On being together, apart.
Reflections on Remote Music Therapy Sessions during Covid 19
by Ruth Spencer
One of the benefits to come out of the COVID-19 pandemic has been the rapid development of remote music therapy services. We have yet to find a remote platform with no time lag, but despite this we have found that music therapy is not only possible but extremely beneficial, and can provide a crucial ongoing contact when otherwise clients would be extremely isolated. Once the tech is sorted out, and the therapist and client relax into the remote setting, they find a new rhythm that works. Adapting is crucial, but this has always been part of a music therapist’s toolkit whether they are working remotely or face-to face.
Using platforms such as Zoom and Skype, Waves music therapists deliver 1:1 and group music therapy sessions. For some this has been very similar to a face-to-face experience- shared music-making using voice and instruments (some of which are delivered to clients by Waves Music Therapy). Therapists use a mixture of improvisation and more structured activities, depending on what is needed and what a client feels comfortable with. For improvisation, the audio and time-lag of remote platforms can be challenging, and for this reason the right pace needs to be found. Sometimes things may go unheard, and group improvisations take on a very different nature. But, once people get used to the setting, many of our clients have shared that the experience has been hugely beneficial and uplifting.
The more structured activities have included song-writing; interactive music activities for parents and children – or groups of school children and their teacher; Group singing; Listening and playing/singing along; and we’ve also live-streamed music sessions from Waves Facebook page for clients to join in with at home or school. As with face-to-face music therapy, some clients are verbal, some aren’t and therefore some remote music therapy sessions involve verbal reflection, some are totally music and silence based. For some, the dynamic of the sessions changes, as a parent or carer may need to be present during a remote session and perhaps facilitate the playing of instruments, if needed. But the therapist can guide as they embark on the remote journey together. In our remote sessions with parents and babies/children, we have done lots of different interactive activities which they can then continue to do outside the sessions. These have involved a mixture of instrument-playing and interactive musical games, lullaby and action songs, and everything in-between!
For singing and listening based activities, the screen sharing facility of remote platforms enables therapists to play music through the computer to their clients. IPads can also be shared on the screen, so that certain apps can be used – for example for creating a backing track together during a song-writing session. And as with face-to face sessions, sometimes we may create a backing track, a recording of a co-created song or a play list and email it to the client for them to use in their home.
It is fair to say that remote music therapy sessions do present their own unique challenges, but these quotes from clients illustrate that it is definitely worth it…
“The children are showing confidence growing over time”
“The weekly sessions have helped us through lockdown tremendously”
“I would recommend it to anyone”
“I enjoyed the interaction aspect of the sessions”
“It is a session we always look forward to”
“M does not engage with zoom calls very well but the way he interacts with you is amazing. He is himself but you are able to engage with him even through Zoom!”