Music Therapy

What is Music Therapy?
“Music therapy is the clinical and evidence‑based use of music interventions to accomplish individualized goals within a therapeutic relationship by a credentialed professional who has completed an approved music therapy program.”
(American Music Therapy Association, 2005)

 What do music therapists do?
~ Assess physical and emotional health through musical responses
~ Facilitate interventions (movement, singing, reminiscence, etc.)
~ Build and develop therapeutic relationships
~ Prepare treatment plans & re-assess goals

Interventions can be designed to:
Alleviate pain  ~  Promote wellness  ~  Enhance memory  ~  Express feelings
Improve communication  ~  Manage stress  ~  Promote physical rehabilitation

Where is music therapy used?
Hospitals, nursing homes, schools, prisons, mental health facilities, hospice, etc.

Who can benefit from music therapy?
Individuals with mental health needs, brain injuries, developmental & learning disabilities, dementia, etc.

End-of-Life Care

Memory Care
Music therapy is the ideal medium for memory care:  it helps re-direct behavior, stimulates cognition, decreases isolation, brings back distant memories, allows for personal expression, and provides fun.

Hospice is reserved for those individuals who are expected to live six months or less.  Music therapy provides comfort and support for individuals by easing pain and anxiety, addressing spiritual and emotional needs, and helping to maintain dignity and quality of life.

Music & Memory

Music Lights up the Brain ~ Biochemical Proof of Music’s Power
“Music does awaken the brain,” says Dr. Frederick Schaerf, founder and principal investigator of the Neuropsychiatric Research Center of Southwest Florida, in Fort Myers. “The data are very compelling.”

A PET scan traces an injection of radioactive glucose through the body. When the subject hears music, Schaerf explains, the scanned brain lights up with activity and releases dopamine, a neurotransmitter that helps to regulate the brain’s pleasure and reward centers, as well as emotional responses and motivation.

That dopamine boost, says Schaerf, may be one of the key reasons why music is such a powerful means to enable people with Alzheimer’s Disease and other forms of dementia to connect to positive memories and feel more peaceful and engaged with the world.
(excerpt from

Music Therapy Research

Group music therapy significantly improves emotional well-being for elders with dementia.
Solé, C., Mercadal-Brotons, M., Galati, A., & De Castro, M. (2014). Effects of group music therapy on quality of life, affect, and participation in people with varying levels of dementia, Journal of Music Therapy, 51(1), p. 103‑125.

Quality of life is higher for those who receive music therapy.
Hilliard, R.E. (2003). The effects of music therapy on the quality and length of life of people diagnosed with terminal cancer, Journal of Music Therapy, 40(2), p. 113‑137.

Singing familiar songs promotes conversation and a sense of self-esteem for individuals with Alzheimer’s.
Dassa, A., & Amir, D. (2014). The role of singing familiar songs in encouraging conversation among people with middle to late stage Alzheimer’s disease, Journal of Music Therapy, 51(2), p. 131‑153.

Music therapy in hospice, at home or in a nursing home?
Liu, X., Burns, D.S., Hilliard, R.E., Stump, T.E., & Unroe, K.T. (2015). Music therapy clinical practice in hospice: Differences between home and nursing home delivery, Journal of Music Therapy, 52(3), p. 376‑393.

Music therapy reduces anxiety, agitation, and disruptive behavior for those with dementia.
Sung, H., & Chang, A.M. (2005). Use of preferred music to decrease agitated behaviors in older people with dementia, Journal of Clinical Nursing, 14, p. 1133‑1140.

Music therapy reduces the symptoms of depression in patients with dementia.
Ashida. S. (2000). The effect of reminiscence music therapy sessions on changes in depression symptoms in elderly person with dementia, Journal of Music Therapy, 37(3), 170–182.

Music therapy reduces anxiety levels, pain, and tiredness for those with a life-limiting illness.
Horne-Thompson, A., & Grocke, D. (2008). The effect of music therapy on anxiety in patients who are terminally ill, Journal of Palliative Medicine, 11(4), 582–590.

Music affects emotional responses, memories, heart rate, respiratory rate, and enhancement of the relaxation response.
Hart, J. (2009). Music therapy for children and adults with cancer, Alternative and Complementary Therapies, 15(5), 221–225.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s