Ranch Ehrlo has successfully expanded its therapeutic music program, doubling capacity and substantially increasing its reach to include more programs, participants, and session time.

The agency was afforded the opportunity to grow its therapeutic music program late last year when the National Music Centre (NMC) announced Ranch Ehrlo as the recipient of a $50,000 grant. 

To date, the therapeutic music program has grown capacity by 110 per cent. There are now 160 Ranch participants benefitting from music therapy each month over the period of 35.5 hours per week, with an additional 5.5 hours a week to soon be added.

Whereas the program was previously only available to Supported Living Program (SLP) participants, it now serves participants from the Family Centred Addiction Program (Moose Jaw), the Family Treatment Program, youth in the Group Living Services, and youth and young adults who belong to the Ranch’s 2SLGBTQQI+ True Colours support groups in Regina.

Melanie McDonald, accredited music therapist, has worked with Ranch Ehrlo for nearly 13 years and said she’s always had a strong desire to introduce music programming to families.  

“Every time I heard about the Family Treatment Program, I just thought ‘Gosh we need to be in early intervention with the young ones and we need to be with the families’.  I just really felt that music therapy could be a great addition there, but we never knew how to make it happen in terms of funding and time.”

When Melanie saw the funding opportunity arise with NMC, she didn’t hesitate to apply on the agency’s behalf.

“When I saw this opportunity, I knew we had to try,” she explained. “I think the NMC really saw value in this program and wanted to help – they quite quickly jumped on board.”

At the same time Melanie was awaiting a response from the grant application, she had connected with a recent graduate who was looking to fulfill 1,000 hours of instructional session time as an intern.

The student, who first observed sessions, has grown to take on a more independent role, allowing Melanie to free up time to focus on the new program areas. When the internship is completed at the end of May, the student will move into contract work with Ranch Ehrlo, thanks in part to the NMC funding.

“It honestly felt like the stars aligned for us,” said Melanie.

The NMC grant must be used by the end of August, however, there is an opportunity to have funding renewed. A new grant application is currently in the works, Melanie said, optimistic that expansion can be sustained and benefits to participants can continue.   

“At first everyone has a bit of uncertainty and hesitancy because people haven’t engaged with music therapy before and aren’t sure what it is, but when they get comfortable you immediately see these barriers come down,” she explained. “I love the family sessions because you see families playing together, and you see families connecting in a way that is easier and comes more naturally. It feels very safe, it feels very playful and fun. But those fun, safe moments bring about these opportunities for families to feel a part of something together that maybe they haven’t had a chance to for a while.”

The therapeutic music sessions vary anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours, depending on the size of the group and age of participants. The NMC-funded program expansion first began in September 2023 in the Family Centred Addiction Program and was most recently extended to participants in the Family Treatment Program.