Chiltern Music Therapy | Prototyping a digital solution to support digital music therapy provision to vulnerable people.



Why the work is being done

We provide music therapy and community music services to people of all ages and many different needs across the UK.

For various reasons, including COVID-19 restrictions, many people we work with  cannot always attend music therapy in person, or even then, might need extra support between sessions to achieve their potential and maximise therapy outcomes.  Our discovery research (Catalyst Explore programme), confirmed they would greatly benefit from an online platform to access and complement their therapy so they can continue to work effectively towards individual therapeutic goals, in a way that is accessible, provides consistency and is flexible to meet their individual needs.

To date just 45% of our services have moved online, leaving many isolated and vulnerable people without the support they need. To continue reaching our clients during this period of stress, we launched “Making Therapy Digital”, where conventional sessions were adapted to online sessions, pre-recorded content support packs on CDs, DVDs and booklets as well as phone check-ins. Though the concept of shielding is diminishing, in reality most vulnerable people will continue self-isolating for health and safety.

Aim for the project: to prototype, test and validate an online platform to support a blended in-person/digital music therapy provision,  in a way that is accessible and adapted to individual needs. The solution aims to sustain consistency of the therapeutic space and human connection between therapist and beneficiary, innovatively supporting those most at risk of stress and isolation.

Development  Briefs are part of the Catalyst and The National Lottery Community Fund COVID-19 Digital Response funding initiative; a partnership between The National Lottery Community Fund and CAST, supported by the Catalyst network

Problem to solve

Digital music therapy arose as a temporary answer to an urgent need for support in the face of COVID-19 and seemed hugely valuable in sustaining consistency of the therapeutic space and human connection between therapist and beneficiaries, innovatively supporting those most at risk of stress and isolation.

To analyse its efficacy, we designed a blended music therapy provision, consisting of 50% in-person (whenever possible), and 50% digital delivery. 
Initial exploration of existing platforms like YouTube private channel did not give enough flexibility for multiple format content, so we designed a new digital platform to support digital music therapy delivery. The design prototype aims to be a ‘one-stop-hub’ for all aspects of digital therapy provision, including features like personalised therapy content, plans, communications with beneficiaries. The hub will require secure access for the beneficiary and therapist to review and upload content as needed. 

This design prototype has been iteratively developed and tested with beneficiaries and music therapists, with very good reception and feedback, helping validate the hypothesised need for a more adaptable approach to delivering therapy services during COVID-19 and beyond.

The work will help us: 
  • Validate the prototyped solution with a wider community,
  • Develop prioritised functionality for a working platform or where the selected partner has an existing customisable platform, to configure and customise it appropriately so as to , expand on the discovery phase, develop an early working prototype and apply enhancements
  • Enable the platform to be of wider use among networked partners (and further afield). Preference is to develop and document core, prioritised working features, with the service/platform architected in such a way to facilitate simple addition of further features outlined. 

Who are the users and what do they need to do

User needs statements: 

  • Music therapy beneficiaries in isolation
As a music therapy beneficiary unable to attend sessions in person I need user-friendly, digital access to online therapy services and personalised therapeutic content so that I can continue my therapy plan, in a way that is consistent, flexible and accessible by beneficiary and therapist. 

  • Music therapy beneficiaries gradually returning to in-person services 
As a music therapy beneficiary greatly affected by shortage of care services due to their slow return to normal availability, I need enhanced digital support in between in-person sessions to work towards therapeutic outcomes more effectively, according to my own timetable, using whatever web-enabled devices I have. 

  • Music Therapists
As a Music Therapist providing support services in-person and remotely/digitally, I need a secure, easy to use, cost-effective way to  upload clients’ personalised content and arrange their personalised therapeutic space and tasks according to their therapeutic plan and be confident of their attaining the full benefit of the therapy programme.
As a Music Therapist new to providing support services digitally, I might need some initial help to get confident and comfortable with this new way of working, so that I can reach optimal confidence, efficiency and effectiveness quickly.

  • Wider Music Practitioners and Therapists
As a practitioner I need to understand and learn about risks associated with online digital therapy delivery, and how I can protect vulnerable people I work with, using well-researched and robustly secure platforms, storage and data-sharing.
Key outcomes/ deliverables:

  • Prototype, build (or configure), test and put live a functional, secure, working platform for music therapy digital services (trialled on a clinical basis with some clients)
  • Run an appropriately detailed Privacy Impact Assessment, including stipulations for data encryption and safeguarding.
  • The platform would be developed to be of wider use among networked partners and should be brandable. Preference for wider accessibility is for a web-based service as opposed to a native app.
  • With the objective of making the platform accessible to a wider audience the platform should have the potential to be linked to an analogue phone/messaging system to help individuals overcome the barriers to digital technology use. This feature could be developed by the digital agency or by a potential third party in a collaborative approach. 
  • Define a future roadmap and  business case that describes the financial sustainability of the digital product. Provide clear, post-project operating costs including any ongoing licensing costs and other operational costs, such as time needed for therapists to learn and incorporate the tool, potential reduction of travel costs and more effective schedules for therapists, etc
  • All outcomes as well as design/development assets of this work will follow an open and shareable approach.
  • Could have/future roadmap: platform and roadmap is aligned with governance and security (cyber), clinical safety or clinical risk management and effectiveness (NICE) frameworks and standards. (Chiltern Music Therapy works closely with the NHS).

Key project resources