What is Hip Hop Therapy?
Hip Hop Therapy (HHT) is an approach to mental health treatment that utilizes Hip Hop music and culture as a therapeutic medium. Dr. Edgar Tyson was the first to coin the phrase “Hip Hop Therapy” in 1998. While developing the practice, Tyson urged that HHT uses more than just Hip Hop lyrics and beats, but also the culture of hip hop.
In a therapeutic setting, rap lyrics and culture are used to initiate engaging conversations that build a bridge between their lives and topics that they may have otherwise been less likely to speak about.
Hip Hop Therapy can also be viewed as an extension of music therapy. Similarly to HHT, music therapy uses music as a treatment by creating, signing, moving to, and/or listening to music. Music therapy is also used to provide avenues for communication that can be helpful to those who find it difficult to express themselves in words.
Why Hip Hop? Why Not Other Genres?
So why Hip Hop? Why not other genres of music? The truth is that you can use any kind of music to stimulate communication and healing. However, Hip Hop music has shown to be an especially effective form of music therapy as it’s lyrics and culture are rooted in struggle and are often more relatable to those struggling with a mental illness.
If you already enjoy listening to Hip Hop music, then Hip Hop Therapy may be a natural fit for you. If not, any genre of music and song can be useful if you enjoy it and can relate to it!
Who Can Hip Hop Therapy Help?
Music therapy has proven to reduce depression and anxiety, improve emotional expression, expand interpersonal skills, and lift self-esteem (Dr. Jaleel Abdul-Adil). Research also supports its effectiveness in many areas such as overall physical rehabilitation and facilitating movement, increasing people’s motivation to become engaged in their treatment, providing emotional support for clients and their families, and providing an outlet for expression of feelings (American Music Therapy Association).
Hip Hop Artists Who Rap About Mental Health
- Kanye West
- Kid Kudi
- Kendrick Lamar
This Article Is In Collaboration With Saulo Ortiz, LCSW
Saulo is a licensed clinical social worker, the founder of Life Change Institute, and A motivational speaker with 20 years of experience working in mental health and substance abuse treatment. He is bilingual and offers services in both English and Spanish. His specialties are in hip-hop therapy, corrections, and clinical burnout, and believes in treating the whole person, not just the problem. His company, Life Change Institute, offers clinical training and supervision, consultations, and outpatient treatment.