Reinventing Music Therapy Internships to Serve Students and the Community

By Martina Lent

Molloy College Music Therapy Interns

When Molloy classes switched to alternate learning modes, music therapy interns were being recalled from their internship sites. The Music Therapy faculty were determined to ensure that students could complete their clinical hours. They knew they had to act quickly to help the students stay engaged and find ways for them to continue to develop as clinicians.  As faculty who demonstrated the Molloy Mission in all their work, their dedication to serving others in the community became essential.

They could have pressed "pause" on the internships, knowing that in-person music therapy wasn't possible, however, they were very aware that there were so many who needed support and care at this time. It was then that they decided to shift to Telehealth. There was, however, a big learning curve-the Music Therapy faculty watched webinars, discussed lighting/setting, technology needs, consent, and figuring out how to find clients. While they began to establish the necessary protocols and documents, working with the Offices of Academic Affairs, the Dean of Arts and Science, and reviewing documents with Molloy's legal team, they were also collecting information from their interns about how many hours they still needed and what their current family and health situation was like. Students and faculty alike were dealing with tremendous amounts of stress and anxiety.  In spite of those challenges, the faculty moved forward, creating a template for Telehealth, unsure whether or not they would be able to find clients, or if the students would be available to step into the work. Despite the unknowns, the faculty was determined to reinvent the internships any way they could.  

Music Therapy faculty decided that they wanted Telehealth to be offered under the umbrella of The Rebecca Center for Music Therapy, the on-campus clinic. The faculty had established practice guidelines knowing that eventually they might need to transition the coordination of future services through the Center. While faculty were focused on making sure the educational needs were met for the students, they also had to figure out how to do so ethically and quickly.

In addition to the need to fulfill academic requirements, faculty members felt the community needed music therapy and music-based services. Elizabeth Schwartz, Adjunct Professor of Music Therapy, had published an elegant treatment model, identifying all the levels of service that is provided by music therapists. These levels of service range from music that serves a universal, community-building experience, to music that provides mindfulness and/or relaxation, to music that promotes health and well-being, all the way up to music psychotherapy. Professor Schwartz presented the model to the faculty and students as they began to prepare for Telehealth. Students were also assigned to create outlines for potential workshops for the community, focusing on healing and support.

The Music Faculty received support from the Clinical Mental Health Counseling and Speech Language Pathology programs, who were also developing their own Teletherapy practices. They helped model some Teletherapy forms as well as discussed sharing clients.

On April 9, Suzanne Sorel, Associate Dean and Director of Graduate Music Therapy, came across a New York Times article about CP Nassau's residence in Bayville, where 45 adult clients reside. Of those clients, 36 of the 45, along with a number of staff members, had been diagnosed with Covid-19. Sorel had worked as a Music Therapist in Adult Day Treatment at CP Nassau from 1987-90. Upset by the news, Sorel decided to contact CP Nassau and offer support any way she could.  

Within the same day, Melissa Whidden, Assistant Coordinator of Life Options at CP Nassau, responded, interested in the support. Professor Sorel proposed that Molloy music therapy interns offer free tele-music therapy services to anyone in need. While CP Nassau did provide their clients with music, it was run by program instructors, not music or music therapy personnel.

On Wednesday, April 15th, Molloy Music Therapy interns offered their first group music session to clients at CP Nassau via Zoom. Meanwhile, the Music Department was beginning to get referrals from individuals in the community. There are now many individuals being seen by interns, an increasing number of potential new clients, and they continue to run the CP Nassau groups daily. They are also offering music-based workshops to Bayport library, JCC Oceanside, and a preschool later this month and plans are in the works at a senior center.   

"It has been incredibly gratifying to watch the CP Nassau groups and all of the wonderful clinical work" says Professor Sorel. "The clients and staff are engaged, open, and receptive-and I am so proud of our students, who have taken on this new challenge with warmth, energy and dedication."

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