"Man in the Mirror" as music therapy

Probably you have read Seven's article "Michael Jackson: King of Academic Literature and Scholarly Study" and to add his legacy on this, I found several article and journals-related... Yes, Michael's song entering the mental health education :)

As we, MJFam, listen to his songs are likely as self-healing process for us. Did you know that his songs are also used for music therapy in several researches, and... as a reference for a music therapy book? From what I read, I learnt that the one that are used more often is "Man in the Mirror" song....

What is Music Therapy?
Music therapy is the use of music and/or musical elements (sound, rhythm, melody and harmony) by a qualified music therapist, with a client or group, in a process designed to facilitate and promote communication, relationships, learning, mobilization, expression, organization, and other relevant therapeutic objectives, in order to meet physical, emotional, mental, social and cognitive needs. Music therapy aims to develop potentials and/or restore functions of the individual so that he or she can achieve better intra- and interpersonal integration and consequently a better quality of life through prevention, rehabilitation or treatment. (World Federation of Music Therapy, 1997)

And here are articles and journals that used Michael's song for their reference as music therapy:

Along with the chemotherapy and radiation came Paige Robbins — strumming her guitar and singing “I’ll Fly Away,” “Sound of Silence” or "Man in the Mirror"
The idea was to use music to brighten the lives of women undergoing breast cancer treatment.
And for many patients, it worked.

He used the song "Man in the Mirror" as one of his list as a treatment to see the effect of using music for individuals who deal with issues involving mental health and substance dependency in music therapy techniques with the result:
"When comparing the use of music therapy techniques of song selection and lyric
analysis to a more traditional, non-music approach, in a coping skills grolving mental health and substance dependency, participant attendance was shown to be considerably higher during the music condition compared to non-music. Survey results also corroborated the findings that participants felt the issues surrounding chemical dependence were dealt with more effectively during music-condition sessions than during the non-music sessions."
"An especially interesting point to consider is the fact that the participants found using the song selection technique to be more effective when dealing with issues of chemical dependence than the passage selection, which is geared specifically towards those issues. Most of the song choices available did not refer specifically to drugs or alcohol, but rather to larger themes such as hope, acceptance, change, and struggles. The participants were very proficient at interpreting a song’s lyrics and applying it to their own life, making it personal to their own difficulties with addiction and dependence."

The following songs were attached to the themes that emerged from the written testimonials of the participants and were identified as similar experiences that the participants shared on their journey to and through divorce: ‘And then I kissed her...’, ‘From this moment, live has begun...’ , ‘O-bla-di-o-bla-da, live goes one...’, ‘I’ll be watching you’ ‘Thunder Struck!!!’, ‘Goodbye My lover, Goodbye my friend... ‘, ‘Since You’ve Been Gone...’, ‘...and it’s Hope that makes you carry on...’, ‘The "Man in the Mirror", 'Don’t Worry Be happy Now...’

Michael Jackson’s song "Man in the Mirror"carries a message that all your experiences and journeys in life will be reflected in yourself, and if you are unhappy with anything in your life you need to start by changing within yourself. I also asked the participants how they felt while writing their stories. Of great interest to the researcher was the fact that two of the participants spontaneously included in their stories these feelings while writing their narratives, which indicated that while they were writing, they were consciously thinking about the events and what they viewed as important and significant to them.

He compared the experimental group and control group, where the experimental group received psychoeducation with music therapy and the control group received psychoeducation only. The music he used is the song and lyrics of "Man in the Mirror".
The design of this study was experimental and control groups with pre/posttest. And, as the result, the subjects in the experimental group rated their sessions much higher than did the control group as a direct result of the music because the material between all sessions was identical. The effect of subjects' higher ranking of music therapy sessions could be attributed to the diverse use and effectiveness of music therapy techniques at achieving common rehabilitative goals.

- Music therapy methods in neurorehabilitation: a clinician's manual (2006, by Felicity Baker, Jeanette Tamplin, Jeanette Kennelly. Jessica Kingsley Publishers.)
In this book, "Man in the Mirror" is categorized as "Active Change" on the list of songs that they found useful to simulate self-reflection and self-exploration in patients.

"'Man in the Mirror' is a great message. I love that song.
If John Lennon was alive, he could really relate to that song because it says that if you want to make the world a better place, you have to work on yourself and change first.
It's the same thing Kennedy was talking about when he said, "Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country." If you want to make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and make a change.
Start with the man in the mirror. Start with yourself.
Don't be looking at all the other things. Start with YOU."
~ Michael Jackson ~

Let's interpret the meanings of "Man in the Mirror" song itself...
A paper, published on 2008 by Dutch researchers in The Journal for Experimental Social Psychology. The authors attempted to investigate how looking into a mirror (and thus increasing self-awareness) would effect our tendency to stereotype others.

The results showed that the mirror made a big difference for those people who already measured high in prejudice. Participants who made judgments without a mirror were significantly more likely to label as “irresponsible.” Those who completed the study while occasionally seeing their own reflection were more likely to perceive as “easygoing.” In essence, seeing themselves in a mirror made people high in prejudice behave in the same manner as participants who showed low levels of prejudice.

The authors go on to speculate that looking at oneself in a mirror forces us to consider how we are viewed by others. As a result, seeing our reflection makes us more likely to conform to social norms (you know, like not being racist). Michael came face to face with the man in the mirror and realized he needed to “make a change,” to become a more concerned and compassionate person. Here at least, everyday people seem to be no different than the King of Pop. source


"Few people remember that he was Dr. Jackson, having received this Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Fisk University." source

And from that article, researches and book, I'm sure Michael would be happy to know how he has contributed to the world through education area.. :)

"An education opens a person's mind to the entire world, and there is nothing more important than to make sure everyone has the opportunity for an education."
~ Michael Jackson ~

“Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’:
MJ in the Scholarly Literature: A Selected Bibliographic Guide”


  1. Michael's influence on culture is huge. But most of all his music has the power to touch individuals as well as bringing us together.
    Michale's music and music therapy work together because he was always honest and most of all because his work was created with love.
    Therapy as well as Michael's music (and good music in general) are aimed at empowering people.
    Thank you for posting this.

  2. Healing sounds are the most effective, affordable and easy alternative to release pain and perilous diseases. Sound therapy helps people to regain the peace of mind and relaxes the nerves. This is a natural process which has no side effects.