P.E.I. interest in music therapy growing

This is Music Therapy month, and the Island's music therapists have been putting on a free lecture series to explain more about how their services help people, both with health concerns and at different stages of life.

Therapists working in cancer treatment, autism, dementia and more fields

Music therapist Katherine Lowings appeared on CBC Mainstreet to promote Music Therapy Month. (CBC)

This is Music Therapy month, and the Island's music therapists have been putting on a free lecture series to explain more about how their services help people, both with health concerns and at different stages of life.

Music therapy is starting to grow on P.E.I., with four MTA's (Music Therapist Accredited) now in practice.

One of them, Katherine Lowings, is delivering a talk on music therapy in cancer treatment, and spoke with CBC Mainstreet's Karen Mair about how MTA's fit into the health care system.

"Music therapists can work in a wide variety of places, in hospitals, day treatment programs, community programs, correctional centres, long-term care, schools, hospitals, private practices," listed Lowings.

Other topics in the lecture series include dementia, young childhood development, intellectual disabilities and youth anxiety.

Lowings says it can have a big impact, especially for people with limited verbal abilities.

"If you think about people who are experiencing dementia, the beauty of music is that its non-verbal, and it's a language that everyone can speak in a different way," she said. "So as a music therapist, it's our job to find out what that way is, to help that person communicate."

That can lead to some interesting sessions.

"From the outside, if you heard it, you might be wondering, what is going on?" laughed Lowings. "Because we do a lot of different things, whether it be improvising with instruments, improvising with sound, and working with a client's vocal range, so maybe making different kinds of noises to help them express themselves."

Non-verbal breakthroughs

Lowings has seen a-ha moments, when music therapy has helped her make a breakthrough.

"I was working with a client and he was on the autism spectrum, and we were sitting together at the piano," she said. "He was kind of doing his own thing and I was really just witness to him exploring the instruments. Then as our therapeutic relationship grew, I started to interact with him on the piano, and he started to mirror what I was playing, so in that moment, we were having this beautiful, non-verbal conversation."

For cancer patients, music can be a way to take a break from the stress.

Katherine Lowings says music therapy is useful for those going through cancer treatments, to those with autism. (CBC)
"Help those who are going through cancer treatment really find themselves because sometimes that can get lost, with all the medical appointments and the treatments and all the other worries that during someone's journey with cancer," she says. "Music therapy can provide that opportunity to be in the moment."

Katherine Lowings will give her talk on music therapy in cancer treatment on Wednesday, Mar. 16 at 7:30 p.m. at Catholic Family Services Bureau, 129 Pownal St. in Charlottetown.

Before than, Rachel MacEwan will speak about music therapy in young childhood development on Wednesday, Mar. 9, at the same time and location. All the lectures are free.


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