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Music Therapy at AMS: Goodbye, Isabel and Ella!

Today, Alive Medical Services said goodbye to two important members of our team: Isabel Bedford and Ella Polczyk-Przybyla, music therapy trainees from the University of the West of England (UWE). During their three months at AMS, Isabel and Ella engaged 711 individuals in music therapy activities by holding targeted sessions five days a week.

“People really responded to the program, and to an opportunity to be part of something that is creative,” Isabel said. “It’s another facet of AMS’ holistic care, because clients can engage in musical activities while receiving their medication.”

Though AMS and Musicians Without Borders engaged 30 youth in a community music project last year, AMS did not have a daily music therapy program prior to Isabel and Ella’s arrival.

The trainees provided multiple music therapy groups for clients, including open adult groups, mother-and-baby groups, open community groups, open children/youth groups, closed adult groups, and individual sessions.

“When you come to the doctor, you’re told what to do,” Ella said. “That’s important. But when clients come to a music session, they get their agency back. They have the opportunity to play, sing, and dance, and whatever they do, it will be exactly right.”

Adult open sessions aimed to promote group bonding and social cohesion, provide an opportunity for emotional release, and enable self-expression. Similar goals were set for the open community groups and children/youth groups, while also alleviating boredom, encouraging playtime, and counteracting the medical environment of the clinic.

The mother-and-baby groups provided an opportunity for mothers and babies to spend time together, and encouraged bonding, interaction, sensory stimulation for babies, and stress reduction, among other objectives. The closed groups offered opportunities for regular music-making, song creation, and bonding among a group of consistent participants.

“I’m feeling very happy, and hoping at least now, I can feel the world,” one client said after participating in a music therapy session.

The impact of music therapy has been well-documented. Many studies have shown music therapy can be a therapeutic tool for vulnerable populations, and Isabel and Ella’s work illustrated similar findings. Through quantitative feedback surveys, the trainees found elevated levels of relaxation, confidence, and optimism after participants engaged in music sessions. They also found improved perceptions of connection to others and respect from their peers.

Isabel and Ella also held weekly sessions for staff to increase bonds and collaboration between staff, promote relaxation, and encourage self-expression and creativity. In addition, they trained staff members and select youth to use music for communicating and building relationships with clients. These trainings facilitate the program’s sustainability at AMS.

Today, the trainees return to the United Kingdom to finish their degrees in music therapy. Because of the program’s success, AMS will remain a music therapy placement site for the University of the West of England. We hope to take on new trainees later this year.

“This session made my week begin with peace,” one staff member said after participating in the staff group. “I feel like it will stay with me forever.”

Ella dances with Enid, a counsellor at Alive Medical Services.

Isabel dances with Aphia, a volunteer at the front desk department.

Clients smile as they participate in a music therapy session in 2017.

At AMS’ quarterly youth day, Isabel and Ella lead young clients in a music therapy session.

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