Striking a chord for health…


Music therapy is the skillful use of music and musical elements by an accredited music therapist to promote, maintain, and restore mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual health. – Canadian Association for Music Therapy.

How long has music therapy been around? The Bible contains a description, and the oldest English text dates to 1729. C&W’s music therapy program started in the early 1990s at Sunny Hill. Today we have three music therapists working out of the Child Life Department.

At Sunny Hill, Louise Whitehead provides music therapy to children with acute rehabilitation (brain injury) and/or transition planning needs. In both group and individual sessions, music is used to meet a variety of therapeutic goals such as playing instruments to improve fine motor coordination skills; singing to improve articulation, rhythm and breath control; and spontaneous music making to provide a healthy outlet for self expression.

“In music therapy the emphasis is on self-expression and the experience of sharing music rather than on the quality of the music produced,” said Whitehead.

Erin Johnston provides music therapy services at BCCH’s oncology/hematology program and to inpatient adolescents. “Recent studies of psychological responses to music in the relaxation process have been overwhelmingly positive,” said Johnston. “Music helps our patients express their feelings around illness and hospitalization.”

Carol Wiedemann helps patients at BCW’s Holly (high-risk antepartum) and Fir (substance exposed antepartum and postpartum) squares. Wiedemann supports moms in labor and delivery by using music to promote relaxation techniques and pain and trauma management.

“Concerns for the baby, self, medical care, childbirth and finances can really increase stress levels for moms in Holly Square,” said Wiedemann. “There’s even more stress if there are high-risk complications. Music therapy reduces that anxiety and provides mom with an increased sense of control.”

Wiedemann also works with Aurora Centre, BCW’s residential drug and alcohol treatment program. “Clients with addictions need to explore their feelings and emotions, lack of self-esteem,” said Wiedemann. “Loss of group identity, for example, can be addressed by music therapy.”

“It’s National Music Therapy Week March 14-20,” said Whitehead. “Music therapy touches on so many areas in health care; we really encourage everyone to learn more about it.”