Creative Arts Therapy Week  

By Russ Cooper

Music therapy professor Guylaine Vaillancourt (right) leads a music therapy class. Magnifying glass

Music therapy professor Guylaine Vaillancourt (right) leads a music therapy class.

As a drama therapy professor and acting chair of the Creative Arts Therapies department, Yehudit Silverman knows the benefits of creative arts therapy as a professional.

Her first film, The Story Within - Myth and Fairy Tale in Therapy, was one of four screened at the film festival of Creative Arts Therapies week, March 19 to 28.

The event, a collaboration between Concordia, various community groups and associations of creative arts therapies of Quebec, was an opportunity for professionals to come together and share resources to better serve their communities with therapeutic treatments based in drama, music, dance or visual art.

A province-wide effort, Concordia hosted the majority of the Montreal events. Similar activities were held in such cities as Sherbrooke, Gatineau and Trois Rivières.

Silverman’s 2004 documentary uses a therapeutic approach based on myth and fairy tale that Silverman developed with her 20 years of clinical work with hard-to-reach populations (she has worked with high-risk kids and people with eating disorders). In it, each client creates a character in which to immerse him or herself.

“After a period of time, they learn about themselves through the character,” she said. “The technique allows them a safe distance to face and deal with their problems.”

In developing the technique, she chose film as a means to document the treatment of six people. “As I was editing, I got hooked on filmmaking as an art,” she said.

Thanks to two grants (one federal, one provincial), Silverman has created her second documentary, The Hidden Face of Suicide. She worked with the organization Family Survivors of Suicide, to capture the stories of a number of people dealing with the loss of a loved one due to suicide.

Silverman also knows the benefits personally. She lost her uncle to suicide before she was born, but found out by accident when she was 17.

“Making the movie, what we discovered was the amount of taboo. People don’t talk about it,” she said. “Everyone has a story about how suicide has affected them. I want to begin the conversation.”

At Concordia, along with the film festival, Creative Arts Therapies week held a series of workshops, discussion panels and talks with invited guests to discuss their ideas and research through experiential seminars and presentations – including the launch of the book Drama As Therapy Volume 2: Clinical Work and Research into Practice, edited by visiting professor Phil Jones.

The week’s events exemplify the intrinsic value of creative arts therapies art therapy in our community, said Music Therapy professor Guylaine Vaillancourt, one of the week’s organizers.

“The week was a great opportunity to build awareness about the possibilities of creative arts therapies. For different professionals, it’s great to build awareness of what we’re doing here,” said Vaillancourt (see Journal, Oct. 1, 2009). The Hidden Face of Suicide will premiere April 11 at 3 p.m. in the De Sève Cinema.


Concordia University