According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the definition of empathy is: the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner.
I decided to explore this concept with a group of adolescents I work with through The Friendship Circle Miami. The inspiration for this came from The Mosaic Project, an incredible organization that works to promote a peaceful future by uniting young children of diverse backgrounds and exploring the concepts of empathy and tolerance.
They have an excellent collection of songs that I listen to in my car all the time AND use during my music therapy sessions. My favorites? “It’s All Right to Cry,” “Don’t Laugh at Me,” and “We Are the Mosaic.” But who am I kidding, they’re all fantastic and lend themselves to concepts that we address with our clients.
Since social skills are one of the main goal areas I target with this teen group, I used “The Empathy Song” as a springboard for lyric analysis and discussion. Here is the procedure I use during the music therapy session:
(Prior to the group – Create sheets with the song lyrics. Number each line of the song for easy reference during discussion.)
1) Sing “The Empathy Song” while the group follows along on the lyric sheet
2) Ask Discussion questions (listed below)
3) Sing “The Empathy Song” again and encourage the group to sing along
Discussion questions -
1) What did that song sound like to you?
- Fast, slow, medium?
- What style of music?
- What instruments did you hear?
- Did the song sound happy or sad?
2) Line 4 says “Put myself in your shoes?” Do you literally put yourself in someone else’s shoes? What does this expression really mean?
3) Line 11: What does empathy mean?
4) Do you think empathy will help us make friends?
5) If someone is making us mad, how can we use empathy to make the situation better?
I use these questions to lead into a discussion about empathy and making friends. Try it out with your group and leave me a comment below to let me know how it goes!
Was this post helpful? Looking for more inspiration for your adolescent groups? You’ll want to check out this resource ~ Tuneful Teens: Creative Ideas for Engaging Adolescents in Music Therapy. In it, I share MANY MORE ideas similar to this one, as well as activity templates and sheet music!