Prior to March, we hadn’t envisioned providing music therapy sessions to our clients in a virtual capacity, but as the world rapidly changed, it became clear this was the direction we would need to go if we hoped to maintain connections with our clients. Aside from technology and logistic questions, our largest concern centered around service delivery, and how we would be able to interact with our clients through a device. What would engagement look like? How could we restructure goals to fit new needs? Would the use of an iPad or computer be too distracting for our clients? While we tried to brainstorm solutions to these questions and more, we knew we would just need to dive in and get virtual sessions going and work out the kinks as we went along.
We had to let music chart the course.
Almost two months into this new way of providing services, it is amazing how our clients and stakeholders have adapted. So many of our clients and families have embraced changing the way we conduct sessions, with lots of “magical musical moments” happening.
Kim Schlesinger, our intern who graduated in February and officially started her music therapy career amidst a pandemic, has had some amazing sessions with her clients. With one client in particular, she has seen increasing engagement as this person becomes more accustomed to seeing Kim on her computer screen. At the second session, Kim says that this client “called me by name and asked how I was doing, before making multiple song requests”.
The surprises kept coming throughout the session. “I began to strum an introduction and she immediately began to sing the first verse” Kim recounts. “I was floored by her ability to hold the tune, remember all of the lyrics, and sing to my guitar accompaniment as it came out of her speaker while I played from miles away in Illinois. This feat is even more impressive when you understand that she rarely sings independently, sometimes filling in lyrics I leave out or usually just singing along as I vocally lead.”
Our Lead Music Therapist, Maureen Young, had a sweet experience with respite yesterday during a virtual session with a 95-year old client. “I was completely unsure of how she would respond to the technology and if she would remember me” Maureen said. “However, it was truly touching to see her interacting as her usual self, with all the funny jokes, smiles, and sweet questions she asks. I’m sure that for the nursing staff at these facilities, being able to step away for a moment of respite, or to attend to others in need, is truly priceless. For this client, being able to connect with a familiar face, at a time when there is limited ability to connect with others, and she may be disoriented to time and place, is another example of respite.” Maureen also experienced respite for herself, interacting with her client and seeing her respond so well to the music.
While we never envisioned providing services virtually, our clients, stakeholders and families have been so receptive and resilient, it has made the transition that much more successful! We can’t wait to continue to make music with all of you!