Whether it is to help calm you down, cheer you up, or simply for pure enjoyment, music is meant to inspire.
Inspiring others is also the goal of Music Therapy Services of Simcoe County, which works with clients of all ages and with a variety of developmental, neurological, emotional needs and diagnoses.
A registered music therapist and psychotherapist — and Barrie native — owner and director Heidi Flynn created the Bradford Street company 20 years ago after completing her post-secondary studies.
“There was no music therapy in our community,” Flynn told BarrieToday, adding she has been building and growing her company ever since her first class working with the residents of a small retirement home in Orillia.
“I have a brother with special needs and I always saw how captivated he was by music," she said. "I knew I wanted to pursue a career in music and it just seemed like the perfect blend of helping people and being able to use music for my job.”
Along with the other staff members — all of whom are certified music therapists and several who are also registered psychotherapists — Flynn says they use music to work on non-musical goals.
“The goals could be developmental for children with special needs. We can support their developmental goals, communication, and physical development. We can even weave in academic goals,” she said. “We also provide rehabilitation services for people who have had a brain injury or stroke. That uses music in a very prescribed way to help develop new neural pathways.”
Therapists also work with seniors living in long-term care facilities, says Flynn, adding music therapy can also assist in addressing mental health-related issues including depression or anxiety, particularly for seniors living in long-term care.
“For example, in long-term care we use purposeful songs, usually familiar songs, as it helps with memory recall. If I were to play You Are My Sunshine in a very upbeat way, it would leave the listener feeling very energized and uplifted. If I were to play it in a slow, melancholy kind of way that would have a different emotional effect.
"We use music in real time and adjust accordingly to support the mental health of those individuals," Flynn added.
Music Therapy Services of Simcoe County also offers recreational services, which Flynn described as adapted music lessons for children who are different learners.
“Whether it’s a learning disability, ADHD or autism, (some kids) may need a different environment to learn,” she said, adding recreational services for youth and adults with developmental disabilities are also available that are geared toward socializing and having fun.
Based in Barrie and with a satellite office in Orillia, the team at Music Therapy Services of Simcoe County works with clients all over the region.
Flynn says she's looking forward to continuing to do the kind of work she loves.
“I am just really passionate about providing quality and accessible music therapy services to people in our region so that we don’t have to travel south for a specialty therapy like this.”