Video Killed the Radio Star

January 28, 2012

Yesterday I had intended to do a songwriting group on the psych unit, but since it was a very small, subdued group, I opted to play the session by ear (har har).  I did a check-in with the three patients, and sang a couple of slow psych standards with guitar accompaniment hoping to ease everyone into music, but even after encouragement, no one sang with me and the music was met with blank stares and silence.  I began asking the patients their musical preferences and though it took some effort to get a response, a couple of them gave me vague answers.

One patient, whose speech was pressured, disorganized and repetitive due to a stroke, suggested an Air Supply song.  I’ve heard the song many times before but was not able to play it, so I pulled up a video of the song (with edited-in lyrics) on YouTube and my patient was able to not only hear her favorite song, but also sing along with it.  She sang it entirely by herself, and following the song reminisced (clearly, without pressure or repetition) about the difficult time in her life when that song was the most significant for her.  The other patient (who is around the same age) gave her support and validation and the two of them began socializing.  Together they suggested several more songs to look up on YouTube (to sing along with) and became enthusiastic during a Lady Gaga song we also watched (a.k.a. read lyrics on the screen to the music).  After the session, one said, “Awwww, it’s over?” and both said how much they enjoyed the session.

I use recorded music with some of my clients for certain interventions, but have never used YouTube videos as a tool for therapeutic purposes (I have used YouTube to find music, but never to show clients video).  It was certainly not my plan to lead a YouTube-based singing group, but I had my computer for my intended songwriting group (I burn CDs for the patients) and it turned out to be exactly what my clients needed at the time.  It was not my most shining moment (I’m a music therapist who prefers live music) but I feel good about my choices based on the situation and the clients’ responses following the session.

When people are disorganized or depressed or simply dont know how they feel, just sitting and talking can be overwhelming.  For those patients, finding words to say can sometimes be a task, not to mention trying to think of a favorite tune.  AND for some, not knowing the words to a song adds to anxiety and uncertainty, feelings I’m sure they’d rather not be exacerbated.

I may never use YouTube videos again (who am I kidding?) but if it comes up, I know that it can do the trick if the situation needs it to.

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