Pioneering the field of Music Therapy in Maine. Providing group and individual sessions for speech, coordination, elevated mood states, increased self-expression and communication, reality orientation, and team work.
If you are a music therapist or a volunteer musician, a good rule of thumb is to follow the same protocol of the staff at any given facility. Any gear that used communally must have a hard, cleanable surface, and should really be cleaned in between every patient interaction. Now, in some settings you might adapt stricter rules to make things easier. For instance, at some day programs for seniors I’ll start and end each group by passing around hand sanitizer for each person to use. During the group, we interact and share instruments, and at the end of it I wipe down my musical instruments. But if you are visiting, say, a cancer center, you’d want to be much more careful. If patients can come out and join in a music group, they are likely not on specific precautions. If you are visiting patients’ rooms and working bedside, you’ll want to pay attention to specific precautions- and you may need to wear a mask, gloves, and/or a gown. Singing and playing guitar in a mask and gloves is a real adventure! It’s one of those things you don’t get to practice in music school, so you learn by doing. My advice is to size down on your gloves so that you can still play chords.
Unfortunately, the instruments that make the most beautiful sounds are usually the least infection-control-friendly. This is something I would love to see changed. Consider this blog a call to entrepreneurs, musicians, and luthiers: PLEASE create some therapy-friendly instruments! We need washable instruments. While you’re at it, we could also use some disability-friendly instruments. Something to consider! Developers could make a fortune off these things. And I won’t even take 10% for the idea- I’ll just take a few instruments for work ;).
circuits in the brain called mirror neurons provide us with the empathy to connect our own meaning to that of the music- even if we don’t know what the composer actually meant. Experiencing empathy leads to feeling compassion, and this feels good. Listening to music, therefore, is good for all of humanity.
“One person has a bunch of excitement and distraction, the other person is at home just… doing stuff. The longer it goes, the more challenging it gets.” This is something that has to be navigated, but it’s not unique to artists. If you love someone, you figure it out.
Working together, we used music as a distraction, as a reward, and as the motivation. Responding to Mia’s actions and moods through musical improvisation meant that she felt understood and was more motivated to participate in the therapy session. The music pushed her to lift higher, stretch longer, and laugh in the middle of crying.