“Is Music Therapy an Effective Intervention for Dementia? A Meta-Analytic Review of Literature”


         What is the purpose of a review of literature? Here it is to draw together peer-reviewed studies to see if there are overarching trends. This review points to a robust body of evidence-based research that shows the efficacy of music therapy interventions with patients with dementia.



          “Is Music Therapy an Effective Intervention for Dementia?” is the question researchers Koger, Chapin, & Brotons ask in this review of literature. This is a fitting question as the researchers point out that dementia is steadily rising with the average life expectancy. This creates a need in the healthcare field to find out what modes of care are most effective with this population to best fit their needs. The purpose of this study was to “update and statistically cumulate the findings of clinical-empirical investigations” identified by earlier researchers in the field of music therapy. The studies selected in this meta-analysis are empirical rather than theoretical/philosophical in nature, or case studies. Researchers rather selected studies that allowed for repeated measures and comparison of pre/post intervention performance. Dependent variables (or symptoms/behaviors displayed by patients with Alzheimer’s or dementia) present across studies selected included: agitation, face-name recognition, wandering, reality orientation, depression, interaction, participating, disruptive vocalizing, and more. Therapeutic techniques included to address these symptoms included: singing, instrument play, dancing/moving, musical games, improvising, music listening, group singing, and listening to music while receiving tactile stimulation. A reduction of behaviors such as wandering, restlessness, and agitation was observed in the analysis. The overall results of the study suggest that music therapy is an effective intervention for patients with dementia. Researchers found that improvement in social behaviors included participation in group singing, socializing, and vocalizing were significantly increased. The researchers suggest that music therapists continue to conduct research with this population to better identify the most effective techniques to utilize with patients with dementia.                   



Source: Koger, S.M., Chapin, K., & Brotons, M. (1999). “Is Music Therapy an

Effective Intervention for Dementia? A Meta-analytic Review of  

Literature” Journal of Music Therapy, 36(1), 2-15.




To read the full study, click here:




The Benefits of Group Music Therapy with Children with Autism

As part of my internship, I have the opportunity to work individually with kids as well as in groups. For a lot of our kids working on social goals, doing so in a group of peers has huge benefits.


A. Blythe LaGasse did a research study looking at the benefits of group music therapy sessions specifically for kids with Autism. She wanted to observe the impact of these group sessions on eye gaze, joint attention, and communication. The children ranged from ages 6 years old to 9 years old and attended 50-minute music therapy sessions for ten weeks. The two domains that were most successfully improved with the intervention were joint attention with peers and eye gaze. For joint attention, this means the children could more successfully track where a peer was devoting attention as well as share attention on one object with another person. With eye gaze, this was directed at peers as well as the facilitators. Overall, more successful peer-to-peer interactions were developed in the music therapy setting as opposed to a non-musical social skills group.


As we gear up for our fall semester and new classes are forming, I look forward to helping encourage these same results for our patients. I also am excited to witness other benefits and see how else these music therapy groups can foster growth.


Source: LaGasse, A. Blythe. (2014). Effects of a Music Therapy Group Intervention on Enhancing Social Skills in Children with Autism. Journal of Music Therapy 51(3), 250-275.


Thanks for reading,




Learning Literacy Through Music

In today’s society it is hard to survive without the knowledge of literacy. We depend on Literacy in our everyday life. In the article “Learning Literacy Through Music” Tabert states that literacy is being able to read and write but also states that it is also the ability to communicate. While literacy is an important part of the classroom setting, music is slowly getting phased out. However music and literacy are connected in multiple ways such as: phoneme awareness, discrimination between similar auditory elements, speech signals, and auditory memory.



Phoneme awareness is how sounds come together to make words. This translates to music by putting notes together to make a melody line. Being able to discriminate between similar auditory elements is similar to discriminating between individual pitches. Music can also increase memory skills by memorizing songs. Reading music is like reading a book; but music is more complicated than reading. When reading music you have to focus on the note on the staff, the duration of the note, and if it is vocal music you have to focus on the words too.


Music can expand vocabulary and understanding of rhymes; these are key components to literacy standards for four year olds. Another component of literacy for a four year old is to speak in front of a group. Music can help build confidence; when students receive solos at a young age they are more confident in presenting themselves in front of peers and audiences.


Here at Therabeat, we focus on encouraging literacy by reading music, focusing on appropriate social interaction, and by hosting a performance bi-annually. We also use music to encourage learning words and their meanings; such as taking a song and turning it into flash cards to place in order and use out of the song context. It is beautiful to see these children blossom into confident stars.

-Dana LaValley, Music Therapy Intern



Tarbert, K. (2012). Learning literacy through music. Oneota Reading Journal, 2012. Retrieved








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Incorporating Yoga-Based Breathing Techniques for Relaxation  

            I have been practicing yoga for the past five years and have found so many benefits in my personal life. Recently, I have been reading “Asanas for Autism and Special Needs: Yoga to Help Children with their Emotions, Self-Regulation and Body Awareness,” by Shawnee Thornton Hardy to learn how I can incorporate yoga into my music therapy sessions.


            The foundation of yoga is your breath. While there are many forms of breathing used in yoga, they each have specific benefits for your body and should be utilized to achieve specific goals. For example, there is a way to use your breath to build heat as well as a way to use your breath to cool you down. Below, I have outlined a couple of different methods of breathing that can benefit children with special needs and the goals they focus on. Both of these breaths should be repeated 4-5 times in a row to see the benefits.


Balloon Belly Breath:

-First sit in a cross-legged position or lie on your back.

-Place your hand on your stomach.

-As you inhale through your nose, fill up your belly like a balloon causing your hands to move away from your body.

-As you exhale, open your mouth and let out all of the air.


Benefits: This breath targets first and foremost awareness of breath and can help the child realize how to take a low belly breath to promote relaxation and digestion.


Dragon’s Breath:

-First kneel or sit in a cross-legged position (can also sit up tall in a chair).

-As you inhale through your nose, raise your hands up toward the ceiling like a dragon’s wings.

-As you exhale out of your mouth making a “haaa” sound, fly your arms down and back away from your body.


Benefits: This breath helps the child let out anger and release any tension or frustration they are feeling in the moment. This can help the child calm down and be ready to complete some low belly breaths to further relaxation.


I hope that this gives you some things to try with your child and I look forward to learning more about pairing yoga with music therapy to give my patients the best possible experiences.



-Lauren Booke, Music Therapy Intern

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Music Therapy & Angelman Syndrome

       Two years ago when I started doing a literature review, on the effect music therapy had on Angelman Syndrome, there was no research that combined music therapy and Angelman Syndrome. At my clinical site I saw music therapy’s effect first hand with a child who has Angelman Syndrome. I began a research plan and started collecting data. First I needed to know what Angelman Syndrome was and the different characteristics that accompany this diagnosis. It is a neurogenetic disorder that is caused by a defect in chromosome 15; this affects 1 in 15,000 live births. Some common characteristics are: developmental delay, speech impairment, movement or balance disorder, appears typically happy, seizures, and aggressive behaviors. My client was a ten year old caucasian female who was nonverbal and had a tip toe gait. She had a developmental delay, appeared typically happy, and showed aggressive behavior.


When I started music therapy sessions in this classroom my client would not sit still unless she was asleep. She would typically express erratic and aggressive behavior. I started doing individual sessions with her that lasted about ten minutes because that was all the attention she was able to give. She became attached to the ocean drum; she would hit the drum and hold it against her face. Her goal for the Fall Semester was to increase participation as operationally defined as playing an instrument and staying in seat.  She Improved in her seat timeand instrument play from 5 minutes and 10 times to 8 minutes and 20 times. Music was a calming and interactive reinforcement that worked to improve seat time. Her goal for the Spring Semester was to increase independence as operationally defined by sitting on the toilet without interventions from the therapist or teacher.  She increased her independence from 62 seconds with 4 interventions to 30 seconds and only 2 interventions. Music was used as a positive reinforcement; I sang hello then brought her to the bathroom using a bathroom song. Once she was finished I took her to play some of her favorite instruments.


Overall I saw great progress toward these goals. She became less aggressive toward other students in the class. I would recommend music therapy as an important therapy for children with Angelman Syndrome. Many of the techniques I used I feel I can incorporate into my sessions with clients at Therabeat even if they do not have Angelman Syndrome. Techniques such as: listening to the clients improvisation and understanding how they are feeling if they cannot speak for themselves, how to ease into having a client hold and play an instrument if they like to throw things, and how to redirect aggressive behaviors through the use of music. I would like to continue to research music therapy’s effects on children with Angelman Syndrome through the pursuit of my masters and doctorate. 


-Dana LaValley, Music Therapy Intern


Resources: The Facts about Angelman Syndrome [Brochure]. (n.d.) Aurora, IL: Angelman Syndrome Foundation.