SING IT LOUD: MARCH IS MUSIC THERAPY MONTH!
Music therapy services at Providence are currently available in all long-term care sites, the tertiary mental health units at Youville Residence & and St. Vincent’s: Langara, as well as at St. Paul’s Hospital within the mental health department and palliative care unit. In addition to providing musical therapy services, music therapists at PHC are also supervising students and interns at various sites.
According to the Canadian Association of Music Therapists, music therapy is a discipline in which certified music therapists (MTAs) use music purposefully within therapeutic relationships to support development, health, and well-being. Music therapists use music safely and ethically to address human needs within cognitive, communicative, emotional, musical, physical, social, and spiritual domains.
Here is a snapshot of music therapy happenings at PHC:
Leah Rosling - PPL
During the past 17 years, under visionary and highly supportive leaders and management here at PHC, I have witnessed the growth of the Music Therapy department go from four to 14 remarkably-gifted therapists who provide Music Therapy sessions, group and one-to-one, at all the long-term care sites plus St Paul’s Hospital in Mental Health and Palliative Care. It is really quite extraordinary to be part of such a team and experience daily the impact of music and skillful connection: to the lonely, the grieving, the dying and those suffering in spirit, mind or body. Even during the demands and restrictions of this past year, we have found so many ways to creatively adapt in order to continue to provide the need for beauty, peace and joy through music.
I would like to leave you with this image: During the coldest days of the winter when residents were confined to their rooms and visiting was not possible one of my MT colleagues went room to room on the outside perimeter of the building, knocking on windows and singing with her guitar for the resident within, a bit of light in the darkness.
Lucy Thomas and Wendy Sollaway - St. Vincent’s: Langara
Lucy has been a Music Therapist with Providence for five years, starting at St. Paul’s Hospital in Palliative Care, and now working at St. Vincent’s: Langara. She is a violinist, and plays guitar, piano, sings and occasionally treats residents to the healing vibrations of the didgeridoo. She recently started a Hindu music therapy group at Langara, and often sings songs in Mandarin and Cantonese to Chinese residents having spent three months travelling in China. She hopes to initiate a music and art group soon.
Wendy: “The soulful strains of jazz played by two residents and the music therapist can still be heard every Thursday afternoon at St Vincent’s: Langara. One-to-one music therapy sessions with isolated, bed bound and other residents missing their normal music group programming are also in the offering.
Olivia Nussey and Caitlin Monument - Alder
Alder is a 20-bed neuropsychiatry unit attached to St. Vincent’s Langara. Music Therapy at Alder consists of a daily group which could include rhythm activities, songwriting or music appreciation.
One-to-one sessions are also available for cognitive stimulation, connection and emotional support. When possible, Music Therapy collaborates with the ID team to support clients in achieving non-musical goals. The folks at Alder love a great variety of music, but mostly enjoy rock and pop from the ‘70s to today - with favourites such as AC/DC, Elton John, The Beatles and Nirvana. Music is a joyful part of our day and encourages clients and staff alike to come together and share their stories.
Caitlin (currently on maternity leave) works at Alder and Parkview tertiary mental health units, using music to connect with residents and support their social, emotional, physical, and spiritual health and wellbeing.
Mara Sawchyn and Josh Denny-Keys - St. Paul’s Hospital
Mara is the music therapist at St. Paul’s Hospital offering music therapy on four mental health units weekly. Music Therapy provides opportunities for creative expression, attentive listening and music appreciation as a means of refocusing attention, Improvisation as a means of non-verbal self-expression, and several other wellness music activities. Music is used in a therapeutic, purposeful way to increase self-awareness and decrease isolation, particularly in this difficult time of restricted limitations for socialization.
On the Palliative Care Unit at St. Paul’s Hospital, Joshua Denny-Keys uses music therapy to provide comfort care - helping patients to reduce their perception of pain, facilitate rest and/or sleep, aid in regulating their breathing, and improve mood. Music therapy benefits not just the patients on the unit, but also their friends and family, by providing them a safe way to connect with their loved ones, cope with new diagnoses, and deal with grief and loss.
Angela Wan - Brock Fahrni
Not many hobbies can become jobs but she is one of these fortunate people who turn their passion into a career. Music therapy is rewarding and therapeutic where Angela finds happiness and fulfilment at work. She rejoices at how music touches, benefits and connects many hearts and souls remarkably with the wonderful residents at Brock Fahrni.
Melissa Donaldson - Holy Family Hospital – LTC
In the wake of a COVID-19 outbreak, where there has been a significant need for repair and support (emotionally, spiritually and physically), and yet decreased opportunities for regular programming, Melissa has been offering a more flexible modified schedule- aiming to meet the immediate needs of the residents and staff. Focusing on one-to-one connection, impromptu small groups/room visits, palliative sessions, and as of recently, themed monthly musical based groups.
A daily “radio show” over the P.A. has become a regular and unexpectedly popular program since the beginning of the pandemic, led by Melissa with a resident assisting. It was initially created when all programming was cancelled, to reach more residents and staff, in hopes of spreading positivity and keeping the morale as high as possible during a darkening time. The “show” covers almost all of the bases from resident/staff song requests (recorded or sung), important holidays, tributes, interviews of staff and residents, jokes/deep thoughts, and often breaks out into a distanced dance party.
These daily opportunities for meaningful moments of connection that Music Therapy can provide make for one of the most rewarding professions on the planet. It also helps to have a wonderfully supportive, resilient and caring team to work alongside, who share the same resident focused approach!
Lorri Johnson - Youville Residence
Lorri works at Youville Residence, both in long term care and the Adult day program. She strives to create an environment, where the residents can participate in the sessions however they are able. From singing, playing rhythm instruments, dancing, reminiscing, or simply listening, music has a huge impact on the quality of lives of our people.
Eva Wong - Mount Saint Joseph Hospital – LTC
MSJ predominantly serves Chinese-speaking residents, so Eva tailors her MT programs to serve the residents’ needs. Eva uses Chinese folk, popular tunes and poetry to bring a taste of home and familiarity to the residents, thus enhancing the residents’ quality of life. Some of the residents’ favorite activities are dancing and moving to traditional folk songs, playing the hand chimes, and belting out their favorite soap opera tunes together. Due to COVID-19 workload increase, Eva is fortunate to be working at MSJ full-time for the past year. The increased hours have greatly enhanced MT programming at MSJ, enabling Eva to do more in-depth work and to spend more time with residents.
Susan Summers, Rhiannon Weiman, Tyrone Barnes - PHC MT Casuals
Susan Summers, PhD, MTA is a casual for PHC and enjoys supporting the residents and staff in long term care. She has been an MTA for 33 years, and she started casual at PHC in 2009.
As a casual music therapist at PHC, Rhiannon winds up working with a number of different residents and patients, in various settings, for indeterminate periods of time. Rhiannon always tries to prioritize that time to create safe, meaningful, musical connections with others, however brief or long they may be. With all of the precautions and restrictions put in place right now for COVID-19, patients and residents may feel added emotional stress, anxiety, loneliness, sense of isolation and loss of control.
Using music, and making music together, can promote instances of verbal and/or non-verbal expression, personal reflection, relaxation, nostalgia, joy, laughter, socialization, support of others, and choice - often in just one session! Rhiannon feels privileged and grateful as a working music therapist to experience all of this first-hand with so many individual and unique clients.
Tyrone Barnes has been playing guitar for seventeen years and has training on piano, voice, mandolin, percussion, flute, didgeridoo and other various instruments including audio recording and electronic music. Having travelled in parts of Africa, Asia, Europe and North America, he happily brings songs, genres and instruments from around the world into music therapy sessions. Graduating from Capilano University's Bachelor of Music Therapy Program in the Fall of 2016, Tyrone aspires to cultivate self-awareness, community engagement, activism, wellbeing, and mindfulness through music therapy.