How music can create connection and hope
Whether it’s calming an anxious patient ahead of an operation, bringing comfort during end of life, or bringing smiles to difficult times, Kelowna General Hospital’s (KGH) first music therapy program is coming to help people heal.
While the hospital has brought in musicians before, this is the first time health care practitioners who are also trained musical experts are bringing this unique program to supplement patient care.
With an assortment of instruments, therapists encourage people to join in making music, challenging feelings of musical inadequacy.
“I do believe we’re all musical. But we’ve been told differently; maybe growing up that we’re not good enough,” Kayla Turnbull with Soul Sounds Music Therapy told Kelowna10.
“But for us that’s not what music therapy is about. It’s the process, not the result. It’s my job to bring that out of people. To remind them of their strengths and they’re more than their health condition.”
Turnbull herself knows the benefit of music as a healing companion. She lives with a disability in the form of spinal abnormalities and hearing loss in her right ear.
It caused her chronic pain and mental health struggles. She turned to writing music and singing for pain management and as a meaningful distraction.
She now uses her experiences to help people with their own struggles, personalizing the experience each time.
Turnbull used the example of an elderly patient with dementia and how she may use different music styles to help the individual connect with their emotions, tap into their childhood, or reconnect with family.
“All of a sudden they sing a song, and they feel connected and they’re back into the world again,” she said.
The training to become a music therapist involves learning in various domains like social, emotional, physical, cognitive, spiritual, as well as an assortment of musical instruments.
Certified music therapist Lizzy Walsh joined Turnbull at Soul Sounds. She combined her background of musical theatre and an education in psychology and social work for her current vocation.
She said her expertise is with aging and end of life care. She enjoys helping families convey difficult emotions.
“I think it’s a beautiful thing that music does where it gives us the ability to say what we want to say without having it feel so raw, without having it be so sensitive,” she said.
“So, we can say ‘I love you’, ‘I’ll miss you’, ‘I’m sad that you’re going’ in a song.”
A collaboration with You Are Collective, an Okanagan-based mental health enterprise, sparked the idea of a music therapy pilot project at KGH. To raise funds and awareness they created the ‘Imperfect Harmony’ clothing line with all proceeds supporting the program.
Thanks to support from Music Heals, the program on the McNair Unit at KGH will launch this Spring. At the AltiTunes Music Festival at Big White April 2, further donations will be raised and can be made online.
Published 2022-03-08 by David Hanson
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