If one thing this past year has taught me, it is that we, humans, are incredibly resilient, creative, and adaptable creatures. When we were told to stay home, to protect those most vulnerable, we adapted to a new world of virtual work environments. When we were told that being physically close to others was a threat to our health system, we found creative ways to socialize and connect to the ones we love.
However, profound challenges have come to light; loneliness, forgotten sense of normalcy, and a lack of cognitive stimulation are just a few things that we have been combating this year. We, as Music Therapists, have been working along the frontlines of these battles. The process of healing and the act of living should not be something an individual goes through in isolation.
Through a combination of virtual and in-person music therapy we worked at creating new points of connection for our clients. I meet new people on a laptop screen each week. Many of those people I have never met face to face. I may not know what they look like in a three dimensional world but that does not matter; I have the honour of getting a glimpse of who that person is in our sessions. Sharing stories and experiences is still an integral part of what we do day to day. A group I lead online has developed a sense of belonging in it’s members. It allows them to be a part of something and connect with new and old friends despite the restrictions around us. Music Therapists are bringing a glimmer of normalcy and routine to those we serve. In a space where we have not been able to ‘feel normal’ for a long time, we strive to be that normal, reliable component in a client’s week. Individuals I work with in long-term care know what day and what time I come each week. When we end sessions by saying “see you next week”, there is comfort in knowing that they can count on something reliable in their week.
The most challenging part of my work has been watching the decline of the folks I’ve gotten to know. In some places we are seeing it through the looking glass, in others we are seeing it face to face. Things that keep us young, active, or happy are now things that happen in isolation, happen infrequently, or perhaps do not happen at all. We are no longer experiencing as many novel things in our day to day and perhaps cannot engage in the activities we would previously use to boost our mood.
I met and got to know an individual online through weekly music therapy sessions. This person reported experiencing feelings of loneliness and lack of purpose. When we met we would listen to preferred music suggested by the individual that held meaning for them. A few weeks into sessions, they began to bring new music suggested by their son. Our time began to transform into a time of reflection and a way to develop a stronger connection with their son. We listened to the words, discussed our interpretation, and created a novel topic for this individual to bring to her next visit with her son. Perhaps adapting has been challenging but it has pushed us to dig deeper into our creative souls and find new ways to thrive or at times just cope in the world around us.
Written by Nadine de Bruyn, MTA
This blog post was written for our #MTOnTheFrontlines series, which will continue to feature many stories from our 30 years on the frontlines of music therapy. Together we will explore the different destinations (positive outcomes), journeys (processes), and the company (our clients) we have kept along the way.