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Much needed music therapy continues thanks to telehealth

Much needed music therapy continues thanks to telehealth

Shayleigh Frank ’21 December 24, 2020

In UD’s music therapy program, students usually work in person with clients during their senior practicum sessions. This year, senior music therapy majors Michaela Miller and Samantha Engle have found technology allows them to provide remote therapeutic services safely and effectively.

Similar to the shift learning has taken by much of it going remote, telehealth is a virtual telecommunication platform that allows patients to speak to their care providers without having to be in the same room with them.

In the past, therapy sessions involved face-to-face music sessions to help improve clients’ health and well-being. Now using telehealth connections, students continue to use singing, instrumental play and percussion work. They first observe the clients over a video connection and see how they interact with the students’ supervisors. The students then work to create a therapy plan as part of their practicum course.

“Honestly, it’s just challenged us to be creative and collaborative,” said Engle in an interview over Zoom.

Clients have told Engle how therapeutic their telehealth sessions have been.

“It’s relaxing for them, it’s exciting, it kind of breaks up their day,” Engle reported. “They see the same people every day, and they do the same things every day, it’s kind of mundane for them, so they have said music therapy is exciting.”

Music therapy students sing to you

Working with mentors through telehealth, Engle has been able to progress with her clients at United Rehabilitation Services of Greater Dayton.

“It’s definitely gotten a lot better, and I think that’s just due to the nature of the music therapy team,” Engle said.

The switch to virtual sessions, while not being the easiest, still has its benefits. For Miller, these sessions have been a learning experience for both herself and her client. Miller said she developed a strong, therapeutic relationship with a woman in an advanced stage of dementia. Miller has helped her client to feel less isolated and more trusting by using a technique called song transformation.

“I took a song that she knew and I blanked out certain words,” Miller said, “and then had her fill in the words in order to mimic her feelings and her thoughts. The purpose was just to reminisce on her life and to give her a sense of empowerment.”

“The purpose was just to reminisce on her life and to give her a sense of empowerment.”

Miller is the president of the Music Therapy Club on campus and has researched the effect of music on pain in patients.

“Actively engaging in music actually reduces pain in your brain,” Miller said. “It makes the amygdala, which is the fear center or pain center of your brain, calm down and regulate itself.”

Overall, the opportunity the practicum provides to communicate with clients through telehealth options continues to inspire and educate music therapy students at UD.

 “It’s really cool to see the changes music has on those tiny levels to help someone to increase not only their capabilities cognitively but physically as well,” Miller said.