We have been hard at work here at Miya Music Therapy to make Online Music Therapy a viable option for our community partners and individual clients so that they can continue to receive services during these challenging times. Going virtual has been a significant learning curve and has meant doing a lot of research and test runs to ensure both compliance and optimal use so that everyone can get the most value out of this new experience.
Due to physical distancing, many of the clients we work with are no longer able to participate in the programs that brought them the engagement and stimulation they need. We are truly grateful that online music therapy is a viable option to continue to meet the needs of our clients when we can't be there in person. Although connecting in-person is almost always preferred, we have found that online sessions have had some unexpected benefits!
1) Family Connection
Online music therapy has provided an opportunity for our clients' families to be involved in sessions in new and exciting ways. When therapeutically relevant, we have had grandchildren of seniors with dementia, siblings of varying ages, and parents join in on sessions. This has provided opportunities for loved ones to bond through shared music experiences and for family members to further witness the positive benefits of music therapy.
Another meaningful way in which family members can participate in online sessions involves seniors in long-term care facilities. At this time, due to COVID-19, family and friends are unable to visit their loved ones who live in care facilities. This is extremely difficult and saddening for all involved. Through online music therapy, we have the unique option of inviting family members to join in virtually from their home and connect with the resident in the care facility, while all participating in music together. This can provide both the resident and family members with significant feelings of comfort and connection at a time when they need it more than ever.
2) Freedom to Express
Being in the comfort of home, behind the laptop, may actually help some to feel more open and safe. This may result in changes in the way they express themselves during sessions. For some, it means expressing more freely and feeling comfortable sharing their thoughts and emotions openly.
Some clients have also noted that they enjoy being muted while they are singing, especially in a group session. We ask participants to mute themselves because the feedback of everyone's noise coming through makes it challenging to sing or play along. The disadvantage of not being able to sing together is that we lose that feeling of connection through shared music experiences. However, the unexpected benefit is that many participants feel more comfortable and less intimidated, and can, therefore, sing to their heart's content!
3) Expanded Reach
By providing sessions online, we are able to reach individuals and care facilities in remote geographic areas who may have not had access to a certified music therapist previously. This expands our reach as care providers and helps additional people access services that benefit their wellbeing.
4) More Flexibility
Due to the lack of travel time between clients, there is much more flexibility and time available for facilitating sessions. By eliminating travel time and other time-consuming activities associated with visiting sites, we are able to solely concentrate on our vision, which is to improve the quality of life of our clients.
5) Recorded Interventions
The use of recorded interventions has been another surprising benefit of going online and is something that we can continue to use once we begin meeting our clients again in person. The recording of certain interventions is something that clients can use in between sessions. This can help to reinforce the therapeutic goals we are working towards.
Everyone has had to adapt so quickly to the challenges brought upon by COVID-19.
We are proud of our partners in long term care, group homes, daycares, and retirement facilities and are reminded daily of the importance of music therapy and the role it plays in their lives. Certain facilities deemed music therapy an essential service, reinforcing what we know to be true (it's right there in our slogan!) - that music therapy is an integral part of the healthcare team.
The benefits of physical engagement and in-person contact cannot be replaced. With that said, despite limitations, online sessions do provide a new dimension of opportunity to address the needs of our music therapy clients.
We are so grateful for this opportunity.