ClassAction: Music Therapy 

A different kind of doctor’s note

By Russ Cooper

Guylaine Vaillancourt Magnifying glass

Guylaine Vaillancourt

Music therapy – it’s a sound way to restore, maintain and improve emotional, physical and spiritual well-being. And, as a recent hire in the new Graduate Certificate in Music Therapy program, Assistant Professor Guylaine Vaillancourt knows that simple melodies often work best.

“It’s all about learning how students can connect with patients and clients to make their lives better,” says Vaillancourt.

Launched this fall by the Department of Creative Arts Therapies, the 12-month program (created by Music Therapy Director and Professor Sandra Curtis) is intended for students to become music therapists, eligible for accreditation through the Canadian Association for Music Therapy (CAMT).

One class Vaillancourt is teaching this semester is MTHY 503 – Music Therapy for Adults. The 1-credit course provides its 13 students clinical practice with diverse adult populations, such as adults in palliative, oncological or geriatric care, or adults with developmental disabilities or mental health difficulties. In the winter term, the course will focus on music therapy for children.

“It’s very interesting because all the students in the program come from different backgrounds,” says Vaillancourt, who came to Concordia after recently completing her PhD in music therapy from Antioch University in Ohio with 20 years of previous experience as a music therapist in hospitals in Montreal and New York. “Some come from communications, psychology, education, but they’re all musicians. Many of them have never worked in a hospital, nursing homes or community centres. So, there is a lot to learn.”

The class teaches a broad range of assessment techniques, intervention methods and strategies, counselling skills, an overview of the various populations, and improvisation.

In class, there are many instruments the students can pick up and play. “They learn about improvisation as a way to connect with clients. It’s a way to be in a relationship, but through music in a non-verbal, creative way.”

The class is divided into two portions; the in-class portion covers the theoretical and practical methodology, while the practicum portion places the students in hospitals, community centres or nursing homes to work directly with clients. Vaillancourt says an experiential ethos with the goal of healing is the overall bridge between the two.

The Department of Creative Arts Therapies is in the process of applying for a masters program in Music Therapy. Should it be accepted, those accredited certificate grads would have a leg up on being accepted into the masters program.

On Oct. 3, the Department of Creative Arts is hosting a Music Therapy workshop for all those interested in learning more about the field of study, as well as educational and career possibilities. The workshop is free of charge but registration is required.


Concordia University