This week plans have been announced for the final easing of lockdown and we are finally back to face to face delivery. Here are some of my reflections and experiences of online and face to face music therapy work.
Yesterday marked my first proper day back at the children’s hospice where I work with Ace Music Therapy. Sessions have been running fully online since April 2020 and I can’t describe how amazing it was to be back in the building. I donned my PPE and did my pre-visit Covid test and took my instruments ready for a music therapy group for the children in the residential unit. I had been seeing these children online during the pandemic and the differences between online compared to face to face delivery were remarkable. There are definitely some huge advantages to online sessions, I will mention these later, but nothing will truly beat those ‘moments of meeting’ you share with clients during music therapy sessions.
Being able to offer children an instrument and support them musically as they explore it, exploring it together. Reflecting their body language and facial expressing and supporting their communication through vocalisations is something that cannot be done online. Face to face allows for a different kind of connection than online. Yesterday I was struck particularly by one child, who has spent almost every online session sleeping, yesterday open his eyes during the session and vocalised and also held an instrument independently. Although these seem like small things, to a child with profound and multiple learning disabilities and a life limiting illness these are HUGE steps.
I love my job! My passion for music therapy was re-ignited. It was not only great to see the children getting involved but the staff too. They commented on the differences between online and face to face sessions. It is safe to safe that with online sessions I often found myself feeling much more like a performer than a therapist.
Amongst latency issues, technical difficulties and lack of instruments, online music therapy does also have its positive sides, namely the involvement of parents/carers/professionals and the lack of travel. Parents/carers/professionals are able to join in with sessions and therefore witness the benefits for themselves and take ideas from sessions around using music. Also there is no travel required, which means the therapist can see more children in one day and there is not need to charge for travel expenses.
What does music therapy look like going forward?
Well the answer to this I feel is a hybrid of face to face and online sessions. Online sessions can be arrange specifically when travel is an issue or when someone is self-isolating and some people prefer online sessions. However as said above, nothing will beat face to face music therapy sessions.
Ace Music Therapy is now operating with almost all face to face sessions. Our music therapist Kamila, is currently leading our online music therapy provision, which is offered to any clients who would prefer online sessions.