Today March 1st is World Music Therapy Day. Due to the Covid-19 Pandemic music therapists have had to shift their practice to online work. I thought I would share some reflections on the power of music transforming lives through online work…
Since the Covid-19 pandemic music therapists all over the world have had to innovate new ways of working with their clients. It is safe to say a lot of our work depends on being in the room with the client and working on how they are feeling in that space, therefore running sessions online provides a completely different way of working and offers us a different perspective as we see into our client’s home lives. There are of course positives and negatives to this route, however in my experience the positives far outweigh the negatives. Delivering online music therapy has enabled Ace music therapists to reach more people than ever before and has also enabled us to work more closely with family members and carers to help them truly understand the benefits of music therapy and give them ideas of ways to integrate music into their daily activities.
In fact when reflecting on recent online music therapy sessions, I found myself amazed by the powerful connections that have been made. Here I am talking specifically about clients who I have actually never met ‘in the flesh’ before but only online. Lockdown has meant we have not been able to carry out music therapy assessments in the same way as normal and we have had to learn a lot about our clients through information from family members. I have been truly surprised at how powerful some of these connections have been.
One individual I have worked with is a young girl called Alina. Alina has Global Developmental Delay and is also is visually impaired and non-verbal. I used to see Alina quarterly for Amber Plus Music Sessions but even this was online (I had never met her ‘in the flesh’). Mum approached me to provide music therapy sessions as part of Alina’s home education provision in order to develop her communication skills and provide an outlet for emotional expression. Having seen Alina for Amber Plus previously I had to change my style significantly so that Alina could be aware of the different between music and music therapy sessions. To do this I changed the instrument and song for the hello and goodbye songs.
Over the weeks (we have had 10 music therapy sessions to date) I have been astounded by Alina’s progress. We have really got to know each other through the medium of music and I have become aware of what Alina likes and does not like. We have used vocal improvisations to give Alina space to express herself freely and I have supported her in this through my musical accompaniments. We have also been working on Alina’s motor control as she often has her hands grasped together, so we have been attempting to develop Alina’s confidence in separating her hands through playing instruments. In our most recent session whilst Alina was listening to me play and sing to her, her hands were apart for a significant amount of time, which was a vast improvement. In addition we have been working to develop Alina’s communication through musical cues, helping her to understand when to start and stop playing. Alina’s mum has been able to continue using these cues in other daily activities and we are working together with Alina’s speech and language therapist to develop more cues.
Music therapy always allows for making powerful connections, however I am struck here particularly by how powerful the connection has been without the need to meet face to face. Alina recognises my voice week by week as soon as the session begins and she often shows sadness or disengages when it is time to say goodbye, as if not wanting the session to end. I find myself wondering what direction the sessions will take when we finally are allowed to conduct face to face sessions!
Alina’s mum who is there week by week to assist Alina with her musical endeavours, comments “I am so impressed with the way in which Amelia tailors Alina’s sessions based on her needs. She gives her space to express herself through singing and playing and is led by her responses to ensure that Alina gets the best from her weekly sessions. The marked progression that we have observed in recent weeks is so encouraging and we continue to work towards her targets in collaboration with Alina’s Speech & Language Therapist.”