Doctors at Harvard Medical School have confirmed what musicians have known for years: songwriting can be healing and transformative.

The Harvard team studied ten veterans involved in Songwriting With Soldiers (SWS), a project that unites songwriters with returning men and women.

In the small but innovative study, veterans and military personnel who joined the Songwriting With: Soldiers (SW: S) program composers showed a 33% decrease in scores on the PTSD checklist, military version ( PCL-M) after 4 weeks.

SWS regularly holds retreats in which veterans (and their families) tell their stories to established songwriters. Then, they co-write a song in a process that many veterans believe can be life-changing (and in some cases save lives).

Drs. Ronald Hirschberg and Louisa Sylvia looked at symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression in veterans before and after the writing sessions. They found that four weeks after the sessions, the veterans experienced a 33% decrease in PTSD symptoms and a 22% decrease in depression symptoms.

A report in The Harvard Gazette on the study suggests that two things are at stake here. First, the process of telling their stories and tapping into traumatic memories appears to help veterans deal with anger, frustration, and guilt.

“We hypothesize that our veterans showed improvement because they used their personalized narrative of trauma and experiences, and thus this may be a unique form of exposure therapy for this population,” co-investigator Ron Hirschberg, MD, assistant professor of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, told Medscape Medical News.

Secondly, the song that is created in the process is a useful tool in itself. Many veterans said they found it hard to speak directly to loved ones about their trauma. Being able to share a song that summed up their thoughts and feelings was a positive thing that fostered greater understanding.

Bring My Song To Life (BMSTL) was created just for this purpose. BMSTL is a service of the Tunedly music production family. Tunedly is an innovative music production and music publishing solution for songwriters.

Bring My Song To Life helps people who want to create their own one-of-a-kind song, but don’t know how to go about it. They may lack the training, skills or confidence to “show their true face” and tap into emotions and feelings that make a song stand out. Most people have limited resources, so the process of creating a song from start to finish seems next to impossible, if not intimidating. After all, it’s not easy to master all the standard elements of a song – melody, chords, beat and rhythm, genre and style, concept, hook, lyrics, song section, arrangement and length.

Chris Erhardt, the co-founder and CEO, says the company created Bring My Song To Life after receiving frequent requests to provide personalized music with lyrics for people who are not songwriters. “They were looking for special gift ideas for birthdays, anniversaries, Christmas and other special occasions,” he says. 

“Bring My Song To Life allows you to create professional, beautiful, customized songs that capture your story and will live on forever,” Erhardt says. “No songwriting skills are necessary. Our team of amazingly talented musicians takes your idea, works with you throughout the creative process and transforms it into a cherished memory.”

There is no suggestion that songwriting is a cure-all, but the study serves as a timely reminder of the power of the human creative process.