The music therapy program at Strive Living Centre is provided weekly for 2.5 hours. Prior to the pandemic disruption of in person services it has been mostly centered on 1:1 sessions up to 30 minutes. Since the recent reopening of in person sessions it is now a combination of small group music improvisational group approximately 45 minutes in length, and 1:1 sessions filling up the remaining time.
Strive Living Centre serves adults with diverse abilities, acquired brain injuries, and intellectual disabilities. Participants are self referred or are accompanied by a working assistant to make arrangements to the Centre. The participants are ethnically and culturally diverse as it is located in the heart of Vancouver. Several participants are of First Nations heritage.
How does Music Therapy uniquely address the needs of clients at Strive Living Centre?
Music Therapy is a powerful modality that addresses the complex emotional and neurological needs of the participants at Strive Living Centre. The participants are drawn to musical programming on the schedule of recreational activities that are not facilitated by a music therapist. The addition of a music therapist has allowed the participants fuller utilization of music based coping strategies in a community based Centre.
How has COVID-19 impacted the program?
Programs were suspended for 2 weeks during the initial closure of the Centre. Communication and mobile technologies were explored to ensure the clients were supported during any interruption of services provided. During the closure options were explored to integrate the utilization of existing technology that the client already owned. Most of the clients were already familiar with FaceTime on their personal Apple devices thus virtual music therapy sessions were able to continue during the closure of the Centre. All music therapy group sessions were suspended during the closure. Now with the center reopened group sizes are limited to 5 or 6 to ensure adequate social distancing.
Adopting this program would allow further development of in person and virtual music therapy sessions. Since the reopening of the Centre, the limited 2.5 hours per week is quickly consumed by the clients that are willing to return there. This leaves clients that are uncomfortable in returning to the Centre due to the pandemic vulnerable and without music therapy services. An increase in funding would allow an increase of services to 4 hours weekly, allowing more clients to access music therapy according to their comfort level.
Jillian is an exuberant young woman who loves music and loves to sing. She is currently 25 years old and has been attending Strive Living Centre for a few years now. She has been one of the clients that was affected by the of the closure of the Centre due to the pandemic. She declined virtual music therapy sessions as she would much rather have in person services provided. She has recently recently returned to the Centre and enthusiastically welcomed me back. She particularly connects with songs from Disney soundtracks and popular songs which she sings with joyful abandon. During our one to one sessions Jillian confides, “I am afraid that I can’t hit the high notes, so I am really glad that you can help me hit the high notes.” After repeated “rehearsals“ with me Jillian is confident enough to perform the song during Karaoke sessions or at special needs camps. She is also an active participant in the “Music Jam” program to develop rhythmic acuity and perception in a group context. Jillian is also a stalwart supporter of the music therapist and music therapy program at Strive Living Centre. “I always try to encourage others to music therapy because not very many programs offer it. I am so excited that you are back!”