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Healing with Music

At the Lighthouse Children and Families, art, music and play flow thorough the building, brightening the days of the children staying there. Unbeknown to most, these creative activities can actually provide far more benefits than they are given credit for. We recently met up with Catherine Perron a music therapist, and Marie-Pierre Labelle a trainee in music therapy who gave us more information about this practice.

What made you choose to become music therapists?

Catherine Perron (CP): When I finished by CEGEP, I could not decide whether I wanted to continue my studies in music or in psychology but eventually I ended up choosing music and became a cellist. I then worked as a freelancer for 20 years but after the birth of my first child I decided to pursue my earlier interest in psychology. That same year, Concordia University launched their Master’s program in Music Therapy and so I decided to sign up.

Marie-Pierre Labelle (MPL): I first studied music therapy at the University of Montreal. After this, being unsure if this was to be my calling, I enrolled at the University of Quebec in Montreal in their music education program. As part of this programme, I had to work with a five year old autistic child and this helped me to realise that I wanted to be able to help children through my work. I’ve been playing the piano since I was about 4 or 5 so music has always been a part of my life and I know that it can be something that really helps people.

What does your work at the Lighthouse consist of?

CP: We meet children individually for around 20 to 25 minutes each. This means that we can cater to the needs of each child and try to fix a goal, be it emotional, cognitive, etc.

Could you describe an example where you saw the benefits of your music therapy?

CP: Yes, there is one child I’ve been seeing regularly for a couple of years now. With her we work to try and increase her ability to focus on specific activities. Before she would change activity every 20 seconds and would keep asking me to change songs. Gradually, however, she started to get more involved in the game, and even started to play with the bells. This was great for her own self-esteem and it also helped her to concentrate. Music is such as great communication tool, a great door to enter into the world of children who aren’t able to speak like you and I.

MPL: Absolutely! There is one girl that I see regularly and who, when she began her music therapy sessions, found it very difficult to move from one activity to the next and would start to scream and cry… I began to meet with her more regularly, around four times a week and I saw a huge improvement with her. With kids that I get to see more than once a week I definitely see progress.

What would you saw your work or traineeship at the Lighthouse has brought you?

CP: It changed a lot for me. We often have the tendency to talk about living in the movement, but this experience really helped me to appreciate the importance of this. It really was a privilege to be able to share these moments with the children. To sum up my work at the Lighthouse, I find myself thinking of a quote by Plato: “Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything”. 

MPL: It made me confident that this the right path for me. I really learnt a lot from making the short term connections I’ve made here. I forced me to adapt myself more quickly to the needs of each child and their specific goals.

What is music therapy?

According the Quebec Music Therapy Association (AQM), music therapy is a mode of intervention which uses elements of music like rhythm, melody, harmony, etc., in order to maintain or improve the physical and emotional well-being of an individual. This practice draws on a person’s susceptibility and creativity. By using non-verbal communication, it offers a variety of different means of expression. 

Music therapy allows you to train six different aptitudes: social, communicational (producing sounds, enunciating), cognitive, academic (concentration, short and long-term memory, being able to follow a rule, creativity), motor (mobility, fine motor skills) and lastly emotional (self-control, self-esteem, interactions and positivity). 


Writing: Courtesy of Julie Perreault, Volunteer for The Lighthouse Children and Families
Translation: Courtesy of Marianne Emler, Volunteer for The Lighthouse Children and Families