The Scoop: Getting over a relationship breakup is like a full-time job that follows you wherever you go — including work and other public places where you need to be in a good headspace. Spiritune is an iOS music app that applies clinical music therapy principles to composition and playlist design, transitioning listeners from a current to a desired emotional state. Music is a powerful medium to evoke and convey emotion. Spiritune uses music to help people struggling with stress, anxiety, and depression get to where they need and want to be.

Today, we can listen to music whenever and wherever we want. The mainstream apps provide millions of tracks and personalized playlists on demand. It’s natural for many to use music to entertain, motivate, connect, and pass the time.

But the apps don’t much consider what happens when you’re too distracted, stressed, or depressed to meet your responsibilities and enjoy life. For example, difficult relationship breakups send many into spirals of despair that make working and even existing almost too much to handle.

Mainstream music apps are great at what they do, but their algorithms don’t have the science behind them to effectively change your frame of mind. Many dealing with breakups or other stressors turn to Spiritune, a music app that uses clinical therapy principles to help channel negative emotions into positive ones.

Founder and CEO Jamie Pabst created Spiritune almost by destiny. Jamie’s mother became deaf when she was pregnant with her, leading Jamie to take an early interest in how the brain’s ability to receive auditory signals contributes to our quality of life.

Jamie’s older sister later majored in music therapy in college. Jamie learned about her sister’s little-known academic field, which explores the intersection of music and health and how music functions in clinical settings for neurological illnesses.

Jamie then faced mental health struggles, anxiety, and stress early in her career. She tried to soothe herself with music because of her background and because you can discreetly listen to music at work. But haphazardly sorting through playlists didn’t do the trick.

Spiritune is the result. Spiritune replaces the algorithmic playlists of modern apps with a selection of personalized music scientifically designed to transform the psyche.

“Music is one of the fastest conductors of emotion,” Jamie said. “My struggles got me thinking about bringing music therapy principles into an app.”

Therapeutic Principles Guide Music Curation

Some breakups are casual, and moving on is easy. But the fallout can be profound when a breakup cuts to a person’s core. Life and responsibilities continue, but everything seems flat and unimportant.

Algorithmic music from a mainstream app can seem offensive when it’s not tuned to your mood and curated to try to help you manage your emotions. A bouncy dance tune is exactly what you don’t want to hear when you’re feeling low.

Spritune fixes that by building custom playlists from music designed to access the science-backed effects on brain functions. The app’s principles include one of music therapy’s foundations, the iso principle.

spiritune how to use
Spiritune is simple to use and has a calming interface.

“To transition somebody’s mood or emotion, you first have to match the music to their current state and then transition it with different musical features to help them reach their target state,” Jamie said. “The iso principle is all about the journey, about meeting you where you are and helping you get where you want to go.”

Another music therapy principle, neural entrainment, backs the iso principle by understanding that the body’s rhythmic processes respond to auditory stimuli. That means our body responds to the beat of a song. We truly feel the music.

Most people know how a song can almost compel the body to move. Music therapists hold that neural entrainment goes beyond the body’s motor functions to encompass breath rate, heart rate, and even brainwave state. Those neural entrainments aren’t as obvious, but they’re just as crucial to how music (when programmed through the iso principle) transforms emotions.

“It’s well researched that the beat or tempo of a song can modulate our breath rate and therefore our heart rate,” Jamie said. “Spiritune’s ability to construct a playlist based on shifting tempo can really improve your stress levels.”

Personalization Based on Your Emotions and Cognitive State

Jamie said the classic use case for Spiritune is at work. We spend most of our waking hours at work, yet it’s where mental health feels least accessible.

But Spirtune works everywhere. Whether out and about or at home, turning to a playlist is a popular solution to elevating one’s mood, gaining focus, or winding down. Spiritune’s playlists of carefully composed music use the iso principle and neural entrainment to make listening far more therapeutic than mainstream music apps.

Spiritune identifies the top 20 emotions most commonly felt daily, ranging from low to high arousal and negative to positive valence, meaning desirability. The app arranges them in an XY-axis. Depression, boredom, and fatigue are examples of low-arousal, negative-valence emotions.

Users choose where they are emotionally on the axis. The app then moves them from negative to positive emotions and — depending on their goals — choose a higher- or lower-energy state.

“If you’re in the waking up category, you’re probably looking to activate, but if you’re in the working category, you want to find focus and clarity of function,” Jamie said. “There’s also a winding down category for deep relaxation and a sleep category.”

Those choices enable Spiritune to personalize precisely, using the iso principle, to meet users where they are and transition them to where they want to go according to the cognitive state they want to achieve.

Spiritune can help you manage the negative emotions that come with breakups.

Music app personalization usually sticks to artists and genres, creating esoteric playlist themes like Spotify’s RapCaviar. Spiritune creates therapeutic value through personalization features that yield more positive results.

“We have a self-survey within the app that asks users whether they reached their desired outcome,” Jamie said. “Among thousands of users worldwide, the survey yields in the 90th percentile of people saying they achieved that. That tells us our personalization is strong.”

Music as Medicine to Feel and Perform Better

Many use Spiritune to manage emotions and focus at work. But the app has various use cases extending far beyond that.

Jamie said one student suffering from severe ADHD was able to reduce her Adderall intake by 50% in less than two weeks by using Spiritune. People with PTSD, depressive thoughts, and anxiety also report success. One user reported she usually couldn’t fall asleep without taking anxiety and sleep medication and that Spiritune allowed her to curtail her dosage.

“Another user, an 11-year-old, wrote to us saying she’d been struggling with anxiety and having difficulty falling asleep,” Jamie said. “Her mother allowed her to download Spiritune to navigate her emotions and feel calmer so she could get to sleep.”

spiritune sees music as a tool
It’s no secret that music is a powerful tool.

Jamie said there are many ways of coping when people are feeling low — not all positive. Her advice for people struggling with breakups and other adverse life events is first to give themselves the grace of acknowledging those feelings, then recognize that conventional talk therapy may not be the answer. Music therapy may help.

“I advocate for the power of music in health and well-being,” Jamie said. “People who try to self-regulate through music may still see it as entertainment or not think of it as a serious tool, but it is. Music can be a companion to help with managing emotions.”

Jamie and her team are constantly working on new features for Spiritune. New music always arrives in the app, so the tunes stay fresh. A partnership with the physician-led behavioral health practice Galileo Health promises a broader audience within health care. More personalization features are on the horizon.

“Just because you like certain artists doesn’t mean they’ll help you feel better,” Jamie said. “Particularly when you’re feeling bad, our music can greatly impact your state of mind.”