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Your spotlight on local services

Case Studies: Music therapy group to combat social isolation


Barking & Dagenham Memory Service has been working with music therapist John Wallis, from the charity Nordoff-Robbins, since 2016.  The Covid-19 pandemic lead to the suspension of the much-loved Friday Music Therapy group at Broad Street Health Centre. 

So we started a weekly online music therapy group, to combat the social isolation felt by so many of our vulnerable service users and their carers.  A large scoping exercise was carried out by several of the memory service staff, to see which service users had access to the appropriate technology, and family support to use it.

The group started on 8th July and runs every Wednesday at 3.30pm for about an hour. Attendance has been good.

Feedback from Service Users and Carers:

“We feel this is such a fantastic service!  John who runs these sessions makes them so enjoyable and he is so patient and has a great sense of fun.  He makes sure everyone is included and we are encouraged to give song choices.  We feel very lucky to be able to have this service and also feel that music is so good for everyone and their mental health wellbeing.”

“Enjoyed meeting up with the others. Feel happy whilst on the session”

“The sessions were lovely and I enjoyed seeing familiar faces.”

“Without my visits to the Memory Clinic sessions and self isolating for most of the time it can become very isolating.  The music session just gives me a break and is a welcome relief”.

A vignette by the music therapist about how he views the work:

"To be honest, I was sceptical about the idea of making music online. Due to the inevitable technical hitches and audio delays, music loses much of the spontaneity and instant responsiveness you have when you’re together in a room with a group of people. But, I’m glad to say we’ve found huge positives through doing the virtual sessions that make it worthwhile, and while we miss some of the nuances of musical and human interaction, we have gained a sense of community that is needed more than ever at the moment.

It’s often a bit chaotic at the start of the session while people are finding the ‘unmute’ button or turning their camera on, and I was concerned that this could cause anxiety or distress to people living with mental health difficulties. However, the group have shown such resilience and determination to make it work, and along with most of the population we’ve all got much better at video calling, gaining skills and entering a brave new world. It no longer feels so awkward — the sessions have found their own rhythm, flow and pace. 

Music has a fantastic way of bringing people together, allowing a forum in which to be creative and playful. Singing in particular is a powerful way to have a joyful, collective, human experience that cuts through the technical limitations to foster social connections and personal wellbeing. 

It has always been frustrating that many of those that need most to be included are not able to be because of geography, physical health or lack of resources, and so this goes some way to addressing this.

We’ve been able to reach some people that have never been able to access the group in person, and I plan to trial incorporating a video link in the room to continue this, as and when we are able to resume face-to-face sessions, whenever that may be. But for now, the online sessions will continue to bring people together virtually. We no longer need to finish with 'Show Me the Way to Go Home', but we part with 'We’ll Meet Again…'"


Healthwatch Barking and Dagenham
Lifeline House
25 Neville Road
Dagenham, Essex RM8 3QS