Jamy Claire Archer in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders lab

Hindsight 2020: The therapist

Gamecocks reflect on how COVID-19 changed their jobs and how they work

This summer, Carolinian magazine reached out to a cross-section of alumni, faculty, staff and students to ask how the COVID-19 pandemic has changed their work, and their workplace philosophies. Jamy Claire Archer is an assistant clinical professor in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders and works with hearing-related speech-language deficits. But Archer is also a singer and choral director and conducts voice disorder evaluations and therapy for people who rely on their voice to do what they love. “Your body releases endorphins when you sing, and singing is also a cognitive challenge. It’s a full body experience and it’s a mental experience,” Archer says. “With the pandemic, all of a sudden we were hearing that the thing that makes you the happiest is the most dangerous thing you can do.”

Before the pandemic, we would practice for half a day — we might sing from 11 in the morning until 4 in the afternoon, and we would be fine. Now, we’re two songs in and we’re winded. Your stamina is gone, your breath support is gone, so you start to engage in strain. 

You want to sing like you did 18 months ago but singing involves muscles, and these muscles haven’t worked in the same way for 18 months. If you went to the gym, you wouldn’t be able to do the same level of activity. It’s the same with singing. We have to ease back into it. We have to be careful and build back up. And if you’ve had COVID, you may be seeing aftereffects on your voice because it is a respiratory illness.

Singing’s not just a hobby. We’ve realized just how emotional it is and how deeply entwined it is with our personalities. It was very sad. I wish I had a better word for it, but it was just so sad to see the singing community experience this disconnect because it’s our social circle.

Your body was built to phonate, and to phonate safely, so how do we do that? One thing I talk about is using resonance to reduce strain. In COVID, the vocal health considerations are the same, but the emotional considerations are different. Fear is such a big thing. So now it’s, “What can I do to make you comfortable so you can focus on using your voice?”

I’m seeing a lot more inquiry — “Is this normal?” — and I’m doing a lot more virtual presentations about vocal health. “Your COVID Voice” is one. It helps for people to hear, “Yep, this is normal, and this is what you can try to do to address it.” After trying these therapies for 4-6 weeks, if it still isn’t improving, then come see me at the clinic.

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