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Telehealth and Music Therapy: Making the Best of a New (Virtual) World

Within a handful of days, the day-to-day work routine as many of us knew it turned upside down. Many businesses, educational institutions, and healthcare providers suddenly converted their services from face-to-face to virtual technology.

What was once a convenient tool, is now a necessity to continue providing important services. This drastic change can be a steep learning curve for professionals (including music therapists) that rely on in-person, individualized relationships. 

 

WHAT IS TELEHEALTH?

Telehealth is the use of technology and telecommunications to provide remote access to health services. Telecommunications can include direct contact via phone and video calls, exchange of health information over electronic means, patient and professional education, and health administration.

 

TELEHEALTH AND MUSIC THERAPY

Music therapy is effective because of the therapeutic rapport that is built within face-to-face interactions. More than likely, it has been a rocky transition to the world of virtual sessions. However, along with frustrations, obstacles, and reduced clientele, there continue to be encouraging stories of successful sessions. 

Our music therapy staff at MusicWorx and Resounding Joy are utilizing video conference calls via Zoom and phone call visits to continue services. We serve a wide variety of populations including

  • medically fragile children,
  • neurodiverse clients,
  • older adult individuals and groups,
  • people with Parkinson’s disease and their care partners,
  • individual sessions and lessons, and
  • medical music therapy with hospice and hospital inpatients.

Consequently, we are able to reach clients that were previously unable to attend in-person sessions. For example, Resounding Joy’s groups for medically fragile children went from 100 families in the local area to 175+ families across five states and Mexico! Because of this influx of virtual clientele, we must take every precaution to ensure the safety of our clients online. 

 

SAFETY AND SECURITY

In order to maintain HIPAA compliance and to ensure the safety of all clients, it is imperative that our profession take extra precautions when using telehealth. With the influx of global video call usage, there have been unfortunate reports of hacked calls. Video calling platforms have addressed the issues and released statements on how to safely facilitate telehealth sessions. 

Here are some telehealth security recommendations:

  • Secure a meeting with encryption
  • Password protect a meeting
  • Only allow individuals with a given email domain to join
  • Create Waiting Rooms for attendees
  • Require host to be present before meeting starts
  • Expel a participant or all participants
  • Lock a meeting after all expected participants have joined 

Find out how to take these steps and learn more about recommended security settings here.  Additionally, the American Music Therapy Association has released a post about resources, including information on cybersecurity and telehealth protection

 

VIRTUAL ENGAGEMENT AND CREATIVITY

Your clients are excited to continue virtual services, you’ve secured your video and phone calls, and you have great intervention ideas… But you might be feeling uncertain with exactly how the sessions will go. 

First and foremost, remember that telehealth is likely pretty new to everyone — clients and professionals alike! Trial and (maybe several) errors will occur, but music therapists are trained to adapt in the moment, learn on the fly, and be creative on the spot. 

Here are some tips on how to creatively engage your clients during virtual sessions.

  • Use that handy “Mute All” button. 
      • When you are the host in a group call, the “mute all” button is very helpful to minimize distractions and interruptions. Lead a live song as you normally would and encourage your clients to sing and/or play their instruments along with you – without the disjointed timing of others’ sound.
  • Call and response.
      • The lag time in the virtual world makes making music together at the same time a bit challenging. Call and response is a method that can still be successful!
      • Teach or create a chant, finish phrases, allow other clients to lead, or pass a rhythm sequence around the group. 
  • Solo time!
      • Along with the power to Mute All, you can also unmute one or a few at a time, allowing for some great opportunities for instrument or singing solos, and songwriting input! 
  • Share your screen.
      • The option to share your screen with your clients is a fantastic opportunity to be able to save paper and lots of time laminating. Options include colorful visuals, displaying song lyrics, and easily editing songwriting templates in real time. 
  • GarageBand.
      • You can even screen share GarageBand and have clients be able to engage in creating music while using the computer keyboard and mouse. 
    • Share a recorded song from your computer. 
      • Zoom has a really awesome option to share a song recording and have it sound just like it’s coming from the client’s device! Find out how here
  • “Homework”
    • Ask clients to think of a song to share for the next session related to the session subject, which could be about memories, places, or emotions. Work on a creative arts project or put together life soundtracks/albums. 
  • Clients need instruments? 
    • Use a session to teach them how to make their own! There’s tons of awesome ideas online from household items, including how to make shakers, kazoos, a harmonica, drums of all kinds, etc. 
    • OPTIONAL: If you are able to drive to clients in the local area and have instruments to spare, put together instrument bundles and drop them off at the doorstep for clients, families, or a facility (at your discretion). 

Virtual music therapy sessions are a bit different than what we’re used to. However, it is still important for us to support individuals and families who are isolated and have had their routines majorly disrupted. During this new normal, our goal is to provide positive engagement and support for the well being of our community.

 

Originally posted at musictherapyandwellnesshub.com/ on April 14, 2020.

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