The Music Therapy program at Strive Living Society has grown and changed to fit the challenges of moving into a new facility and balancing a virtual music therapy program for the clients that wish to continue with online services. Music Therapy at Strive Living Society has now grown to 3 full hours of music therapy services that Sterling Kwong provides on a weekly basis. Sterling also works at Strive as an outreach worker (in field social services support) and as a recreation coordinator for the vibrant day program. Sterling’s increased visibility with the clients has allowed his one to one music therapy sessions to be continually filled. With Sterling’s expanded duties in both outreach work and recreation support, he is now offering music therapy based interventions for an expanded circle of clients who may not come to the centre for music therapy specifically.
Strive Living Society 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.
Music therapy provided consistent and ongoing support to clients with mental health challenges over the last year. Several individuals that were challenged with isolation and depression during this time were able to rely on the music therapy program to access ongoing support during the pandemic. It allowed for clients to have a familiar and safe space to express feelings of frustration, anger, and grief. The centre developed virtual music therapy sessions to provide individuals with a choice to access therapy sessions through Zoom if they were not able to join in person.
Navigating The Ongoing COVID-19 Pandemic
The ongoing pandemic has increased the demand for music therapy services at Strive. Prior to the pandemic the music therapy program was limited to 2 hours weekly. Midway through the pandemic the hours increased twice, first to 2.5 hours and now to 3 hours weekly. Safety and health protocols have been increased at Strive to mitigate risk of spreading COVID-19. Some clients have chosen to access music therapy virtually indefinitely as they are concerned about contracting the virus.
Strive envisions the potential for further growth of the music therapy program and would like to support an increase in one to one clients, music jam, music education (in both instruments and digital audio production) and virtual music therapy. Adopting this program will allow Strive Living Society to offer 5 hours of weekly music therapy as the demand for services is increasing.
Vicky is an enthusiastic participant that has a passion for music and singing. With the challenges of the pandemic, she has only recently returned to Strive to reconnect with the music therapy program. Vicky has limited ability with use of her left hand but that does not impede her ability to want to create and express herself. When she is at the centre she is often surrounded by a plethora of arts and crafts supplies that she enjoys. Vicky is particularly drawn to the Music Jam and Karaoke programs at Strive. For much of the pandemic, Vicky has only utilized online services. During these sessions, Vicky’s love for all forms of music is evident as she loudly sings along to songs by Justin Bieber, Elvis Presley, The Beatles, Blue Rodeo, and many more. Occasionally Music Therapist Sterling can hear Vicky’s mom chime in with a request for an oldies favourite. Music therapy benefits everyone in the room!
Sadly Vicky has recently experienced the tragic loss of a loved one. But music therapy will remain a pivotal part of her life offering her comfort and hope during this difficult time.