top of page

Anti-Oppressive Practice

Authors' note: As therapists, we often tackle difficult subject matter with our clients. There are some topics that we may feel less equipped to deal with or lack the appropriate language for in the moment. However, we are committed to finding resources, engaging in supervision with peers and mentors in our community, and diving into self-reflection to provide the best support possible for our clients in future sessions.


Recent world events have launched us into a time of hyper awareness and sensitivity towards racism, anti-racism, and systems of oppression. We feel that this started with the murder of George Floyd, a Black man in Minneapolis, on May 25, 2020. It was preceded by the murders of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and many others, and has essentially catapulted the Black Lives Matter movement. We believe that music therapists need to engage in learning and dialogue with one another about anti-oppression, anti-racism, and social justice. We created this resource for music therapists, to both support our work with clients and to stand as allies and amplify the voices of Black therapists, educators, artists, and musicians.

What will you discover in this resource?

This resource includes 3 sections with various mediums and methods of processing information:


- What is oppression and anti-oppression?

- What is systematic VS. systemic racism?

- What is intersectionality?

- What is privilege & accountability?


- Why is identifying bias, intersectionality and privilege important?

- How does this impact my work as a music therapist?

- In what ways am I promoting safety and equity within my personal and professional environments?


- What are the next steps?

- What influences, abilities, and resources do I have at my disposal?

- How will I use these to become an active part of the solution?

Why is this topic important to Hayley?

My name is Hayley Francis Cann and I am a Bermudian-Canadian certified music therapist and neurologic music therapist currently working in Katarokwi/Kingston, ON. I am also a recent author of a children’s book about music therapy titled, Mandy’s Mom, The Music Therapist.

I grew up in Bermuda with a diverse and mixed heritage of family members, including English, Indian, and West Indian. In 2016, I completed the Bachelor of Music Therapy program at Acadia University and have been practicing, mostly in long-term, care since 2017. I identify as a black person of colour (POC), able-bodied, cis heterosexual female.

Anti-oppressive practices are important to me because, as a POC, I recognize the disparities within our field.

Until this point, there has been very little representation or very few pushes for representation in the field of music therapy to focus and seek out perspectives outside of the white, Canadian, cis female perspective. The conversations have started but we still have a long way to go.

I strongly believe that music therapy is a profession that has the potential to effectively reach and serve ANY community. However, in its present state, I am not confident we have the tools necessary to reach marginalized individuals, in Canada and around the world, who live with the trauma of systemic discrimination and/or racism (for which I have been personally affected).

This conversation needs to be pushed at every level - from education to research to continuing education and everything in-between.

Why is this topic important to Priya?

My name is Priya Shah and I am a registered psychotherapist and certified music therapist based in Toronto, ON. I completed the Masters of Music Therapy program at Laurier in 2018 and since have been working with a variety of people in long-term care, hospice, and mental health settings.

I identify as a Canadian of Indian heritage, a brown person and POC or WOC, cisgender, heterosexual, and able-bodied female. I was born in Calgary, Alberta - my parents were born in Kenya and immigrated to the UK and then Canada in the 80s. My grandparents were born in India.

Anti-oppressive practices are important to me, because as a mental health professional and POC, I believe it is my responsibility to use my privilege(s) to address systemic inequality, and speak-up in support of marginalized voices.

Earlier on, I did not recognize my experience as a brown/Indian woman as being useful. Yet in the past several months, many potential clients in my private practice have approached me because I am a woman of colour, and I now feel more responsible to use my experience as a POC to create safety and build trust.

In 2016, I attended the CAMT Conference in Kitchener right before I began my Masters at Laurier, and there was one session that really stood out titled: “Navigating Whiteness in Music Therapy: Resisting Racism and Promoting Allyship,” which was presented by Erin Linden, Tamon Scarlett, and Laura Mae Lindo. This presentation opened my eyes to the imperfections of our field (before I was even in it), and that we still have a ways to go, as music therapists in Canada, to become allies with people and organizations that promote social equality and challenge the status quo.

This is only the beginning!

Desmund Tutu said, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” We agree!

We need momentum and courage to continue these conversations about equity, diversity, and anti-oppression. We commit to becoming lifelong learners, allies and advocates for anti-oppressive practices within music therapy. Will you join us?



bottom of page