a specialist in psychopharmacology, I do prescribe medication. But for holistic treatment, I believe the arts can play a strong role in promoting mental health.” In her experience, people are more accepting of music and art as treatment because there is no stigma attached to it. CAPE is ideal for people who have adjustment problems, anxiety, depression and those who have difficulty dealing with emotions.

CAPE is supported by findings of a research that Ramya and her team did to substantiate the use of music as therapy. Their work, which was also presented at the House of Lords, showed that the areas of the brain which respond to music are the same as those that process emotions. This led them to understand that creative arts promote healthy areas of the brain. The research has been published in European Psychiatry, the official journal of the European Psychiatric Association.

“When someone is angry or upset, it would be patronising and even unhelpful to ask them to listen to something relaxing. So we have used discord in the music to acknowledge the listener’s emotions,” Ramya explained. The music will gradually become calm and soothing, bringing the listener to a better state of mind. The advantage for users is that they can access the therapy any time in any environment on their smartphones.

The album has been created in collaboration with Sanskrit scholar Dr Nandakumar and violin maestro Vidwan Balu Raghuraman from the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan Centre, London and musician Dr Amal Lad. The composition and singing have been done by Ramya herself.

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