“Where words fail, music speaks.” – Hans Christian Anderson.

Music therapy provides a safe, fun, creative and dynamic atmosphere for promoting healing, wellness and health. Often with people who have experienced trauma or mental health complications, the word ‘therapy’ can seem intimidating or overwhelming. In music therapy clients have the freedom to express emotions, experiences and thoughts that may be too difficult to say out loud or in verbal therapy.

In music therapy music is used to communicate, express, care for and ‘hold’ clients in whatever state they are in. Often music therapists use clinical improvisation which I refer to as ‘the conversation of music.’’ Here clients play or sing freely in the moment with the therapist supporting their music through playing or singing alongside. Sessions may also include singing familiar songs, exploring instrument playing, song writing, recording, and receptive/relaxation music. Clients may wish to discuss significant music or musical experiences, or process them through art.

While working at a specialized school for children having experienced trauma and/or mental health issues, I met a young girl named Stacey.[1]Stacey had experienced trauma due to severe sexual abuse and was living in the on-site residential treatment facility. In our music therapy sessions Stacey would never talk about her emotions. However, she was keen to express herself through singing. I would usually be at the keyboard and begin playing music according to Stacey’s current musical idea. On this one day Stacey gave me instructions to play something slow and sombre. She conducted me like an orchestral conductor and began to sing softly lyrics about feelings of loneliness, her fears and our human need for love. The song intensified in volume and she began to sing with more confidence. Her sound and demeanour became like a pop-star, like she was Whitney Houston for five minutes. She sang with her eyes closed, feeling each tone and word. ‘All We Need Is Love’ was the title she gave the song. It became something she shared with many staff members and friends. This song was the beginning of our process of recording an entire CD called ‘Songs of Joy.’

This vignette is one of many amazing musical testimonies. For the next few months at Haven House I’ll be facilitating a de-stress music therapy group and individual music therapy sessions with the women.  I am looking forward to be a part of the musical experiences that will happen here WCSWR!

-Leanne Metsa

[1] This clients name has been changed for confidentiality.