Mohawk rec therapy prof invests in music care training to empower students

by Deb Bartlett

Joanne Brohman’s goal at Mohawk College is to train recreation therapy students who are skilled and confident when they graduate, and who are able to enrich the quality of life for the people they support after graduation.

She is the program coordinator for the recreation therapy and recreation therapy intensive programs. The intensive program is a nine-month program for graduates with an allied degree, who want to enhance that with hands-on, experiential learning in recreation therapy.

For three years now, Mohawk has invested in Room 217 training to augment their students’ education. Joanne knew about Room 217, but assumed the training was expensive, and out of reach to the college to create some value-added training.

Aware that one of her former students was teaching facilitation techniques, she reached out to learn more. He was working with his friend Chelsea Mackinnon, who is one of Room 217’s instructors and is the Foundation’s former education and research manager. They agreed to do a facilitation workshop with Joanne’s students. “It was amazing. What a great offering,” says Joanne. Chelsea then spoke to Joanne about Room 217, and its mission of Care through Music. Joanne saw the benefit of teaching students “how to run a proper music program and do it so it works.

“Anyone can bring in a group or put on a CD. That’s entertainment. But what works? What’s is good neurologically? Decreases anxiety? Creates a better quality of life?”  Joanne looked into the costs of Room 217 training for the intensive students, who spend 10 days of their semester getting additional certifications, and decided to invest in the education.

The first year, 2018, Mohawk booked a full two-day Music Care Training for the group of intensive students. “I felt it added huge value to our students’ education,” says Joanne. “It is practical, and evidence-based.”

Taylor Creary was a student in that first group. She came to Mohawk with a BA in Human Ecology from Western University. Her placement took place at a mental health hospital, and she now works in long-term care.

“I used music as a therapeutic intervention regularly in both of those settings, “ she says. “Truthfully, I didn’t know anything about using music as a Rec Therapist. I thought music was provided by those fortunate enough to have a music therapist. I did find the training helpful, to better understand the ways music be used both with populations in LTC and those with mental health conditions,” says Taylor.

Mohawk did an evaluation of the course, and while students loved it and felt very confident about being able to run purposeful music programming, they did feel it was quite heavy in theory, which they didn’t find useful. Joanne spoke with Room 217 staff, who took the concerns back to the team. In response, Room 217 developed a one-day education program call Music Care Skills Day (for recreation therapy) that was piloted the next year at Mohawk.

“It is an amazing one-day training that pulls together all the pieces that the students need,” says Joanne. The one-day training still covers rationale, but it’s condensed. “The training gives the students so many tools to add to their scope of practice,” she says. “The first, two-day training was too much theory and research. They want the Coles Notes version.”

As a program coordinator, professor and rec professional, Joanne feels that Room 217’s education gives the students “great confidence that they can go out and add music to their practices the right way.”

Taylor, Mohawk graduate says, “Going into the program, I thought much more of interventions such as physical activities and I wasn’t aware of all the ways music could be integrated into programming as a therapeutic intervention. Music is now most definitely my modality of choice with any population I work with - really regardless of age, physical ability or cognition, because it can be so easy adapted and all people can have success in a music program.”

When her students to out to community, they are bringing their knowledge of Room 217 and music care with them. “Many of them (staff) don’t know and our students are educating the agencies about what it (music care) is. It’s a value that our students know how to properly run a music program based on what works, and best practice.”

Joanne says the training, which is research-informed, “is a huge selling card to the field of recreation therapy. We can’t be running programs willy-nilly and be offering music without knowing what it will do to the person.

“It’s powerful,” she says of the education.

Taylor believes “the extra training did play a role in helping me get a job, because it really opened my eyes to a whole other group of therapeutic interventions and made me more well-rounded as a Rec Therapist. And also more confident in the care that I know I can provide. Although I didn’t know that I would be offered this program when I enrolled at Mohawk, I absolutely do think that all of the wonderfully curated certifications offered, Room 217 included, makes Mohawk superior to other institutions offering similar programs, as well as their grads coming to the work force more well rounded and prepared.”

Joanne says that in addition to the hands-on learning, the critical thinking of how to work together as recreation staff is appreciated. Sites have to work together to acquire the best of equipment for their clients or residents. Joanne says rather than buying dollar store toys, rec professionals need to work as a team to buy quality instruments, and share. Of healthcare in general, she says, “we need to get out of the silos and start managing the farm.”

Overall, she finds Room 217’s education gives “a really profound message. Room 217 is an amazing organization.”


To learn more about Room 217’s education programs, visit www.room217.ca, or call 905-852-2499 or toll-free 1-844-985-0217.