Phoenix Drug & Alcohol Recovery & Education Society

Surrey, BC


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“From a therapeutic lens, Music Therapy is effective because it by-passes traditional cognitive defence mechanisms and opens access to limbic systems and emotional processes that surpasses traditional talk therapies and moves our clients closer to the goal of self actualization and reality creation. Furthermore, music therapy is an enjoyable and non-judgemental environment that enriches the culture and collective cohesiveness of our community and the individuals within it.”

Program Manager

Phoenix Society

The music therapy program at Phoenix Society has been an integral part of their residential treatment program and transitional housing program for almost six years now. It is currently shifting and growing in exciting ways!

Current Programming:

  • Bi-Weekly Experiential emotional processing groups with each of the two men’s treatment floors
  • Weekly Experiential emotional processing groups for the mens and womens provincial intensive residential treatment programs

These groups provide residents different modes to express themselves and communicate with one another than their usual talk-based groups.

  • Weekly music jam (outside when weather is permitting) for people in recovery to continue to experience things that make them feel connected to themselves and others, and things that are not as heavy or emotionally draining as their daily groups
  • Monthly variety show, karaoke night, or music-bingo holiday party
  • 3 individual music therapy sessions per week for transitional housing residents who want to use music to deepen their understanding of themselves and connection to themselves
  • Bi-Monthly Guitar & Piano Lessons to build creativity and resilience, and encourage new skills

2020 Pilot Project: Phoenix Album

  • 11 individuals recorded original songs/poems/raps that expressed their own unique stories
  • Project soon to be released and shared with Music Heals!

Phoenix Society serves adults from the age of 19 struggling with alcohol and/or drug addiction issues as well as mental health issues such as depression, anxiety or PTSD that create complications to their recovery and integration in mainstream society. Almost all of them have experienced abuse, neglect and trauma, and many have experienced time institutionalized in detention centres or foster/group homes. Many of them experience further marginalization in the form of poverty, racial injustice and stigmatization that comes with homelessness and drug addiction.

  • 80% Men; 20% Women
  • Mostly from the lower mainland
    increasingly more clients coming from Vancouver Island, and the interior of BC
  • Almost all are funded through governmental sources, with a few privately paid clients
How does Music Therapy uniquely address the needs of clients at Phoenix Society?

Music therapy is such a unique modality because it touches so many different parts of the human experience. It allows groups who are all experiencing the same music, to have a moment of connection and understanding. Clients can actively participate in music therapy by singing, writing music or playing instruments, but they can also participate by listening and speaking about how the music affects them. These two options work well in the treatment setting, as sometimes residents are not willing or able to play music themselves. Music Therapy helps with Socialization, Impulse control, Emotional awareness, Self-expression, Creativity, imagination & enjoyment, Relaxation and regulation of stress response, and overall Wellness.

How has COVID-19 impacted the program?
  • Suspended in-person sessions for a total of 8 weeks

  • Able to offer remote sessions however because of the nature of the clients needs and the uncertain environment, sessions were difficult to conduct

  • Created series of guided, song-based relaxation recordings on Youtube channel for residents

Restarting the program at the facility meant bigger groups outside for the summer to ensure proper social distancing.

Adopting the program at Phoenix Society would allow for the continuation of:

  • Weekly Emotional Processing and Experiential Group for two of Men’s treatment floors
  • 8 Weeks in Summer focused for residents who have completed treatment and are living in transitional housing units
  • Additional Music Therapy intern

And Support Potential Music Therapy Expansions:

  • Program at newly opened Stabilization House for men before they move on to other treatment centres
  • Program at Half-Way House at Rising Sun CRF Corrections facility for Aging Offenders, men are all over 60, many who have health and cognitive complications

These residents are currently having a difficult time transitioning from being in a large group setting, to being left alone most of the day. They desperately need engagement, and have benefited greatly from the one-on-one sessions they have with the music therapist in the recording studio. This engagement and connection as people transition back into society is even more important than ever right now, as the overdose epidemic rages on and Phoenix has not been immune to it.

J has been living in transitional housing here at Phoenix for a few years. In this time he has struggled with mental health issues that have affected his motivation and willingness to participate in many activities. In the past months, the music therapist has approached J on multiple occasions, in order to maintain a relationship and to gently encourage him to come and play music with her again.

J has started attending individual music therapy sessions and he has found himself with a new excitement and motivation for life. He says that music therapy has been a huge part of his recent recovery and that he has found joy, connection, meaning and pride in working on singing and songwriting. He has worked on an original song for the recording project and has said that working on this song has opened up his creativity for writing and playing more music. He has found that joy in music and in life that was hidden for the past years.

Felicia Wall

“I have been a certified music therapist working in the Vancouver area since 2015. I work from a strengths-based model of practice, in which I place a high value on the therapeutic relationship. I work mainly with youth and adults who have been marginalized from society and who have experienced poverty, drug addiction, discrimination, abuse and mental health issues. Music therapy is a powerful tool for connection, expression and healing in these contexts, and I am constantly struck by how impactful this work is for clients.”

You can help us reach more Canadians with the healing power of music. We invite you to give the gift of music to provide hope, strength, relief and encouragement to Canadians in need.

No contribution is too small!