British Columbia·Photos

'Rap and Recovery' offers hope for addiction treatment in Burnaby

Every week, kids from around the province gather in small room to lay down the soundtrack to their recovery in the music therapy room at the Burnaby Centre of Mental Health and Addiction.

'It's a good way for me to release emotions that I have a hard time dealing with,' participant says

Jonah Cartwright, at the mic, is one of the participants in 'Rap and Recovery' at the Burnaby Centre of Mental Health and Addiction. Kevin Kirkland, seated, is a music therapist with the program. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

A tall, lean man stands before a microphone.

Half a dozen people sit in a circle, nodding in encouragement as Ihor Rybtsov records the words he's just written.

This is the music therapy room at the Burnaby Centre of Mental Health and Addiction where "Rap and Recovery" sees clients come in to spit lines about their struggles.

Every week, clients from around the province gather in the small room to lay down the soundtrack to their recovery.

Kevin Kirkland is one of two music therapists at the centre, and is leading Wednesday's session.

"A topic might be something like, 'Why I started using substances,' or, 'A year from now,' or, 'Being kind to myself,'" Kirkland told On The Coast's Margaret Gallagher.

"A lot of clients are on fire about rap. They want to listen to rap. So, I was thinking, how can I harness that skill that people come in with? It's quite a buy-in."

Ihor Rybtsov, right, shakes hands with Kevin Kirkland. (Margaret Gallagher/CBC)

He said many clients have a personal relationship with music and it gives them a creative outlet to express what they're going through.

'I'm a pretty closed-up individual'

Tiffany Arnold is here for a second stay at the centre and lays down a rap that puts it all on the line.

"I'm choosing health over money and wealth, I'm giving up on the game," Arnold raps.

"You're looking like a clown, grab that mic and reach for the sound, before you're six feet deep in debt in the ground."

Arnold explained that music therapy is something to look forward to.

"It's a good way for me to release emotions that I have a hard time dealing with or opening up about," Arnold said.

"I'm a pretty closed-up individual and rarely speak a lot about myself."

Tiffany Arnold said taking part in the music therapy program is a good way to release emotions. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Kirkland says therapy is wrapped up in the act of making music.

"Writing a song or rap offers a kind of framework or a container for it for a safer expression," Kirkland said. "Our validation is part of being a music therapist ... we can support what unfolds in here."

Listen to the full story:

With files from Margaret Gallagher and CBC Radio One's On The Coast

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