Ep. 148: Applying music’s healing powers to the challenge of eating disorders, with Annie Heiderscheit,PhD, MT-BC, LMFT

Can music help with eating disorder recovery?

Photo by Kat Smith on Pexels

Eating disorders are complex, involving both physical and mental layers. Dr. Annie Heiderscheit explains why music therapy is especially effective in treating and healing eating disorders. Music is a portal that provides access – for the therapist and the patient – to feelings, perceptions, and perspectives; and is a vehicle for communication and integrating change.


My guest today is Dr. Annie Heiderscheit, Director of Music Therapy and Associate Professor at Augsburg University, right here in Minneapolis. Annie has been a board-certified music therapist for 32 years and is also licensed as a Marriage & Family Therapist. She has authored over 70 peer-reviewed articles, 40 book chapters, and three books based on her clinical work and research. An expert on Music Therapy within the context of Eating Disorders, she has authored a book titled, Creative Arts Therapies and Clients with Eating Disorders. I learned about her work through a listener – shoutout to Karin Vaccaro!

Annie Heiderscheit, PhD, MT-BC, LMFT


We discuss:

  • What is an eating disorder (ED)?
  • Increases in the incidence of ED (nationally and globally) in recent decades, and the demographics most affected.
  • The complexity involved in facing the challenge of an eating disorder.
  • Why is music therapy especially effective in treating and healing eating disorders? And what are some specific examples of how music can be used in this healing process?
  • Music therapy (and other arts-based therapies) are especially effective when combined with traditional forms of therapy (primarily talk-based therapies). Annie is both a board-certified music therapist and a licensed Marriage & Family Therapist. She explains what led her to become a licensed therapist in addition to a music therapist.
  • Annie shares a powerful story about the power of song in one of her group classes.
  • Quote from a client: “During a HealthRHYTHMS session serving people facing the challenges of eating disorders, a participant said “While we were playing together and creating music, my eating disorder was not present. How great it feels to have time away from it”.”
  • Clients do NOT have to have a musical background to benefit from music therapy. The goal of music therapy is not musicianship or advanced musical skills.
  • Music’s value in expressing an eating disorder experience.
  • Music’s value in communicating to others one’s eating disorder experience.

Connect/Other Resources

Books Annie has edited and co-authored:

Publications of Annie’s clinical work and research are published in various journals such as:

  • Journal of the American Medical Association
  • Critical Care Medicine
  • Arts in Psychotherapy
  • Approaches: Interdisciplinary Journal of Music Therapy
  • Music Therapy Perspectives
  • Journal of Integrative & Complementary Medicine
  • Music & Medicine
  • International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
  • Clinical Trials
  • Arts Education Policy Review
  • Dimensions of Critical Care Nursing
  • American Journal of Critical Care
  • Music Therapy Today
  • Contemporary Clinical Trials
  • European Journal of Health, Psychology, & Education Heart & Lung

Other resources:

Other episodes we mentioned or that you may enjoy:

In-Episode Promo

Arts for the Health of It podcast


Annie shares: “Music holds many meanings for me. Music is a powerful tool and resource that I use to foster healing in my work as a therapist. Music expresses our deepest experiences and feelings, it connects us to others, it fosters a sense of community. Music holds this unique capacity all around the world.

“Music is a resource I use in my own life as well. I use music to express joy, sorrow, manage stress, foster sleep, to make cleaning feel less mundane, to connect more deeply with my faith, and to connect with others. Music holds many functions in our lives and we can encounter and interact in and with music in many ways. We can listen to music, sing and play it, compose it and improvise or make music in the moment.

“We all have the capacity to be musical beings. Music is at our fingertips and so accessible to us to use in our everyday lives. Music connects us to moments and memories in our lives and can be what researchers call a ‘social surrogate’. Listening to or singing a favorite song can feel like connecting with a friend or loved one.

“If you are curious about all of what music can do and is doing around the world read, “Music as a Global Resource: Solutions for Social and Economic Issues.” This publication provide by the United Nations is a plethora of information and examples of how music and music therapy are being utilized all around the world to address health, community, and socio-economic issues.”

Closing Words

Thank you SO much to Annie for sharing her expertise with us today; this was such an uplifting and inspiring conversation. I hope that if you or a loved one is experiencing an eating disorder-related challenge, that this conversation was encouraging for you and gave you more understanding about the powerful tool music can be in your health & wellbeing toolbox.

As always, there are lots of links in the show notes to resources discussed in this episode. You’ll also find a list of related episodes you may enjoy.

All Enhance Life with Music episodes are evergreen; so check out the back catalogue for more ways that music can make your life better.

If you know of someone who would enjoy this episode, please share it with them! It’s easy to do right in your podcast listening app – just look for your app’s “Share” function to share by text, email, or social media. And of course you can always share the show notes webpage as well.

You can always connect with me on email (mindy@mpetersonmusic.com), Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or LinkedIn.

Thank you so much for joining me today. Until next time, may your life be enhanced with music.

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