I’ve just finished my sixth week of my internship at Wascana Rehabilitation Centre in Regina, Saskatchewan. Wascana offers music therapy in their Children’s program, on their Extended Care units, and their Veterans units. I have been working on the veterans and extended care units, but there are also opportunities for me to observe the music therapist in the children’s program, or even at other hospitals in the Regina Qu’Appelle Health Region. Groups that are offered in the veteran’s/ extended care programs include:
- “Musical Memories” group with residents with severe dementia and Alzheimer’s co-facilitated with a recreation therapist. This group uses multiple sources of sensory stimulation to help residents recall and reminisce about a different theme each week. For Thanksgiving we sang about the harvest, and the recreation therapist brought in gravy for residents to taste (for those who were able), and brought a cup of cranberry apple-cinnamon tea for the residents to smell.
- “Bell Choir” groups with residents from extended care and veteran’s units. There are two groups, which were formed based on differing levels of functioning. Each week, the groups gather and practice songs to prepare for CD recordings or concerts. One bell choir is currently working towards a concert and CD for “Bell Choir Does the Beatles”, and one bell choir has just started practicing for their Christmas concert.
- “Movie Music” group with young adult residents on the extended care units. This is a fairly small group, which started because of their common interest in movies. Discussion of movies and their soundtracks has lead to more in-depth discussions on the themes of abandonment, self-identity, family dynamics, and group relationships. Residents often bring in songs or compose poetry or lyrics to represent their feelings on certain topics.
- “Music Appreciation” group with residents from extended care units. This group gathers weekly, and engages in discussion about different kinds of music. They’ve listened to many different artists, composers, and genres, improvised, and explored music paired with different artistic mediums including art, photography, and dance. Residents discuss their likes and dislikes, and themes that may arise while listening to the music.
There are also multiple sensory stimulation groups in extended care, and large music therapy groups with the veterans.
I started my internship by observing my supervisor and the other music therapist through their group sessions and some of their individual sessions. After about a month, I started receiving referrals from other staff members, and my supervisor invited me to begin leading a couple of groups, and to begin co-facilitating some groups with her and the other music therapist as well. Right now, I am leading/co-leading 4 groups and I am seeing 5 residents individually. I’m also still observing different group and individual sessions lead by my supervisor.
In groups and in individual sessions, I am working with a wide range of client populations, including those with cerebral palsy, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, spinal bifida, dementia, post traumatic stress disorder, cancer, residents who have suffered from a stroke, and residents in palliative care.
I’ve really enjoyed the collaborative and interdisciplinary work atmosphere at Wascana. There are daily conferences in which a representative from each member of the care team meets with a resident and a family member to discuss the team’s goals and objectives, assessments, and progress notes for the resident. During these conferences, discussion often takes place about how different members of the team can work together to help work towards goals for the resident, and family members are able to share what they think may be helpful. There are also referral forms for music therapy placed on all of the units so that staff, residents, or family members can fill out a referral if they think a resident may benefit from music therapy. Music therapists are treated as an equal member in the care team; they often collaborate with other therapy staff, and write notes in the resident’s chart for all other disciplines to see.
My internship experience thus far has been one of the most rewarding and positive experiences I’ve ever had. It is very well rounded, and I’m learning so much through my experiences and observations in music, music therapy, psychotherapy, collaborating with other therapies, and working within health care. I think that I learn the most from my clients though. Here’s a short story about one of my individual clients, and we’ll call him Bob.
Bob was having a particularly rough day suffering from hallucinations caused by his PTSD. He explained seeing a guard at the door, as he would have when he was in a POW camp during WW2. He told me that while he knew that there was no way the guard could be there, that was what he was seeing. It was very confusing to him to be aware of his hallucinations, and yet know that they were not real. Bob is a huge fan of classical music. I played a slow Bach piece on the piano, followed by the slow movement of Beethoven’s Pathetique Sonata (Beethoven is his favourite). After playing, Bob paused and said, “music… music does something for me”. I asked, “What does it do for you?” and he replied, “If you think of the mind as a series of building blocks… when I have hallucinations, my blocks are all falling down and out of order. But when I hear the music… the blocks begin to re-stack themselves, and re-build my mind.” I asked, “and how do you feel now?” and he replied, “re-aligned”.
If anyone has any questions about my internship, I’d be happy to answer them. Please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org .