What Lies Ahead for In-Person Music Therapy
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As numbers of COVID-19 cases change in different regions and children are preparing to start the next school year in unique ways, music therapists and families/caregivers/clients may wonder if in-person sessions should occur and what they should look like to ensure the safety of everyone involved. If a music therapist or client household member is experiencing COVID-19 symptoms or has had contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, music therapy services should not be held in person at that time. Music therapists who have had exposure to a positive case without proper protective equipment are recommended to remain out of work and monitor themselves for symptoms for 14 days (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2020). Music therapists who contract COVID-19 should receive two consecutive negative results prior to returning to in-person work (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2020).
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
If in-person services are deemed appropriate for a client, then personal protective equipment (PPE) will be an essential aspect of the sessions. Some clients may have difficulty keeping masks on, but clients and household members should be asked to wear an accessible mask during the session for everyone’s protection. Although cloth face coverings are better than no face covering at all, they are not considered PPE and are recommended for the general public (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2020). While fitted N95 masks may provide the one of the best respiratory protections, these are not readily available for clinicians to purchase independently. Disposable surgical masks can be purchased for use in sessions and provide protection through filtering out large-particle droplets. KN95 masks are another option that are beginning to become available for purchase publicly that offer a higher level of protection than surgical masks through 5-layer, nonwoven fabric that filters about 95% of all particles (Cralle, 2020). Eye protection is also important when working in person, which can be provided through either goggles or a face shield. Both of these items can be purchased online. Hand hygiene should be performed both before and after the session. It should also be performed in the event that a clinician comes into contact with any bodily fluids.
Potential Difficulties With PPE
Music therapists might wonder how they will sing with a mask on. So, are the makeshift masks created for singers a viable option for music therapists? The Singer’s Mask was developed by the Broadway Relief Project (2020), which provides extra room away from the face for particle containment. However, this mask is made from cloth and does not provide the protection that the filters on surgical and KN95 masks have. Music therapists with clients who experience difficulty interacting with people in masks (ie. clients with sensory challenges and/or communication difficulties) might benefit from a recently developed mask to aid in communication. The Communicator Clear Window Mask developed by Safe N Clear (2020) is FDA registered and uses a clear piece of material that enables clients to see the clinician’s mouth during sessions. However, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has not provided any information on these masks and whether the piece covering the direct area of the mouth could pose any limitations on droplet protection.
It is especially important to consider which instruments should be brought to a session when returning to in-person sessions. Instruments that are able to be cleaned using the CDC recommended Lysol disinfectant are safest to bring. West Music provides a list of their instruments that are able to be cleaned and how to clean them: https://content.westmusic.com/keeping-your-instruments-clean/
Although guitars are often brought to music therapy sessions, disinfecting wipes and sprays may damage the finish of certain guitars. If you are unable to disinfect your guitar, it is not safe to bring it to a session. Technology has also become a large part of virtual sessions and apps on iPads or phones may be something that is incorporated into a session. One way to promote sanitary use is to keep the iPad or phone inside of a plastic bag for the session. All cleaning should be done while using gloves that are disposed of following sanitization of equipment.
Corinne Stypulkoski, MT-BC
Corinne Stypulkoski is a board-certified music therapist with 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. Corinne had three years of professional experience working in skilled nursing facilities in NYC prior to starting as an independent contractor. She also teaches adapted piano lessons to children with developmental disabilities
Broadway Relief Project. (2020). Retrieved August 15, 2020, from https://www.broadwayreliefproject.com/
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020). Information for Healthcare Professionals about Coronavirus (COVID-19). Retrieved August 15, 2020, from https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/hcp/index.html
Cralle, T. (2020, August). KN95 Mask: 11 Things You Need to Know Before Buying. Retrieved August 15, 2020, from https://www.terrycralle.com/kn95-mask/ The
Communicator Clear Window Surgical Mask. (2020). Retrieved August 15, 2020, from https://safenclear.com/product/communicator-box
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