Therapeutic Songwriting Workshops for Veterans, First Responders and Victims of Sexual Assault

Post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSS) is a mental health condition that’s triggered by experiencing it or witnessing a terrifying event. Symptoms may include flashbacks, nightmares, severe anxiety and uncontrollable thoughts about the event. Most people who go through traumatic events may have temporary difficulty adjusting and coping, but with time and good self-care, they usually get better, but the symptoms can get worse, last for months or even years, and interfere with day-to-day functioning.

The discussion about Post Traumatic Stress is linked to the history of combat. As American soldiers returned from overseas conflicts in WWI, (Shell shock) WWII, Korea, (Battle fatigue) Vietnam and most recently, the middle East, awareness of PTSS became more acute. Diagnosis of PTSS was soon after made in victims of crime, sexual assault (the largest number of PTSS diagnosis) and first responders, (Police, Fire and paramedics).

Those suffering from PTSS often find difficulty in communicating their experiences, an important part of their recovery, to friends, family and the medical community. However, communicating these experiences through music, the visual arts or in journals can often make the difference.

In 2014, the New Mexico Music Awards began producing therapeutic songwriting workshops for veterans. Songwriters were paired with those New Mexico veterans over the course of a day or a weekend to assist the vets in communicating their experiences both home and abroad. For many, this became a powerful and important process for those men and women who have served our country and find it difficult to process their emotional ties to their military service.

“Our goal is to build on the work done in Albuquerque which employs music as a healing therapy for veterans and expand it to include those victims of sexual assault and to first responders.”, says Jose Antonio Ponce of the New Mexico Music Awards. In addition to workshops, the NMMA also provides free guitar lessons for those who want to continue to use music as a therapeutic tool, including therapy for those suffering from Traumatic Brain Injury.

Groups are typically kept small (30 or less) and take place over the course of a day. The workshop is free to attendees. Veterans must provide proof of service (Military ID or DD214) and First responders must provide proof of current or past service. The program is privately funded, but sponsorships are always welcome. The New Mexico Music Awards is a privately-owned company and is not a non-profit (501C3) concern. A typical program schedule is as follows:

Therapeutic Songwriting for Veterans workshop.

The program will pair attendees with NMMA award winning songwriters and members of the Albuquerque Songwriters’ Cooperative.

Program Schedule

8:30 AM-Check In

9:00 AM Light breakfast and opening remarks. Introduction of participants.

Why are we here? Brief commentary from our veterans.

10:00 AM Group discussion

The participants discuss their experiences with PTSD with a clinical Psychologist as moderator.

11:00 AM Songwriting Workshop

A basic discussion about songwriting styles and communication through music.

12:00 PM Songwriter/Veteran pairings

We work together to put words and music to your experiences.

1:00 PM Lunch

2:00 PM Songwriting continues

4:00 PM Performance

 A brief recital of what we’ve accomplished so far.

5:00 PM Event close

Evaluation and preparation for the next event. Comments and questions.


For more information, to schedule a workshop for your group or for questions, contact us online at