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Exploring the therapeutic qualities of music for mental, emotional, and physical health
No matter your age or where you come from, certified music therapy can change your life.
The healing power of music brings people together, giving them a sense of belonging. Using music as medicine, music therapy enables a person to reminisce and reconnect with their sense of self because music uniquely interacts with diverse regions of the brain to guide in promoting healthy emotions and behaviour.
Children with developmental disabilities, adults with Alzheimer’s disease and people of all ages experiencing anxiety or depression or searching for a way out of crisis or away from trauma have discovered their healing journeys through this versatile therapy practice.
Music therapy knows no demographic boundaries. For children, it can aid in cognitive and social development, helping them improve communication and emotional expression. Adolescents and adults can learn to manage stress and physical and mental health, while enhancing self-esteem and promoting self-discovery. In older adults, music therapy can help stimulate memory and cognitive function, providing a sense of comfort and connection.
Certified music therapists earn a bachelor’s or master’s degree from a university approved by the Canadian Association for Music Therapists. They complete 1,000 hours of supervised clinical internships using evidence-based techniques to provide effective therapy and create personalized music experiences that cater to individuals’ unique needs.
Music therapists apply various techniques, including listening to music, playing instruments, singing and songwriting, to engage individuals in meaningful musical experiences that promote emotional well-being and overall quality of life.
“Music therapists are uniquely positioned to respond to grief and loss,” says an employee from the WISH Drop-in Centre Society. Supported by Music Heals Charitable Foundation, WISH works with women who are involved in Vancouver’s street-based sex trade. “Counseling skills, training and experience allow us to walk with participants as they experience any stage of grief.
Music can be strategically applied to help participants remember, feel the emotions associated with the loss, and find hope for moving forward.”
According to the American Music Therapy Association, music heals because it is inherently accessible and inclusive. “Practice and research demonstrate the power of music therapy to help individuals develop coping strategies, understand and express feelings of anxiety and helplessness, support feelings of self-confidence and security, and provide a safe or neutral environment for relaxation,” the association says.
Research in British Journal of Psychiatry suggests that individuals undergoing music therapy along with standard treatments for depression improve more than people who only receive standard therapy.
“[Through music therapy] I have been able to deal with trauma and to grieve the loss of family and close friends that have passed on,” says a client at Heartwood Centre for Women, a facility that provides mental health support for women with integrated substance abuse and is funded through Music Heals. “I’ve been able to talk and express myself through the music I requested to share and hear the thoughts and feelings that others share with me.”
“I have songs that my parents would always play when I was younger, or songs that had special memories tied to them,” says Lily, a client at Lumara Grief & Bereavement Society, which, with help from Music Heals, provides grief and bereavement services for families. “I find music is a really great way to connect with people—especially people that aren’t here anymore—because of the memories tied to them.”
Due to its rhythmic and repetitive nature, music engages the neocortex of the brain, which calms and reduces impulsivity, assisting in rehabilitation from substance misuse and generational trauma.
Shirley, a resident at Phoenix Drug & Alcohol Recovery & Education Society, says she has been using drugs and alcohol for 47 of her 60 years and battling addiction for the past two decades. “I’ve never in my whole life felt peace in my heart, but I am starting to feel that now, with music therapy,” she says.
A 2015 study compared the effects of music therapy used among people with cancer with and without a therapist present. Even though listening to music produced positive results for both groups, 77% of patients preferred music therapy sessions to just listening to music on their own.
“I am so grateful to BC Cancer for providing a regular opportunity for safe, supported self-care and relaxation,” says Wendy, a cancer patient and music therapy participant at BC Cancer, funded through Music Heals. “I find that the music really touches a place deep inside and allows me to relax fully in a way that other practices don’t do as well. With all the emotional challenges related to cancer diagnosis and treatment, this calming of the nervous system is invaluable.”
Music Heals Charitable Foundation is a registered charity based in Vancouver raising awareness and funding for music therapy programs in communities throughout British Columbia.
Founded by music lovers, the team at Music Heals believes in the healing power of music and is committed to providing funding for music therapy in physical and mental health practices. Since 2012, the foundation has provided over $4 million in funds to increase access to music therapy for over 80 facilities totalling over 50,000 hours of music therapy programming supporting children’s hospitals, senior centres, palliative and hospice care, rehabilitation centres, public and alternative schools, and more.
Despite ample evidence supporting the benefits of music therapy, it is not covered by national or provincial public healthcare systems or extended healthcare plans. This leaves many Canadians without access to this innovative and impactful healthcare resource. This is why the work of a charitable organization like Music Heals is so important.
“Each year, Music Heals Charitable Foundation receives funding applications from facilities for their underfunded music therapy programs,” says David Barnett, Founder & Board President of Music Heals Charitable Foundation. “Unfortunately, the demand often exceeds the charity’s capacity, and many facilities go without much-needed funding each year.”
Barnett credits support from passionate music lovers within the business community as a driving force behind furthering Music Heals’ cause, through their shared belief in the healing power of music.
Music Heals relies on donors and sponsor support and partnerships with local and national brands and musicians. It offers several partnership opportunities from event sponsorships starting at $5,000 to multi-year brand partnerships allowing organizations to witness the year-over-year impact of their support and the sustainability and expansion of music therapy programs within their communities. With Music Heals, the line from a donation to the impact it has on communities is incredibly short, meaning each donation is used where it was intended. Music Heals can also direct charitable efforts to specific communities or focus support on specific populations due to the broad range of facilities it supports.
According to the World Health Organization, women are nearly twice as likely as men to be diagnosed with depression. Music therapy harnesses the power of music to address emotional, cognitive, and social needs, offering a holistic approach to healing.
In celebration of International Women’s Day in March, Music Heals is holding its annual fundraising luncheon, Let Her Sing, on Tuesday, March 5, 2024, at Fairmont Waterfront in Vancouver. The event celebrates women and music, raising awareness and funds for music therapy practices that address physical and mental health and well-being.
Over 350 of Vancouver’s most influential and powerful women will come together for an afternoon of shopping from local female-owned vendors and socializing while raising funds for music therapy programs benefiting women throughout British Columbia. Guests will enjoy live musical performances and listen to an impactful speaker share the healing power of music and how it is changing lives for people in need in our community.
Held in October each year, the Music Heals annual gala is not just a night of festivities; it’s a celebration of music. The 2023 event raised more than $350,000 in crucial funding for music therapy programs in 2024. Sponsorship opportunities for next year’s event will be available in early 2024.
Music has the power to heal, uplift and bring solace to the soul. It is a universal language that transcends boundaries and connects us on a deep emotional level. By raising funds and supporting music therapy programs, Music Heals Charitable Foundation is helping to ensure that individuals have access to this effective and empowering form of therapy while bringing people together to celebrate the power of music and advocate for the integration and expansion of music therapy services, creating a brighter and healthier future for all Canadians.
Learn more at musicheals.ca If you’re interested in attending Let Her Sing to celebrate the healing power of music or in sponsorship opportunities, please email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
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