Priya is as a registered psychotherapist and music therapist who has a Master’s Degree in music therapy. She began her internship at Princess Margaret Hospital and in 2018, reached out to Sheena’s Place about the possibility of introducing music therapy to the list of programs offered.
Priya wrote a proposal to Sheena’s Place in March 2019 and has facilitated one music therapy group per season since then. Priya’s groups are open, meaning anyone can join, musical instruments are provided, and clients can explore making musical sounds whether they have a background in music or not. “Life is messy, chaotic and beautiful, so just like real life the different sounds of group members working together show that these aspects of life are just a part of the journey.”
She feels that exploring emotions through words can sometimes be challenging but exploring them through music allows clients to work through the emotions in a different way. Then they have the opportunity to talk about the experience afterwards. It is an opportunity for individuals to get in touch with themselves and how they are feeling. It’s empowering and connects clients to each other, knowing they are not alone.
She said, “The group acts as an emotional container of support, a safe place where clients can develop resources and connections with each other.”
She’s received much positive feedback from the groups, some telling her: “it helps me gain confidence”, “it feels like a safe way to explore” and, “it’s a beautiful way to let go of the tension and stress of the week”.
Priya modelled elements of her group programs after her groups at Homewood Health Centre and Princess Margaret Cancer Centre. Her goal is to help facilitate social connections and foster a sense of community. She wants to support others to stay with their challenging emotions and work towards shifting them towards more desirable states. She also believes in nourishing each individuals’ inner artist, “Every voice is unique and has something to say.”
When asked if she thought there were other treatment facilities or organizations who provide such a wide access to services as Sheena’s Place, it was a definite no. Sheena’s Place provides free services, access to them is available to anyone with disordered eating, they are inclusive, promote diversity and provide a wide range of programming. She added that the facilitators were so knowledgeable but always willing to learn more and keep up with new findings and research. In her opinion, that’s why so many clients continue to attend Sheena’s Place for a long time – because they are meeting the needs of their clients.
Personally, her year at Sheena’s Place has made her proud and grateful to be involved. She says she’s constantly learning, both from the facilitators and the clients and feels that it is a great privilege. She’s already learned so much from her clients who she describes as “smart, intelligent and resilient”. Through Sheena’s Place she’s learned what a warm and loving community really looks like.
Speaking to how to break the stigma around eating disorders, she feels that talking more openly about the illness, emotions, and underlying behaviours and patterns is important for all of us to do.
With giving so much to others, Priya understands the need for self-care. While she derives much satisfaction from facilitating music groups, she also makes time for herself to play music for her own emotional expression and spends time taking walks and being in nature.
Her hope is that the more of us who speak out about Sheena’s Place, the more people will learn that it really is somewhere you can go that will support you through all stages of recovery. That it is not exclusive, and that it provides structure and guidelines to ensure it is a safe place for all. Sheena’s Place is accommodating, staff members have great communications skills, and are happy to refer people to other resources in the community that can also be of assistance.
Priya would recommend Sheena’s Place both to clients and facilitators, as diversity is key to being able to offer so much relevant programming. As far as her music groups go, she hopes everyone knows that each week’s group is a new composition; everyone’s voice is welcome. “The group wouldn’t be what it is without each person’s unique experience and presence.”