Music can bring one back to a different time, stir up memories and add comfort to a difficult situation.
Kelly Lefaive knows this all too well.
The well-known local musician is bringing the therapeutic benefits of music to the Georgian Bay Cancer Support Centre with seven, drop-in group sessions over the winter months.
Armed with two guitars, a violin, a beautiful voice and an outgoing, positive nature, Lefaive welcomes those going through a challenging time in their lives with the very real gift that is music.
“Music brings people together,” says Lefaive, who has a degree in music from the University of Toronto and a master’s degree in music therapy from Wilfrid Laurier University.
While the person’s physical health may be an issue, music therapy can bring benefits to one’s mental health, according to Lefaive.
“Hopefully, they’re noticing a change in how they feel,” says Lefaive, who is currently on maternity leave from her music therapist position at Waypoint Centre for Mental Health Care after the birth of her daughter Eloise.
“I feel lucky to be able to share and love my job. I find this job to be very meaningful because of the connection it brings. It’s validating when someone says ‘this is therapeutic’.”
Lefaive went with the Carole King classic You’ve Got a Friend to set the tone for the cancer support group sessions, which are held at the Penetanguishene facility.
“It’s about having that leap of faith to ask for help when you need it,” says Lefaive who is a registered psychotherapist (qualifying) and a certified music therapist.
Lefaive arrives at each session with a plan to find music people will enjoy that may have deeper meaning as well as providing attendees with ways to cope with what they’re experiencing.
“I hope to meet my goals every time I come,” she says. “It’s about building trust. I also give them strategies to manage stress in their day-to-day lives.”
A participant at this week’s session says she was attracted to try something new to help her.
“I wasn’t feeling the greatest today,” says Janet, who declined to give her last name. “I really like music, but there are lots of reasons I think it (the group) is amazing.
“It’s very soothing and it makes me feel like maybe I will start playing guitar again.”
Music therapy is a discipline in which certified music therapists use music purposefully within therapeutic relationships to support development, health and well-being.
According to the Canadian Association of Music Therapists, “music therapists use music safely and ethically to address human needs within cognitive, communicative, emotional, musical, physical, social, and spiritual domains.”
A therapist's program goals range from learning and implementing music strategies to manage stress to building community and providing opportunities to safely express emotion.
During a music therapy session, various music-centred strategies are used to meet health goals. These may include: Active music listening, lyric/song discussion, songwriting, playing instruments and/or singing with a focus on improvisation, familiar music and original compositions.
Lefaive says music therapy also works well with people who are less expressive since they’ll sometimes open up when they hear a certain song or musical style.
“It can be comforting to hear a song they’ve heard before. Being familiar with a piece of music will help them feel like they’re in a safe space,” Lefaive says.
“I hope when they leave they feel like they’ve had an opportunity to express themselves.”
Lefaive says she’s thrilled to be involved with the group and would welcome extending the sessions beyond April.
“This is wonderful for the centre and also a great opportunity for me to share more about my passion for music therapy.”