Music used as therapy in Manitoba
REBECCA DAHL, CONTRIBUTOR
Eighteen-year-old Hope Pierre spends hours every day smashing away at the keyboard piano in her bedroom and stomping her feet to Queen’s “We Will Rock You.”
Her mother, Jen Mollard, said music has always helped Hope in ways prescribed medicines couldn’t.
Pierre was born prematurely at 26 weeks. She lives with cerebral palsy, is blind and has epilepsy, developmental delays and asthma.
Pierre was two when her mom first enrolled her in music therapy sessions at the Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB).
“I noticed right away how attentive Hope became,” Mollard said. “She was focusing on the songs, rocking back and forth and smiling — even at that young age.”
She said music therapy has helped Pierre improve her attention span and social skills and control her emotions. The sessions have also reduced Pierre’s stress levels, encouraged her to speak more and improved her physical balance and memory.
“She loves going [to music therapy],” Mollard said. “You can see by the huge smile on her face.”
Bria Gale, a music therapy student at Canadian Mennonite University, adds that music therapy can also benefit others. She noted different musical therapies can promote self-esteem, boost social skills and improve general wellbeing, especially since sessions are usually tailored to fit individuals’ specific needs.
“[A] structured musical activity like lyric discussion is effective for people with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease,” Gale said, “whereas movement through soothing music with scarves may be effective for a child with autism.”
There are roughly 900 music therapists across Canada, over two-thirds of whom are licensed to practice in both Canada and the United States for up to five years, but Gale noted many people tend to overlook music therapy as a valid form of treatment.
“Often, we feel the need to justify the importance or effectiveness of our services and capabilities to other professionals and sometimes to the general public,” she said. “It’s annoying, but it’s an aspect that we work towards diminishing in the professional realm through presentations and other forms of information.”
In Mollard’s case, though, her daughter’s happiness is all the reassurance she needs to keep bringing her daughter to music therapy every Saturday.
“The smile on Hope’s face is all I need to convince me that music therapy is a benefit to her well-being,” she said.