In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, music therapy services switched over to a virtual platform for many private practices and facilities. Although telehealth may not be suitable for every client, it has shown ample benefits for clientele within music therapy practices during this time where adaptability is essential. For veterans residing in remote areas or with limited access to local services, creative arts therapies have actually been offered via telehealth since 2014 through the endorsement of The Rural Veterans Tele-Rehabilitation Initiative (Vaudreuil et al., 2020).
As a music therapist providing telehealth sessions to clients at The House of Music Therapy, I have seen some unique advantages to this evolving platform for music therapy services. When some children begin to demonstrate feelings of anxiety and benefit from continued musical support without the vision of the therapist watching them, I have the ability to turn off my camera briefly (after notifying the child) while the child remains seen and heard by me. This provides me with an opportunity to observe the child’s responses while continuing verbal and/or musical support. This can help reduce any pressure the child may be feeling and decrease anxiety.
This feature has also become beneficial during music relaxation interventions where some clients have expressed feeling more comfortable with the therapist’s camera turned off to allow for a deeper engagement in the process. Another advantage I have encountered in telehealth services has been the ability to observe natural interactions in the clients’ home between them and their families or caregivers. I am able to do this without physically invading the child’s personal space as it may be difficult for some clients to allow a new person to step into their bedroom or play space and engage in therapy.
These advantages go beyond the time of the COVID-19 pandemic though. Now that music therapists are learning and adapting to meet the needs of clients through telehealth, how can we continue this form of practice when in person sessions resume? Telehealth may not have been normal practice for most music therapists prior to the pandemic, but continuation of its use may benefit clients. Psychotherapists have been offering virtual sessions to their clients since 1995 (The Western PA Healthcare News Team, 2020).
When a client is experiencing a high level of anxiety about attending a session in person, perhaps the music therapist could offer a telehealth session for that day. Vaudreuil et al (2020) found that offering music therapy telehealth options to veterans resulted in greater adherence to treatment, improved quality of life, and increased community integration. In the event that a client is unable to travel for any other reason but willing to engage in services, virtual sessions could also be an option for this day. Another idea for private practice telehealth usage is the implementation of an on-call music therapist position in which the therapist uses telehealth for certain hours where clients could request last minute sessions for additional support.
As music therapists, we adapt to fit the needs of our clients in a variety of ways. During a pandemic, we have had to adapt in a unique way, quickly and have found that it has had some great benefits that can be expanded to future work. When used appropriately to provide the best support for our clients, telehealth can be one our greatest tools to supplement in person sessions.
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 from 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.
The Western PA Healthcare News Team. (2020, May 01). The History of Online Therapy and Teletherapy. Retrieved July 08, 2020, from https://www.wphealthcarenews.com/thehistory-of-online-therapy-and-teletherapy/
Vaudreuil, R., Langston, D. G., Magee, W. L., Betts, D., Kass, S., & Levy, C. (2020). Implementing music therapy through telehealth: Considerations for military populations. Disability and Rehabilitation: Assistive Technology, 1-10. doi:10.1080/17483107.2020.1775312