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Concordia partners with the Montreal Chinese Hospital on a new music therapy program

The collaboration seeks to fight loneliness among nursing home residents during the COVID-19 pandemic
February 9, 2022

Pictured: Three woman in a triptych, two Asian women, one holding a guitar, and on the far right, a white woman with short blonde hair and glasses. From left: Susannah Tam, Josephine Sung Tak Lee and Guylaine Vaillancourt.

The Montreal Chinese Hospital (MCH) launched a new music therapy program in collaboration with Concordia in 2021. Its goal was to address isolation and loneliness among CHSLD (Centre d’hébergement de soins de longue durée) residents during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’ve received more and more demands for our services during the pandemic,” says Josephine Sung Tak Lee (MA 2016), Concordia music therapy alumna and part-time faculty member. “People are looking for more ways to achieve well-being, especially psychological and social well-being.”

Lee, a certified music therapist, was hired to develop the program when the initiative was put into action following conversations between key players in the project.

These include MCH Foundation president Raymond Tsim and MCH Corporation president Andrew Mok; MCH administrator Sandra Lavoie; Concordia President Graham Carr; Laurel Young, Concordia associate professor of music therapy and associate director of engAGE; Guylaine Vaillancourt, chair of the university’s Department of Creative Arts Therapies and associate professor of music therapy; and Susannah Tam (MBA 82), Concordia University Alumni Association board member.

The new music therapy program is currently funded for 12 months by the organization’s foundation. The MCH is a CHSLD — as Quebec nursing homes are called — that offers day-clinic services and addresses the special needs of older adults in the Montreal community, with a particular focus on those of Chinese and Southeast Asian origin.

In 2021, the hospital was awarded the Medal of the National Assembly for its determination and dedication to the outstanding care its has continued to provide its residents throughout the pandemic.

Two smiling, older Asian gentlemen with glasses, wearing suits. Raymond Tsim and Andrew Mok.

‘Music can reach out to people’

MCH residents and their families have enthusiastically welcomed music therapy as an important form of care. The residents get to participate in music therapy based on the priority of a variety of factors including isolation, immobility, cognition and overall health conditions.

“We do want to prioritize those who are isolated, those who are not capable of joining other group activities,” Lee says. “We want to specifically prioritize those residents to make sure they have something they can enjoy.”

With Lee’s expertise and the concerted efforts of the residence staff, the MCH’s individual and group music therapy sessions are comprised of four phases: referral, assessment, intervention and action. It also as provides an evaluation and report of residents’ responses.

From listening to music, to singing or participating in creating music, the intervention activities encourage verbal and non-verbal communication with the residents.

“It depends on the residents and what they want to do,” Lee explains. “If they are not capable or willing to participate, then I do the music part, and just enjoying the music is a receptive form of participating.”

The program so far has shown a positive impact on isolation, anxiety, depression, pain management, memory improvement and end-of-life care.

“Music therapy is not offered everywhere, and it’s really a possibility to give access to ways of expressing yourself, even during difficult times of isolation,” Vaillancourt notes, adding that it creates a bridge with people to make a connection, which is therapeutic.

“We are therapists, and we know how to use music and our expertise to meet complex needs. Music can reach out to people, even those who are non-verbal. Even when people go to palliative care, we can still work with them to help ease their tension or stress.”

Learn more about
Concordia’s Department of Creative Arts Therapies.



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