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Telehealth Music Therapy by Car | A Narrative

In accordance with HIPAA regulations, the client’s identifying information has been removed. The pseudonym used in this blog post is *Cameron.

Hi, my name is Corinne Stypulkoski and I am a board-certified music therapist at The House of Music Therapy. I have been seeing Cameron for a few weeks for virtual music therapy sessions. When his mom notified me shortly before our recent session that something had suddenly come up requiring their family to travel to another town, she presented the options of having our telemusic therapy session in the car or re-scheduling it for a later date. I considered how I could possibly facilitate a music therapy session in a moving car, especially with a client who typically moves around a lot during our sessions.

Then, I realized that this might be a great opportunity to learn more about Cameron. It was an opportunity for me to observe how Cameron behaves and interacts in another environment that I’m not usually able to see him in. It was an opportunity for me to see how Cameron would interact with music when confined to a car seat when he is typically free to roam throughout a large space is his home. I was able to be included in a family car ride and provide a service that never would have occurred if it had been an in-person session.

We started with our “Hello” song that included the whole family, which immediately got Cameron’s sister engaged and excited to encourage Cameron’s participation. Unfortunately, the sound proved to be a bit difficult in this environment at times. I mirrored Cameron’s vocalizations and sang similar sounds with varied vowels to encourage mirroring from Cameron. However, it was difficult at points during this intervention to hear him in the car when his sister was so excited to sing along with us. Thankfully, there were moments that I was able to hear Cameron repeat my vocalizations as he kicked his legs to the drum beat I was providing. Providing this consistent, simple rhythm also seemed to help ground Cameron when the car pulled into a parking space and he became upset. I was also able to implement other types of interventions to assess his fine and gross motor movement with him seated in his chair.

Although the session came with some difficulties, it was overall a unique experience that addressed the client’s goals. By adapting in the moment to this change in plans, I was able to continue music therapy services for Cameron in a space that he uses throughout the week. In an ideal music therapy setting, there are no distractions and the space is set up with instruments according to the client’s specific needs. What I am learning is that music therapists have to adapt even more so in this current climate where the use of telehealth is so prevalent. A music therapist could look at this as a frustration, however, I believe that this strengthens us as clinicians. This makes us more flexible and able to meet the needs of our clients in the moment. Clients need help with utilizing the skills we are working on at all times of the day, not just within an ideal music therapy setting. Helping our clients integrate the skills they learn in sessions into daily acts of living is a vital step in therapy. By stepping (virtually) into one of those daily acts of living, we have a wonderful chance to see it in action and work with the client in building that skill or seeing how they use it.

Corinne Stypulkoski, MT-BC

Corinne Stypulkoski is a board-certified music therapist who recently joined the team at The House of Music Therapy. She received her bachelor’s degree in Music Therapy at Temple University and is currently completing her master’s degree in Music Therapy at Colorado State University. She has three years of professional experience working with clients with neurocognitive disorders and mental health diagnoses. She has also been teaching adapted piano lessons to children with developmental disabilities for two years.

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