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How to use Music Therapy to Create Your Perfect Playlist, Blog by Vanessa Davis, LPC-MHSP, ACS, MT-BC

Have you ever wondered how you can use music therapy techniques to create your perfect playlist? Music has an incredible power to influence our emotions, uplift our spirits, and even heal us in ways we might not fully understand. One approach to maximizing the therapeutic benefits of music is through the ISO Principle, a concept within music therapy that focuses on the use of music to shift emotional states. In this blog post, we’ll explore how you can create your own playlist using the ISO Principle in order to enhance your well-being and mood.

Understanding the ISO Principle

The ISO Principle (pronounced eye-so), is a fundamental concept in music therapy that involves matching music to your current mood-state (i.e. a fast-paced song if you are feeling anxious) that gradually changes and moves you towards your desired emotional state (i.e. ending with a slower-paced song). Essentially, it’s about meeting yourself where you’re at, versus starting immediately with your desired state. That would feel like someone saying “just calm down” when you’re feeling upset! (no thank you!)

This principle can be applied in various therapeutic contexts, from reducing stress and anxiety to boosting energy and motivation. When carefully curating a playlist that aligns with your desired emotional outcome, you can effectively harness the therapeutic potential of music in your daily life.

Steps to Creating Your Playlist

1. Define Your Mood

Before diving into the world of music selection, take a moment to check-in with how you are feeling. What emotional state are you aiming to shift? Are you looking for calm after a period of high anxiety, or do you need a boost of energy following a time of feeling frozen or disassociated? By identifying your objective, you can tailor your playlist accordingly.

2. Consider Musical Elements

The next step is to consider the musical elements that contribute to the desired emotional state. Music with words or just instrumental? Mix and match genres? Most important: pick music you really enjoy. If starting with heavy metal and ending with instrumental piano matches your energy, then do it! 

3. Pay Attention to Your Response

As you listen to different tracks and compile your playlist, pay close attention to how each piece makes you feel. Do certain songs evoke the desired emotional response? Do you notice any physical sensations or changes in mood? Trust your intuition and adjust your playlist accordingly based on what resonates most with you.

4. Fine-Tune and Customize

Creating the perfect playlist is an ongoing process of fine-tuning and customization. Don’t be afraid to remove or replace songs that don’t quite fit or add new ones that enhance the overall experience. Your playlist can evolve with you, reflecting your changing moods and needs over time. In addition, you can choose to create multiple playlists for nuanced moods. 


The Music Therapy ISO Principle offers a powerful framework that enables you to create your perfect playlist that supports emotional well-being. Whether you’re seeking relaxation, motivation, or focus, harnessing the therapeutic potential of music through thoughtful curation can have a profound impact on your overall health and happiness. If you are curious about Music Therapy or are interested in working with one of our Board-Certified Music Therapists, Vanessa or Christine, please reach out. Let us know how your new playlists are working for you!



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