Keeping music alive in online Music Therapy
Updated: Dec 18, 2021
Transitioning from providing in person sessions to online sessions was a humbling experience. In the early online sessions, I often felt my client and I were dancing around the elephant in the room - how do we continue to interact musically?
In the last post, we explored using turn-taking and action songs to 'work around' the time lag in online sessions. This time, I'd like to talk about some ways to 'work with' the screen sharing function of online meeting softwares and 'work towards' having cooperative musical experience with my clients in online sessions.
Emoji 'map' for music-making
This emoji chart was initially created as a tool to 'check in' with how my clients feel at the beginning of each online session. I'd share the emoji chart using the shared screen function and invite my clients to circle how they feel as I do the same. Some children would circle lots of different, sometimes contradicting, emojis at the same time, others would only ever choose the happy face even when it's not congruent with how they feel. However, more often, children would circle an emoji and ask me 'what does it mean?'
This is where music came in. Perhaps music can say what words can't say. I encouraged my clients to create 'jingles' for their chosen emojis. Remarkably, some children were able to verbalise that what a specific emotion means or feels to them after playing music, i.e. 'surprised is a quiet and the suddenly loud kind of feeling' and 'excitement is an always buzzing fast feeling'.
From there, different clients have their own playful way of using music in relation to their emotions. Some developed a 'guess my feeling' game, where they played music, and then asked me to guess how they felt on the day. Others would circle all the emojis they associated with specific events, improvise as we talked through the events. Through the music, my clients were able to identify how they feel at different point of the events, i.e. 'first I was annoyed, then I got angry, and then I broke the toy, which made me feel guilty afterwards.'
This emoji chart became not only a way to 'check in' with my clients, but also a tool to facilitate them to explore and express their emotions through musical improvisation. It's very easy to use. All you need to do is to put together an emoji chart (or download mine) and learn how to share your screen and how to annotate using your chosen virtual meeting software.