by Hypatia Francis
A group of women sat in a circle, ready to find out how they could use
music and sound to help themselves. The music ranged from Mozart to a
rousing Souza march, from harp music to the plangent chords of traditional
Indian music. All of the pieces inspired strong emotion.
Over the course of the evening, the women talked about how each piece
made them feel. They went through several exercises in sound, practicing
deep breathing and humming.
This workshop, held at Gildas Club for people living with cancer,
was led by Shelley Snow, a researcher and consultant with the Centre for
the Arts in Human Development at Concordia.
Snow has been a music therapist for nearly 18 years. She says that sound
can be very powerful, and cites a study in which therapeutic drumming
was found to enhance the activity of cancer-killing cells. There
is no better way to boost your immune system than listening to the music
you love, she said.
In a few years, students in the creative arts therapies program will be
able to follow in her footsteps. Together with UQAM, which offers a bachelors
degree in music therapy, the MA program is developing a music therapy
option to complement the art therapy and drama therapy programs it already
While it will be some time before students will be able to register for
it, the development of a music therapy option is just one sign of how
far the program has come.
It began as a single introductory course offered in 1979. In 1982, the
masters program in art therapy was established. Twenty years later, it
is the only program in Canada to offer full professional creative arts
therapies at the masters level, and its reputation has attracted
students from across the country.
Alice Madden is one such student. While studying for a bachelorÕs degree
in fine arts at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, she became
aware of art therapy and realized it was her calling. She took psychology
electives at NSCAD and night courses at St. MaryÕs University to qualify
for ConcordiaÕs program.
In addition to their course work, students in the program must acquire
a minimum of 800 hoursÕ experience. They work in hospitals, rehabilitative
centres, schools and community health care institutions, and they are
encouraged to participate in arts therapy themselves.
Madden finds that the arts allow one to access what cannot be verbalized.
I get huge persona satisfaction knowing that IÕm helping somebody,
and doing it in a way thatÕs fulfilling for me. A fall 2002 graduate,
she hopes to work with an adult psychiatric clientele, and she has already
had a job offer.
Creative arts therapies are still not as widely known as the more traditional
talk therapy; nor are they as well understood by the general public.
Josˇe Leclerc, graduate program director, says they are mistakenly seen
as less reliable, a perception has to do with the place of the arts in
society and with the fact that creative arts therapies still represent
a fairly new approach to treatment.
However, this is changing. There is an increasing openness to the
arts, Dr. Leclerc said. The program itself may have played a role,
after 20 years of producing trained professionals, setting vocational
standards and promoting the benefits of creative arts therapies.