Music Therapy

Have you ever wondered why listening to music makes many of us feel at ease? According to Tashayla Williams, it’s because music therapy is real. Listen to learn more….

Dr. Omari: Hey, Hey, Hey, welcome to the Black Marriage and Family Therapy Matters Podcast, where we connect black families to black therapist. Today’s guest is Mrs Tashayla Williams Hi, Tashayla.

Tashayla Williams: Hi, how are you? Dr. Omari

Dr. Omari: I’m good. How are you?

Tashayla Williams: Great. Thank you so much for having me.

Dr. Omari: You’re very welcome. Let me tell our audience a little bit about you to Tashayla Williams is from Washington DC but currently resides in New York. Tashayla Williams is a nationally certified counselor, and a licensed mental health counselor. She has a BA in criminal justice, a BA in sociology, and a master’s in mental health counseling. She is currently a PhD candidate for human services. Tashayla has worked with individuals with disabilities abused and neglected teenagers, individuals with alcohol and substance abuse issues returning citizens, those who are incarcerated, couples, individuals, and groups. She is the founder of the offender to returning citizen, which is a transition program that utilizes that utilizes expressive art and music therapy, in a minimum to super maximum prison and the founder of Minority Minds Incorporated where she has launched Minority Minds Academy as she provides courses for the community and mental health professionals. Additionally, Tashayla is the author of Broke Entrepreneur, How to Start a Business with Little to No Money Lyrical Reflections of Childhood Trauma, and a CBT workbook, which is 50 Lyrical Reflections of Childhood Trauma Activities for Adults. Wow Tashayla , that is an awesome introduction and biography. Can you fill in the gaps? And tell us a little bit more about how you got started in this?

Tashayla Williams: Yes, absolutely. Um, well, I’ll start from the beginning, I, as soon as I graduated, with bachelor’s, I knew I wanted to do substance abuse counseling. I immediately got my trainee status, and I thought it was fun to get all these wonderful job opportunities ever. People wanted individuals with experience. So I would interview and I even had one interview where they told me, you know, we really young. Shouldn’t be we shouldn’t be great, but you look too much like them.

Dr. Omari: Wow, are you serious?

Tashayla Williams: I was told that and so that, that kind of sticks in my mind, because that just drove me more. So I ended up taking a job doing case management and, you know, group homes, while I waited for an opportunity to do substance abuse counseling. Then finally I got my opportunity. And it was in a maximum security prison. I had never been in a prison before. And I remember at least for the first two months, my husband was like, are you sure you like it? Are you sure you want to continue? But as soon as I stepped in, and I saw faces that look like me. I saw faces that look like we could have been my brother, people. And then in there, I belong there. Where I thought, like, wow, I’m being discriminated against. And oh, this is horrible. I needed to hear that to drive me to be to that point.

Dr. Omari:  Hmm.

Tashayla Williams: I’m sorry.

Dr. Omari: No, I just want to say that that’s that’s awesome insight. Because I know a lot of times it’s easy to have a, a stigma more or less about the prison population. And it’s refreshing to hear that you have a passion and also you’re breaking some of that stigma. Good job.

Tashayla Williams: Absolutely, yes, I definitely. The prison population actually helped me to hone in on my purpose. In substance abuse counseling, I found that a lot of the issues with substance abuse counseling was untreated mental health disorders. So I entered my master’s program while I was there, and I stayed in the prison system for some years throughout my master’s program. And, um, as soon as I graduated, I was my final semester, I ended up taking a course just to fill an elective and it was a professor who she went around asking people, okay, when you’re, when you have trauma, when you have pain, what do you do? So, myself and another students that will be listened to music and they say, Well, she said, Well sing your favorite song. What song would you listen to? And one of the students said on Beyonce, “I am here” so Oh, I love that song. She said sing it. So we just looked at each other and we were like, okay, we’re in class and you want us to sing. So we sung the song. You choose, like, how did you feel in that moment? So we begin, how we were feeling in the moment, he said, so when you’re experiencing trauma. when you’re experiencing dear, if you sing that song when my sick, like she just helped us, like, process it. And then she was like, welcome to music therapy.
Wow, I love that.

Tashayla Williams: It blew my mind because I was. That’s the type of therapy I wanted.

Dr. Omari: Absolutely.

Tashayla Williams: Yeah. And I was I was automatically thinking about just us as black people, African Americans, with this stigma of mental health, what will we gravitate to? And if somebody presented to me, in that way, I would be open to coming to therapy. However, if someone said, “Come sit on my couch and let’s talk about issues”

Dr. Omari: Right?

Tashayla Williams: Maybe, maybe not so much.

Dr. Omari: Right… Right

Tashayla Williams: So from there, I found my purpose.

Dr. Omari: Very good. So let me I don’t want to cut you. But I just want to reiterate what you said. So you’re saying that you can actually, you know, a lot of our culture is known for the way that we sing and dance and just the expressive arts. But you’re saying that there is a therapeutic value to that.

And absolutey. Very good. All right. Very good. I know, we’ve got some people who are going to appreciate hearing that awesome.

Tashayla Williams: Definitely, definitely. So yeah, so from there, I, um, as soon as I graduated, literally, the week after I graduated, I got my LLC. And this is where I knew I wanted to start a business, I started writing a curriculum to implement art and music therapy in the prison system. And so I had never written a grant in my life, I started Googling million dollar grants, I knew I wasn’t getting the million dollars, but I want to know what it looked like what it sounded like to get a million dollar grant. So um, this was, you know, in for those of you who are unfamiliar with when you are working towards licensure, they don’t tell you, there’s a period where you may have to, I had to start working at a point in order to get my clinical hours. So I had to have the conversation with my husband, like, Hey, I can’t work a little bit, I have to get these hours, but it’s going to be worth right. And so now I’m saying, I’m going to start a business. I know we don’t have the money, but it’s going to happen. Wow. So I wrote this grant, um, it was, um, July 2014, had never written the grant. And then, in August, actually September 1, sorry, September 1 2014, I received an email that Wells Fargo was giving me a check for 30,000 to start.

Dr. Omari: Oh, wow. Wow. Congratulations.

Tashayla Williams: Thank you, thank you. So it was it was it was really exciting, because you know, to have a thought, and have somebody understand, you know, how it’s going to be put into practice is based on for your words.

Dr. Omari: Um, was he Yeah, especially because of what you were trying to do. And so one of the things that I hope our audience can take from this is a lot of times, you know, we hear about entrepreneurship and businesses and things like that. A lot of times, we don’t think about the value of that in our community. And, and when we’re doing things like getting grants and things like that. A lot of times, we just don’t think about how thinking that it can be for us. So the fact that you’re out here, and do you do you go over that in any of your materials that I introduced earlier?

Tashayla Williams: Um, yes, um, actually, um, as we get to talking about the Academy, you mean, do I go over like, how to get like grants and stuff like that.

Dr. Omari: Do you have any resources or anything for us? Our audience? Okay, we’ll get to it. We’ll get okay. Yeah, well, why don’t we just go ahead and jump into that? Is that okay?

Tashayla Williams: Yes, not a problem. So, I have on MinorityMinds Academy. There, you can go online. And I wanted to give people a step by step guide, because a lot of what I experienced was like trial by fire. And not really having someone to ask about how do you do a Schedule C? How do you start an LLC? How do I make sure I’m writing off the right things? How do you write a grant who’s eligible for grant so I do have a course on my business one on one. It tells you about the difference between an LLC and a nonprofit that is literally showing you step by step from the from the point of conception of you having the idea, business plan if you need it. A lot of times people think you need to have a business plan. And I have to be honest, I have run several businesses. I have never written a business plan.

Dr. Omari: Wow. Wow.

Tashayla Williams: The plan. The plan, I guess was internal.

Dr. Omari: Right. You knew the plan. It was in your head?

Tashayla Williams: Yes. So we do our For a free business template just to get your ideas going, um, but I tell you step by step how to run a business, that course is $75. And let’s say that you decide that you want to write a grant proposal, you don’t know how we also have a grant writing course, which is 199 includes a free consultation with me, but tells you step by step. Like I said, from the point of I did conception to completion. And the course it may seem expensive, because I’m a broke entrepreneur. So I’m all about you know, making something worth your while. The Course… Just think about it in this way, you pay 199 for the course and the tools that I gave you, you can write a million dollar proposals.and possibly get a million dollar proposal. So we think about it in those terms. It’s really not a lot. So it’s not literally step by step yet. So those those are available on the website on

Dr. Omari: Okay, and I’ll put that in a footnote. So you don’t you don’t have to? Yeah, that’ll be available. Yeah. Yeah. Good, good, good.

Tashayla Williams: And vailable. I want to access them to understand, you know, they always say it takes money to make money. It does. But it doesn’t have to be your money.

Dr. Omari: That’s good. Very good. All right. Well, let’s go into some of the things that we wanted to talk about. So at the time of this recording, and I don’t mind sharing, we just getting the news about Briana Taylor. But 2020 has been a year of just some very, are you still there?

Tashayla Williams: Okay. The year of 2020 has been a big, I guess, has been a lot going on with respect to black lives and the value of of our life and just the trauma that I think a lot of us have undergone as it relates to being black and being constantly reminded that our lives are not as important, right? What do you wish black families knew about that?

Dr. Omari: So I want, I think we take a variety of approaches. We either take the approach of we knew this was going to happen anyway. Or we just become numb to it. And we don’t say anything. So the course that I created is a free course it will remain free, because I want people to access it. And to understand that you have to be strategic about how we support each other how we heal, and we have to keep discussing and keep talking. We can not say anything, because not saying anything is saying a lot. Absolutely, I want us to get together with our family. And even though we all may be feeling the same way. And and we know we’re feeling the same way. And I say anything having having to sit down and say you know what? I know I probably had a discussion with you about you know, sitting in the car and putting your hands on the steering wheel when you get pulled over. But this is where this young lady was sleeping? How? How do you prepare for that?

Tashayla Williams: So I think that we have to do is pivot and make a shift in this increase in feelings of self worth, increase feelings of love to say that we do not know what our life holds, just in general as human beings, but to live our life to the fullest, to love those who you know, are closest to us. And understand that, you know, those people don’t want to be held accountable, you know, whether you have a spiritual connection or not. For for me and my family, you know, I have to put it in God’s hands, because that’s the only way that makes sense to me. For you know, other people who may it may be a little bit more difficult, but to find understanding and the fact that none of this is our fault. We have to discuss it. There’s no way to prepare for this. The fact that they have to prepare for you know, stops or even interactions leads to terrible, but there’s no way to prepare for being sleeping your bed and being attacked. Absolutely.

Dr. Omari: Where do you see black families struggling when? You know, they know that like you said at the beginning with the prison system like this could be your husband, this could be your son or your daughter now as Breanna has shown us like where are we struggling as a as a people?

Tashayla Williams: I think I think we struggle With just staying connected, I’ve worked in the prison with both men and women. I have to say, you know, in a part of my story is eventually transitioning to Rikers Island. I know a lot of us are familiar with Rikers Island. I’ll just give you a picture of visiting day on busy day for the males. There’s 1000s of visitors they bussed them in is almost like a rite of passage. To have a minimum family member being incarcerated. Oh, you go and visit them on Saturday you make should vary. And we just kind of know, this is just how the system you know, works for women. I cannot I can maybe count and I worked on Rikers Island for almost four years. I can maybe count on one hand, how many times I saw visitors for women.

Dr. Omari: Wow, Wow. So I think that, number one, we have to stick together in terms of understanding our rights and justice. But that role, and I worked with 18 to 21 year olds on Rikers Island, Individual people flee because they were tired of sitting for three and four years, waiting for court dates. I think that we have to start educating just like we educate the ABCs we became about our rights, our responsibilities, I think that, you know, we need to be more in tune with the law. Being connected, having a lawyer is just as important as having a PCP for us. Yeah, because there’s lots of things that we do not know, and that a lot of us are in there simply because of that. So I think we fall short, in the area of just like not having the knowledge and not staying connected with each other, and, um, and accepting the history that they’ve created for us, and then the incarceration. And that’s not what we represent.

Dr. Omari: What advice would you give our listeners who continuously feel hopeless, about what we’re seeing in our community, and the police?

Tashayla Williams: um, I would say to find, find a way for you to connect with the situation in a healthy manner. I know that, for example, when they began protesting for George Ford, and Breonna Taylor, and it was in the midst of COVID I’m, I’m very active, I’m from DC. So if something occurs, you go to the White House, you march you riot, like, that’s just a part of what you do. However, with COVID, and living in New York, and before COVID, or during COVID, I actually experienced pneumonia, I didn’t get COVID. But of course, had to, like Watch out for like health stuff. I found myself feeling defeated and feeling hopeless, because it’s like, I know what I would do. But you know, I, you know, I feel kind of stuck, because I don’t want to put myself at risk, but I want to contribute to this cause. So I would say, find a way for you to contribute to the narrative of hope and healing. What I did was, I created “Music Therapy Monday’s” a time when we were marching and writing. Um, you know, I was able to have local artists come on, sing songs of hope, of, you know, encouragement, and then related to mental health and give people the options. They were filling in the moment. And for me, that was my contribution. And I posted it on social media. So that was my contribution to the world. And it made me feel like I wasn’t defeated. So for the person who feels hopeless, I will say find what that thing is for you to contribute to the situation because there’s always something whether, whether small whether it’s, in my mind, I was like, Well, I’m just going to stand on my sidewalk, and you know, hold a sign and you know, maybe that would but for me, that wasn’t enough. But I eventually I did get a chance to drive home and I saw there was no one on the street. So I was able to, you know, kind of, kind of be a part of it, but to find what that thing is for you. I would say to contribute, but the thing I would say to not do is not don’t do nothing. So even if it’s, I need to write down my feelings in the moment. Last night, I just had a session where I just listened to music all night, because that was my way to interpret. So whatever it is, whatever that thing is for you find it, find something for you, but don’t do nothing.

Dr. Omari: Very good. I like that. I like that. So what are you know, you said, find something to do? Don’t do nothing. I guess that goes into our my next question. Because, you know, can you give people resources, like 123 resources that they could rely on to do something? Because a lot of times, we know that we’re hurting. And I mean, we like this issue. We did do something. We protested. We wore shirts. We donated. We did everything. And still, there was nothing. Yeah, what are some mental? You mentioned the music thing. Let’s talk. Can we talk a little bit more about that resource? Because I think a lot of people, a lot of black people, of course, listen to music, they see music, they make music, but they don’t really realize that is therapeutic. So can we start with that resource that maybe you can add to that?

Tashayla Williams: Yep. So in our free course that we have online, I provide six different activities for families, for individuals to do, you can do it with yourself, your friends, your family, one of those activities is to create a crisis playlist.

Dr. Omari: Mm hmm.

Tashayla Williams: So the crisis playlist is, and I recommend you do this not during the crisis, but prior to the crisis. What are some songs, it doesn’t matter what mood I’m in, puts me in a good mood. So let’s say you have your mother, the mother and the father, son and daughter, everybody puts together a list. So in that moment, let’s say, we just found out a news of Breonna Taylor.

Dr. Omari: Mm hmm.

Tashayla Williams: So mom, then put speaker on plays the crisis playlist, not only communicate, remember, we sat down and we did this together, I want you to feel happy, we’re going to have a discussion. But in this moment, I need to provide some non verbal communication to you that we’re in this together. So I also provide my personal playlists, some of my personal playlist as a part of the Authority Conflict, trauma course. So I say you can use these playlists, you know, or create your own among the family, I do recommend create, you know, among the family, because the activity itself, just you know, it just provides a memory and a reminder of, you know, what you guys created together and to communicate what you’re trying to do in that moment. So that’s one of the things Yes,
I like that. Well, it’s actually two things because it sounds like you’re talking about your course. Sounds like you’re talking about music therapy. Um, so I think those are really, really great resources for our audience. Thank you for that. Uh, huh. Is there a common myth or narrative or limiting belief that you’d like to dispute for us that that you feel that we’re telling ourselves?

Dr. Omari: Yeah, okay. We’re telling ourselves that I don’t want to go to therapy, because I don’t want people all in my business. And I think that that’s something that has hurt the black community for so long. They end it because we have experienced cattiness people talking behind your back, you tell a friend a secret. And then you know, next thing you know, everyone else knows about it, or you tell a family member something and then the whole family knows and calling you and telling you about your business. I think we should educate ourselves about what it means to have a therapist. And when that means is you get someone who is not only bound to ethical obligations. But specifically, you know, there is I’ve had the pleasure of encountering encountering so many wonderful, wonderful black therapists who are very passionate about making sure that we have the supports that we need. So these therapists, they, they take accountability and they they really understand the need for someone to come in, be able to tell their problems, be able to develop a plan and be able to know that it doesn’t go anywhere. So I want us to know that it’s different than talking to your friend, it may be talking to your friend. But talking with a therapist is not talking to your friend. It’s about writing something down in a human diary and going nowhere between them.

Tashayla Williams: Wow. That’s exactly right. That’s exactly how I would would describe therapy. All right, well, well, thank you. Thank you for your feedback. So now we’re at a point in the show that we call “What’s Good.” And it’s part of the show where we apply information that you shared with us to our listeners in a hypothetical situation. Okay, are you ready?

Dr. Omari: Okay.

Tashayla Williams: Meet TyShawn. TyShawn is a 15 year old African American boy who is in high school. With all of the shootings of men who look like him black men who look like him, he is terrified that he may be in a situation where he might be confronted by the the police. He knows that his parents have taught him how to be respectful, and how to respond to a legal situation. But he’s still very much afraid. to make matters worse, with COVID-19. And stereotypes about black boys in general, he doesn’t feel supported by the school counselor. How would you advise to TyShawn, to get help?

Dr. Omari: This is interesting, it actually sounds very similar to modern scenarios that we utilize in the course. And I would say, number one, in terms of TyShawn it’s important for him to not do this alone. Oh, I think that he should, number one, um, inform his family. And I think this school counselor may be someone who’s comfortable, I think he should also, if he’s uncomfortable with the school counselor, I think he should speak with his family about seeking someone on the outside so that that person can advocate for him. Just going back to the minutes, I think another myth is that a lot of times people say they don’t like their people, because they had a bad therapy experience. Um, people don’t realize that you can choose your therapist, you don’t have someone who makes you uncomfortable, who does not understand you, who does not connect with, you have to have someone who can with you and understand you, you feel comfortable with, if he’s feeling uncomfortable with the school counseling, school counselors are kind of fixed. So it’s not like you can change them, I would suggest that maybe he seek therapy outside of that, that he’s able to process, you know, it may him It may be as simple as you know, there being a misunderstanding, but in this moment, um, I think they, you know, he should process that with someone on the outside. And then he didn’t gravitate to understanding or exploring with his family, with assistance of his new therapist about how to utilize the school therapist as an additional support. But I really feel like and we and we know, you know, we know who we mesh well with, and who we don’t even as children know who we mess well with. And I think that a myth and something that you know, touch on should consider is exploring someone who connects with him better.


Dr. Omari: Very good. Very good. All right. Well, Tashayla, it’s been a pleasure interviewing you today. You certainly bring a wealth of knowledge. I’ve certainly been inspired by your feedback. Today, I’m certain our listeners will as well. I want to just make sure that you’ve given our audience enough information about where they can find you and how they connect with how they can connect with you online.

Tashayla Williams: Not a problem. We are on Instagram @Minority Minds Inc. Our website is also My phone number is on there. My emails whenever you can contact me directly. I usually respond fairly quickly. So definitely get in contact. If you have any questions. We feel like it’s something we need to add. We definitely want to have things that are contributing to the community ongoing.

Dr. Omari: Very good. All right to Tashayla, thank you very much. It’s been a pleasure meeting with you today. All right. You have an amazing day.

Tashayla Williams: You too. Thank you so much.

Dr. Omari: You’re welcome.

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