Music Therapist Michael J. Russo '19 Shares his Experience During the Pandemic

Music Therapist Michael J. Russo, '19

Michael J. Russo, MS MT-BC, '19, is a Music Therapist at Tidewell Hospice. Michael shared with us his experiences since the start of the pandemic: "Before COVID-19, I facilitated music therapy sessions in-person with patients in hospice houses, nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and personal residences. When the coronavirus outbreak began. I was put in a position that required me to invent creative ways of working with clients while protecting them from undue risk of coronavirus exposure. Some of my patients did not have the means to meet with me virtually, and I was unable to see them again before they died.

When I visit patients in-person, I worry about the possible transmission of COVID-19 to or from my patients. A challenge that I face is evaluating how I can be maximally effective for patients while also keeping patients as safe as possible. Today, my in-person visits are limited, and I am adapting to find other ways of reaching my clients. I facilitate sessions with clients virtually over video and phone calls, I play music for a weekly livestream on the Tidewell Hospice Facebook page, and I make myself available to projects aimed at supporting my colleagues at Tidewell.

Many mental health professionals are now working virtually with clients over video and telephone calls. As a result, psychotherapy is accessible in more ways than ever before. The coronavirus crisis is changing our lives in ways that are frightening, stressful, and dispiriting. I want to encourage people to schedule therapy sessions. Many people have preconceptions or expectations about therapy that stop them from seeking help, but this is a good time for everyone to schedule therapy for themselves. I am working with clients who would not typically be put on my caseload. I helped a teenage girl put music to lyrics that she wrote describing the way she experienced her father's death. Also, I started playing music for a weekly livestream on the Tidewell Facebook page. The livestream performances have been a really helpful way for me to reach people with personal or professional connections to Tidewell, including my patients and my colleagues.

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