PEI

P.E.I. military centre to offer music therapy for families affected by PTSD

The P.E.I. Military Family Resource Centre is developing a music therapy program for veterans living with PTSD and their families.

The centre plans to offer a music therapy program in the spring

According to Kirkham, music therapy can reduce many of the physical signs of stress and anxiety, including lowering blood pressure and heart rate, reducing stress-related hormones and reducing a person's sense of pain. (Q/CBC)

The P.E.I. Military Family Resource Centre is developing a new music therapy program for veterans and families affected by post traumatic stress disorder.

Ed MacAulay is a family liaison officer and social worker with the centre who is developing the program in partnership with Katie Kirkham, a music therapist and owner of Rhythm Alive Music Therapy in Charlottetown. They hope to begin offering music therapy sessions this spring.  

'You bring people together, they develop some social supports ... of course, music has always brought people together," says Ed MacAulay, family liaison officer and social worker with the P.E.I. Military Family Resource Centre Centre. (Submitted by Ed MacAulay)

"It's a way of making you feel more grounded, it reduces the sense of isolation," MacAulay said. "It kind of brings a little bit of awareness to the person that maybe this is a way of making me feel good for a period of time and those times can become more frequent."

MacAulay said the program will offer music therapy on a group and individual basis to help people manage symptoms of PTSD, including anxiety, depression and social isolation. 

Kirkham said each music therapy session will be tailored to the needs of the group or individual participating. Group sessions can include activities such as drumming circles, song writing and music-based relaxation, she added.   

"Music affects us on the emotional, cognitive, social and the physical level," Kirkham said. "Given that it affects us on all those levels it's a really effective and versatile therapy." 

She said music therapy can reduce many of the physical symptoms of stress and anxiety associated with PTSD, including lowering blood pressure and heart rate, reducing stress-related hormones and reducing a person's sense of pain.  

"It can really help to decrease a sense of isolation if you're using it in a group," Kirkham said. "On an individual basis, certainly it's a way to process trauma on either the physical level or the emotional level." 

Open to all 

MacAulay said the program will also be open to anyone looking for new ways to manage stress and anxiety.

"I've had several isolated cases where family members have approached me about finding ways of dealing with their parent or their spouse who has PTSD and how can they take care of themselves," he said. 

When playing a conventional grand piano keyboard, Monique Fournier misses notes and can barely touch keys at either end of an octave. (Kathryn Marlow/CBC)

Kirkham said the goal of music therapy is to equip people with coping strategies that they can practice at home to help reduce stress and anxiety.

"You're going to learn techniques in the session that are going to help you outside of the session in the real world that you can apply to your daily life when you're not with a music therapist or with a group," Kirkham said. 

MacAulay said he hopes the program will also help build a community of support among families affected by PTSD. 

"The other big part of it too are the connections they make when they come together," he said. "Here they are at the same workshop learning ways to cope and deal with the stress and so on, and maybe they'll strike up a conversation and become a support to one another." 

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