Music Therapy in Action!
13 Mar 14
Winnie Chan, BMT
I often get asked, “What is music therapy?” Even as a music therapy student, I realized that most people have only a vague idea of what we music therapists do.
“Oh, I saw a music therapist at a seniors home. They entertain the residents.”
“Music therapist? So you just have to play music, right?”
“Volunteers often sing to the residents – just like music therapists.”
“Music therapy? Cool! You can tell me whether my son is hyperactive or autistic.”
If only people could actually experience what we music therapists’ really do! Like my older sister, Chi Wai. Chi Wai and I live thousands of miles apart, and she used to think that music therapy was as easy as just turning on the CD player and letting the clients listen. Then one day, when I was working as an intern at Queens Park Care Centre in New Westminster, Chi Wai showed up for a sisterly visit. With my supervisor’s permission, I invited my sister to watch me work and Chi Wai found herself in a music therapy group session! At first, she said, it was a bit awkward for her. However, eventually Chi Wai (I was so proud of her!) made an effort to participate and make connections with the residents. By the time the session ended and the residents had gone to lunch, Chi Wai’s eyes were moist with tears.
Over lunch she told me why. She said, “I have never visited a care center before and I hadn’t realized just how many residents need help. I’m very impressed with how deeply the residents participated in your group. The lady who was sitting next to me, for example. I was trying to talk to her before the session, but she never responded and it seemed like she was falling asleep. Imagine how surprised I was when she was able to sing almost every song and was wide awake throughout the whole session. Also, by seeing how much you prepared for this session, I now understand how disciplined music therapy is and what it can achieve. It can reallt increase the quality of life for a lot of marginalized people. We need more music therapists!”
As a music therapist, I realized that it is hard to educate people about what music therapy is by just telling them. If only they could see and hear it for themselves! So, next time you see a music therapy program, ask if you can join in! Or, if you have time to volunteer with a music therapist to learn more, we would love to share what we do!