Recap of June 16, 2022 Abortion Healing Provider Webinar

Introduction

Music has the unique ability to speak to us in a way that connects to our deepest emotions, as such, music can be healing for those dealing with trauma and grief. Support After Abortion has licensed two songs from Music for the Soul with related course content and created a journal for client reflection. CEO Lisa Rowe, LCSW, together with our guests, Steve Siler and Greg Hasek, MA/MFT, led this month’s webinar discussing how abortion healing providers can incorporate music in their healing programs.

Our Guests

Steve Siler is a professional songwriter with a lengthy career first writing music for TV and then for contemporary Christian recording artists. He is the founder and director of Music for the Soul, a multi-award winning Christian not-for-profit that creates music to help people in recovery or going through difficult life circumstances. Steve is a Dove Award winning singer with over 500 recorded songs. He is the author of three books, the latest being a devotional entitled Twenty-Three, based on the Twenty-Third Psalm. 

Greg Hasek, MA/MFT, is a licensed counselor for 18 years who incorporates music into caring for some of his patients. He is the Executive Director of Southwest Florida Christian Counseling, a non-profit counseling agency. Greg specializes in sexual addiction, PTSD within the couple relationship, male specific trauma, and the impact abortion trauma has on men and women. He is an expert on identifying how unresolved male trauma is often at the root of many addictions and on how abortion affects men. 

The Story Behind the Music

“My songs that had been attached to issues of pain, I didn’t intentionally write for that, but it just wound up happening,” Steve said, “I felt there was a gap – a void if you will – because I had seen so much pain and seen the power of song to provide healing for people struggling with difficult issues.”

Steve shared that he thought, “What if someone got up every day and made it their purpose to look at issues of pain that were not being addressed through song and intentionally worked to do that.”

He continued, “With the issue of abortion remorse, I thought, there’s so much here that’s not being talked about. It seems like I’m hearing about it all the time, but all I’m hearing is arguing from polar opposite sides, and the people who’ve actually been wounded by it aren’t even being addressed, so I felt if we could help with songs, that would be a blessing.”

Steve recounted attending a concert for which he had written the songs and meeting a woman who had an abortion healing prayer ministry. This intial encounter with the idea of abortion healing immediately inspired him to write his first song on the topic, We Forgive You, which appeared in his Mercy Great Enough project.

Steve and Greg had known each other well at that time and Greg was already using some of Steve’s projects in his counseling practice. Steve said, “When I began to look at doing a full-length project on this, he was my go-to consultant, insisting we not leave the men out, of course, but also in making sure that we hit all the target specific issues that needed to be addressed on the project.”

Why Use Music in Therapy?

Greg said that he and Steve “share a heart for healing music.” Greg explained that he had learned through counseling men that words were not enough. 

“In graduate school we learned to talk to people about their trauma, but I realized in working with men, that’s not effective,” Greg said, “Men are defensive. Trauma causes people to develop walls of survival…they wall off their memories of trauma and emotions of trauma.” 

Greg shared, “Before YouTube was around, I developed PowerPoint presentations creating slides with music clips that I showed my clients. Through the process of visuals and music with different topics – at the time mostly sex addiction issues – I was able to get beyond the wall a man had when he was sitting in front of me.”

“In graduate school, I was taught that talk therapy is most effective to get to trauma,” Greg continued, “But, through my practice, I discovered that because trauma is stored in the right brain, music was a much more effective tool to get to those areas of trauma versus just words.”

Steve added, “That’s because melody is processed in the right hemisphere of the brain.”

“If I show them a video with music, the men’s defenses come down,’ Greg expounded, “They think, ‘This guy’s not trying to challenge me. He’s trying to get to some of my emotions that I’ve not dealt with my whole life.’ It’s really powerful.”

Greg shared an anecdote of talking with a client recently who came in very defended about the pro-choice position and the right to a woman’s body. Greg knew she was coming from a place of trauma. He explained he was going to show her a song with a video and would like her to share with him her thoughts. 

“As I was watching her watch the song, tears started coming down her face, and she started to cry,” Greg said, ‘All of the defenses because of her previous trauma started to come down by watching this video and music, and now, we could talk about her pain as a pro-choice woman. There’s no way I could have done it just through words. It was a very powerful experience.”

Steve commented that “many therapists have told me they have clients who haven’t been able to talk for literally years about abuse or trauma, and they play one song, and the tears are like this speed of light thing.”

“There’s no defense against that because of where music goes,” Steve said, “It goes right under the door or through the cracks in your wall or whatever, and opens up that heart. Then, once you open up that heart, you can put that message in. 

He explained, “Melody is a memory device. People remember 90% of what they hear in songs as opposed to 10% of what they’re told. That’s why advertisers sing to us about toilet bowl cleansers and beer and all sorts of things. But we can harness that power to sing a healing message to somebody. And if they hear it in a song, they’re going to have a much harder time forgetting it. So, you want to speak truth, life, and healing words into those wounded hearts once you get that opening that then they can carry with them.”   

New Resource:  Music as a Bridge to Abortion Healing

Lisa introduced Karin Barbito, Special Projects Manager for Support After Abortion, to describe the new abortion healing resource that came about as a result of what Greg and Steve shared.

Karin laughed and said, “I gotta be really honest and say I wasn’t a believer at first. I thought this is not going to work. But, I’m converted because what we’ve been able to develop is exactly what we’re talking about. It’s another option for a client or someone working with a client to use in order to help people get in touch with their feelings and emotions.”

I’ll be the first to admit, I shoved my abortion down and I didn’t think about it for years,” Karin shared, “When we’ve facilitated groups, we’ve experienced that it does take quite a while for people to connect with their emotions depending on how big, how deep that wall is they’ve built.”

She explained, “Steve sent over a whole curriculum from his project Mercy is Great Enough that Greg had been instrumental in developing. We took a look at them and decided to test it out. We picked out a couple songs to have on our learning platform and created a pretty journal to go with it to test as a proof of concept.”

“We haven’t even rolled it out yet, and over 70 people have already accessed it on our site without our even promoting it or telling anyone about it,” Karin said, “That, to me, is a win. We haven’t even told people about it yet, and somehow they found it. I’m super excited to share it with you.”

Support After Abortion Learning Platform

Karin shared her screen to walk attendees through the new Support After Abortion Learning Platform. She showed the Client Healing Center side with six options: 

She scrolled through the Music as a Bridge to Abortion Healing, played one of the songs, Hidden Things by Music for the Soul, and showed the accompanying Journal which people can write down their thoughts and feelings after listening to the songs as a way to process through their pain. 

How to Use Music as a Bridge to Abortion Healing

Greg shared that in his Christian counseling practice, “I take guys back to the Garden of Eden where shame began and God said, “Where are you Adam?”

“Because I work a lot with addictions and abortion, I connect [guys] to the reality that shame has been there since the beginning, and men have been hiding since the beginning and how can we come out of hiding,” Greg said, “Then I might play [Hidden Things].”

He shared that he’s been using music in therapy for 20 years. He said he has all of Steve’s products plus others. He explained that he selects songs for certain stages of healing. For example, if they are focused on forgiveness or shame, he might use the song, Your Life has Made a Difference. He told providers that the more they use music, the more intuitive it will become knowing what songs to use for a particular issue and the timing of when to use them.

Lisa shared that “Support After Abortion has worked to integrate songs into the weekly sessions for Keys to Hope and Healing.” Karin suggested using Your Life Has Made a Difference during Celebrations of Life in abortion healing programs because it talks about bringing dignity to the child’s life. Lisa advised providers to give virtual support group clients the link to the song they want to play, so they can listen on their own devices to avoid bandwidth and streaming issues. Each can mute themselves, listen privately, then unmute for discussion.

Steve offered other ways to incorporate the songs into abortion healing programs. He said, “I hear from therapists that song can be a great way to introduce a topic, and also a way to follow up a discussion as a way to reinforce the message and be that memory piece – like Your Life Has Made a Difference where the singer is realizing their child’s life made a difference even though lost to an abortion decision.”

Greg shared that when working with couples, he will sometimes have them hold hands while a song is playing and provide time for reflection and ask one simple process question afterwards, like What was that like for you? Then be silent. He said, “You’d be surprised what comes out of the discussion with that one question.”

Steve elaborated, “Music expresses the inexpressible, and in the silence that Greg is talking about, feelings are being processed that may not be able to be put into words quickly, but there’s processing going on, and making room for that is something music can do, also.”

Using Songs with Men

Karin shared that Support After Abortion is going to develop or get Men’s songs, along with creating a journal, and packaging them for men noting that “for every abortion there is a man involved who has been impacted, whether they know it or not.”

Greg said he had suggested two main topic areas for songs for guys. He shared, “The most inspiring song that I helped Steve develop was I Wasn’t There. That came from my work with men feeling like they abandoned their partner and their child at the abortion clinic and the healing process that has to happen. When a guy says to his partner or spouse, ‘I wasn’t there for you, and I acknowledge that and how can we heal together,’ that song has been very powerful in my counseling.”

Steve shared the experience a female counselor relayed to him from her work with couples who have been through an abortion. “She talked about playing the song I Wasn’t There for a wife and husband who were having trouble talking to each other about it. The man had never really talked about it or opened up about it. She said that as they…got further into the song, she saw his hand inching toward his wife, and by the time the song was over, he was holding her hand. After the song ended, they talked together. It was the first time he had ever spoken with her about it.”

“Musical tastes differ. On the Mercy Great Enough project, some songs are more of a country flavor sung by a man, one is more pop rock sung by a man – that was deliberate. It’s a matter of a therapist knowing the right time for the right song,” Steve said, “For that couple, that was the moment that broke the ice for them and got them started talking together. And I checked with the therapist, that couple made it. They’re still together several years later.”

Greg said, “I use a lot of the women’s music. It’s an interesting way to access a male’s empathic responses to their partner. Then I use questions like What do you think that was like for your wife as she was going through that experience? or Do you want to say something to your wife right now, now that you have more empathy? You’d be surprised at how a man can get empathy by listening to a song that he’s never connected with before – or about what the woman might have experienced.”

Steve mentioned the Somebody’s Daughter video project on healing from sex addiction. In the song Is it me?, a woman is singing about rejection, asking Is it something wrong with me that you’d chose pornography? 

Greg explained, “I have a guy listen to that song. He’ll say, ‘That sounds like my wife when she’s screaming at me.’ I’ll ask, “But, what is that like for her in those moments to say ‘Is it me? And can you communicate to your wife now what that must be like for her in an empathetic way, all the rejection she’s feeling, sadness she’s feeling.’ You’d be surprised how it gets [the men] there.”

One of the male abortion healing providers attending the webinar said, “I Wasn’t There sounds like a real winner.”  He asked Steve, “In my own experience with Father’s Day triggering me, I was wondering if you’ve ever thought about writing a song for Father’s Day [like Another Mother’s Day].” 

Steve reflected that whenever they write a song from a certain perspective, they are asked about creating a song for the other perspective. He said “My heart would love to write and record every day, but we have to make choices.” He explained that Another Mother’s Day was written by two women sharing their experiences, and when he heard it, he knew he needed to share it.

“If you listen to Another Mother’s Day, I think, as a father, everything it references would resonate with you because the experiences the mother is talking about – okay, now you’d be 35 and what would that be like – you’re going to have had similar reflections as a father,” Steve said, “I would be curious for you to listen and let me know how you receive it.” The provider said he would listen and email his thoughts to Steve.

Another provider commented, “Based on mine and my husband’s own healing journey, the title alone I Wasn’t There is a profoundly powerful statement. I will play it for my husband and share his thoughts (with his permission, of course). We both want to see couples heal from their abortions and other relationship fracturing.”

Songwriting Method

Steve explained, “On every project, we do a lot of research, spend a lot of time talking to people, hearing their stories, a lot of time reading, talking to people who counsel on the issue, and we let the folks who’ve lived it and who counsel it… approve our content before we record.”

“Whenever we go to write, I always pray the same prayer,” He continued, ”’Lord, we know the target that we are feeling called to aim at. But, we also know that You know where each and every song is going to go and each and every person who’s going to hear it, and we don’t know that.’ So, I always pray that the songs are specific enough to resonate with the lived experience of the listener, but open enough that they might go somewhere else.“

Steve shared what he called a perfect example of this phenomenon in the first two responses they received when they did the More Beautiful project for breast cancer survivors. 

“A lady who was a throat cancer survivor who had been ashamed of her scar said that song made her throw away all of her turtlenecks. Well, I didn’t write a song about throat cancer, right?”

“Another woman wrote and said she’d had a miscarriage, and hearing the song More Beautiful enabled her to not hate her body anymore.”

Steve shared another example:

“There’s a song on Mercy Great Enough called Stain Upon My Heart, and I was specifically writing about the stain of abortion on somebody’s heart and the feeling that they could never be washed clean, and we want them to know that that’s not true, that again – there’s Mercy Great Enough. But the truth of the matter is that whatever the stain may be, whatever it is in your past that you feel like is beyond the pale and God could never forgive, that stain can be washed clean, too.”

Steve invited the providers to browse his Music for the Soul website and “as you go around the website, there may be a song that wasn’t even about abortion healing in my mind when I wrote it, and you’ll hear it, and [think a particular client] really needs to hear that. It might be on a completely different project, because, let’s face it, abortion remorse is grief. So, we have lots of songs about remorse, and grief, and sorrow in all the topics that we deal with. So, I invite you to use your imagination. And, like Greg said, once you start thinking like this, you’ll realize that there are songs you can cherry pick when you hear something and think someone needs to hear that message…Abortion loss is grief and other songs will fit.”

Greg mentioned that before Steve’s music addressing the abortion issue, he used a secular rap song Happy Birthday by Flipsyde, an African-American singer with abortion in his history. “That song has 10 million views on YouTube and we’ve used that over the years…it was our only men’s song back then.” He said it has been great to integrate some Christian music in his practice. 

Clinical Usage Guidance

In answer to a provider’s question about how to handle a situation where a song brings up powerful emotions the client isn’t ready to deal with, Greg explained, “I have a process I go through before I even touch trauma…I’m working on coping skills, addiction recovery, staying sober, healing trauma with a spouse, PTSD. I’m doing all this work before I even get to touch the abortion issue or the abuse issue or whatever is there in their past.” He discussed the stages of developing the therapeutic relationship and assessing when they are ready to address the issue, then using songs at the right time along those stages when it’s appropriate.

Self-Guided Use

“For the longest time, I was not a fan of having people do things self-guided for that very reason,” Karin said, “We know that the process of going through abortion healing is emotionally painful. And when you get to the What If stage – when you’re replaying what happened in your head – that’s a dangerous place to stay. As a facilitator we want to make sure that they don’t get stuck there, that they continue through the grief and loss process.”

She continued, “I’m starting to change my mind because we’re finding more and more people don’t want us to know who they are, they want to be able to do things anonymously. And the only way that we’ve been able to figure out how to allow them to do it completely anonymously is to have something on our website that they can go to completely anonymously.”

Karin said, “They have the ability to hit the pause button any time they want. All over our site we have information to call or text the HOPE Line, a contact form, inviting them to reach out if they’d like to talk to someone about what they’re processing through.”

Lisa added, “We want to make sure we always follow our clients, never push them into places they can’t or don’t want to enter into.”

“Abortion healing can often be healing a wound,” Lisa said, “When we’re addressing wounds, we need to think of them in a clinical manner.  When we’re walking alongside someone to grow and strengthen, it’s more of a coaching model. It’s always important that we stay present to our client’s needs.”

Accessing Music for the Soul Songs

Karin explained, “Support After Abortion has entered into a licensing agreement with Steve for one year, so however may people want to listen to [the songs] on our website can.

She also gave information about downloading songs directly from the Mercy Great Enough page on Steve’s Music for the Soul website. The songs are downloadable  individually for $1.29. The whole record is downloadable for $11.97. Steve has created a discount code (SAA) for our abortion healing providers to receive 15% off.

“If you’re counseling or working with clients, once you download a song, it’s yours to use with unlimited clients,” Steve said, “Our heart is that people be served. We didn’t create this stuff so it could be hidden away, so if you’ve got somebody who needs that song, and you downloaded it, and you play it for them, and tomorrow someone else needs it, you go ahead and play it for them. That’s what they’re for.”

“If you want to put our songs on your website, please ask and pay the small license fee,” he requested.

Steve added, “It’s kind of the wild, wild west out there. It’s really the honor system at this point. We’re a small nonprofit, records are expensive, and videos even more expensive. So, we appreciate it when people pay.”

Providers’ Reception to Music as a Bridge to Abortion Healing

The reception to this new resource among the abortion healing providers in attendance was immediately positive. Comments included:

“This is amazing! Excellent work! Very impressive!”

“I am thankful that you are acknowledging the value of music therapy in support after abortion.”

“Such great work!”

“A great addition to the abortion healing movement! Music has played a wonderful role in our retreats, especially Rachel’s Vineyard.”

“Such a wonderful tool!”

“This will be wonderful to add to our healing ministry.”

“I am always enriched and encouraged by the work of Support After Abortion – always learn something new!”

“Thank you so much for today’s information. Today’s presentation was excellent.”

Future Music Projects

“Hopefully these two songs will take off,” Lisa said, “and we can get some forward momentum, so we can build out more music, maybe change up some of the tunes to be more relevant or relatable.” 

“We really believe in this project,” she continued, “So we hope you take this back, and share your feedback with us, so we can continue to grow it and make it really powerful for those who need healing – in Support After Abortion fashion – providing options, so it’s not just a single way to healing.”

To connect with Steve Siler, Greg Hasek, Lisa Rowe, or Karin Barbito, email providers@supportafterabortion.com

Watch the video of this webinar. 

Register for next month’s Abortion Healing Provider Webinar.