Rhythmic Mind/Hip-Hop Therapy case study: 01

The youth in this particular instance came to the group with challenges of anxiety and a sense of isolation. He expressed a pervasive feeling of disconnection and estrangement, from himself and others, and shared that he often felt outside of himself, watching his own life pass by. By and large, he didn’t engage the world with much confidence, and tended to be fairly socially withdrawn.

Through the course of the group, he created an original piece of Hip-Hop music, producing the beat and writing the lyrics. While already a prolific and talented beat maker, this was his first time writing and recording lyrics for a song. His proficiency and talent as a beat maker/producer allowed him to step into a leadership role within the group, assisting the other members with creating their own beats. This started to help build a sense of confidence and capacity, as he was able connect with his peers in a positive, value affirming manner.

This growing sense of confidence and positive self-concept was then further catalyzed and fully actualized through the process of writing and recording his own song. The conceptual framework the group provided was around how the participants deal with and overcome challenge. In this context of challenge and resilience, we asked the participants to consider what they want their futures to be and how they see themselves actualizing this future; and to then use this as the musical and lyrical inspiration for their songs. This youth chose to focus on his passion and talent for music as both his future vision and the means of getting there.

Through the process of conceptualizing, writing and recording this song, he underwent a significant transformation. He began to be more dynamically socially engaged with his peers at school. His physical posture changed, and he carried himself with an air of confidence and clarity. He seemed to become more fully embodied within himself, which generated a strength to his presence. These changes were noted by school staff, some of whom approached us directly to comment on them. One teacher proclaimed that “he seems like a different kid!”, reporting that he now participates much more readily and openly in class.

He went on to graduate that year, and soon after secured employment, which he has maintained since. He is also currently deeply engaged in a career in music, regularly creating and performing with a strong community of local artists. He has in many ways actualized the positive vision/goal he set forth for himself in his song. Through the focused and intentional creation of Hip-Hop music, he was able to take some control of and begin to shape his personal narrative. This empowering process fostered an increased sense of purpose, fulfillment, connection and aliveness, and served to significantly improve his mental and emotional well being.