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The Cross-Cultural Healing Power of Music


Thanks to a Bristol Fellowship, Angelica Coutinho ’20 will spend time in Argentina, Indonesia, Nepal, and Spain examining how sound and music function as healing tools across cultures. A psychology major and religious studies minor, she will combine her personal affinity for music and her passion for exploring new cultures in a project she hopes will set her up for meaningful success in the psychology field. 

A HEOP scholar at Hamilton, Coutinho served as a counselor and co-director for the Peer Counseling program, an orientation leader, and a member of the a cappella group Tumbling After.

Coutinho answered a few questions about her upcoming project, the significance of her studies, and her goals for her Bristol year and beyond:

What is the goal of your project?

The use of sound and music for healing has long been regarded as a sacred science, and as the practice has grown, sound healing and modern practices of music therapy have been used to treat symptoms of anxiety disorder, dementia, autism, and cancer. My goal is to let my love for music and passion for healing guide me in every hospital, musical therapy center, and sound healing practice I enter and to lead with curiosity, compassion, and respect for people’s spaces and stories.

About Angelica Coutinho ’20

Major: Psychology

Hometown: Suwanee, Ga.

High School: North Gwinnett High School 

read about other members of the class of 2020 
What is your personal connection to music, and how did you choose this topic?

I’ve been singing ever since I can remember! My project was inspired by my personal connection to music as a healing force. Music played a large role in helping me overcome my selective mutism. In my early years of schooling, I wouldn’t speak at all, and after my mom put me in a Mommy and Me music class, I finally began to express myself in public settings. Ever since, music has been a form of therapy for me. Whenever I’m going through something in my personal life or stressful times, music relaxes me and reminds me of what is truly important.

Is there any personal or academic significance to the locations you will visit?

I chose countries that represent diverse musical traditions, therapeutic strategies, and ideas about wellness that are connected to societal structures and spiritual beliefs. For example, in Argentina, there seems to be a large clinical emphasis on music as a healing tool, as music therapy is applied in psychiatry, intensive care, substance abuse, and cancer treatment. Nepal, on the other hand, has a rich connection to sound healing. Many spiritual and religious people in the country regard sound and vibration as the source of human energy.

What, or who, at Hamilton influenced you the most?

Ms. Breland and Mrs. Davis in Opportunity Programs, along with all my peers in HEOP, have been some of my biggest supporters, and they always inspire me to work hard and give voice to my passions. My involvement in the Peer Counseling Program has also played a huge role in helping me discover my love for listening to people’s stories and having the opportunity to offer support in ways that may help others feel heard, more at peace, and less alone. Additionally, I am so lucky that I got to continue to grow my love for music by being in my a cappella group, Tumbling After, with the most supportive and encouraging group of women in the world! Singing with them inspired me to continue to incorporate my passion for music and reminded me of the power that sound has in bringing people together.

What are your long-term plans?

After my Bristol year, I hope to provide care and support to others, whether that means going to graduate school for clinical psychology or working at a healing/therapy center. The thought of incorporating music into my future career is also exciting, so I am extremely eager to embark on my journey and hopefully bring back practices and passions that I can share with others.

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