Music Therapy Program

August 7, 2020 / by United Way

Combatting depression and isolation: How your donations are helping people with brain injuries

People with brain injuries experience depression and isolation. The Music therapy program with the Victoria Brain Injury Society (VBIS) allows clients to come together and know they are with other people struggling with the same feelings, which creates a wonderful community of acceptance and belonging.

Before COVID-19, members of the Music Therapy program performed at VBIS functions and community venues under the name “The Forget Me Notes.” The name has great sentimental value to program participants as it was suggested by a past member who has since passed away due to mental health issues as a result of a brain injury.

“Sadly, this is something that many of our clients face daily,” said Carmen Eisenhauer, Accredited Music Therapist with VBIS. “The impact ripples to family members, partners, children, parents, co-workers, everyone is affected when someone sustains a brain injury.”

When COVID-19 hit it impacted the music therapy program harder than most community-based programs.

“COVID-19 has affected our ability to play music live and in real-time together. Many members do not have the proper equipment or ability to manage the Zoom Application which requires several adjustments to be able to engage with each other and optimally share music together,” said Carmen. “As a result, many have chosen – or out of no choice – do not attend waiting and hoping that meetings in person will begin again.”

Music therapy candidates require no formal training, just a love of music. VBIS provides a space to check-in each week and for clients to share how they are doing. During the sessions, clients are engaged and tapping into areas of their brain that are uninjured. They discover new or lost abilities such as rhythm and singing. This taps into neuroplasticity and the brain’s ability to rewire and reorganize, they feel normal again and part of something outside of themselves that helps them to move forward and heal.

“(Clients) feel normal and part of something big,” said Carmen. “Many people with brain injuries lose the ability to articulate thoughts, feelings and to self-regulate. Improvisation teaches these interpersonal communication skills in a nonverbal and nonthreatening way. The body has the innate ability to feel rhythm and express it with our body, voice, hands and feet. (Clients) are excited and proud of what they can do, not what they have lost or can’t do.”

Funding, made possible through United Way’s Local Love in a Global Crisis Fund has enabled VBIS to cover the cost of the Accredited Music Therapy facilitator as well as instrument and equipment replacement. The Music Therapy program relies heavily on the support of donors, businesses and the Music Heals Foundation, funds are always tight which means your donations are making a big impact.

“Many of our volunteers who help keep VBIS running have brain injuries themselves and it is inspiring to see how hard they work and provide support to their peers. Helping each other is what it’s all about, that’s what VBIS is all about,” said Carmen. “Thank you United Way for helping us continue to support our members.”