Music Therapy & Dementia Care


Pic 4

Rebecca invites you to listen to this song while you read her blog  where she shares four answers to four questions on her new role as a music therapist in Alzheimer Scotland,

1. What is music therapy? 

Music therapy uses the unique qualities of music as a non-verbal interaction between client and therapist. In music therapy, people work with a wide range of accessible instruments and their voices to create a musical dialogue to interact and    communicate, regardless of their musical ability.

Music Therapy is grounded in the belief that EVERYONE can respond to music. Music plays a significant role in our everyday lives and can often be exciting, calming, joyful or poignant. Music is an international language which can allow a person to express themselves and communicate with others.

Music therapy is a psychological therapy which uses music to build a relationship between therapist and client.

2. Do people need to be musical to do take part in music therapy?

In short “no”. People engage in music therapy in a way that is right for them. Sessions can be one-to-one or in small or large group. The work can involve:

  • Playing different instruments
  • Singing
  • Playing/ listening to music you know and enjoy, or music made up in the spot
  • Movement
  • Writing meaningful and creative songs/music.

Everyone’s experience of music therapy is different because every person is different. While music therapists can work very flexibly with individuals, they will also set clear aims and objectives for the therapy, in conjunction with the person, their relatives, carers and other professionals. These aims can change, as the work progresses; the form that the music therapy takes can also develop, according to the individual’s needs.

3. What will be your role in Alzheimer Scotland?

I spend two days of the week working clinically as a music therapist, taking referrals from my colleagues at Alzheimer Scotland and Mental Health Services in NHS Dumfries and Galloway. I am developing a new music therapy service within Dumfries and Galloway. In short I have three main roles:

  • To provide music therapy sessions within Alzheimer Scotland (Dumfries & Galloway) while learning about Alzheimer Scotland as a whole, considering the role of music therapy within a large third sector organisation.
  • To share my learning with others; raising awareness of the benefit music therapy for people living with dementia through networking, training, blogging and tweeting.
  • To work with Elaine, @elaineahpmh and Adrienne @adrienneahpmh to build on a programme for AHP students, AHP interns and AHP volunteers, my focus will be music therapy.

4. What has been the highlight of your new role?

As a part of my induction I have attended various therapeutic activity groups, and have spent time in the local Alzheimer Scotland Resource Centres. I have been inspired to see the enjoyment on people’s faces when they have created and participated in something meaningful to them.  When attending the groups and resource centres, I have witnessed a great sense of community and shared experience with people living with dementia, carers, volunteers and Alzheimer Scotland staff. I have observed the value of therapeutic activity groups and recourse centres in supporting someone living with dementia and their carer.

Closing thoughts & considerations

Pic 2a


  • I believe as a music therapist that we can all respond to music no matter how far along our life journey we are, it just takes the right person to help you find your music within.
  • Music therapist meet people at their own level, everyone is different and there is not right and wrong in music therapy. ‘It aint what you do, it’s the way that you do it’!


  • Why not challenge yourselves and consider how often you hear/use music in your everyday lives? I think you’ll all be surprised…
  • Is music important to you as an individual and do you believe we can all respond to music in our own way?
  • Why not take some time to view the ‘Music Therapy New perspective’ video on youtube and consider the diverse benefits music therapy has to offer EVERYONE!

My own inspirations

Music Therapist/Music Therapy Intern


I recently graduated from Anglia Ruskin University with a postgraduate Master of Arts degree in Music Therapy. At present I am working with Alzheimer Scotland as a Music Therapist/Music Therapy Intern. I have a key interest in further researching the benefit of music therapy for someone living with dementia. I gained this interest after having a personal experience with a close family friend who had Alzheimer’s disease, I was inspired by her clear motivation when interacting musically with me. This initial experience led me to train as a music therapist.  I hope that throughout my time working with Alzheimer Scotland I can contribute to the growing research around music therapy and dementia care.

4 thoughts on “Music Therapy & Dementia Care

  1. A PRESENT FOR YOU – Isabel’s Waltz.

    There’s absolutely no doubt about the value of Music – let’s stop saying therapy shall we – it is something that unifies us all and it’s a communicative mechanism par excellence. And on that topic –

    This is a warm, romantic and affectionate waltz that we commissioned from composer Andy Moffat for the “Quiet Riot’ film. I love it, I think everyone should have a bit of Stratocaster in their lives, and hope that anyone who would like to have this will enjoy it as much as me.

    Actually, the ending came about because of the film crew, who had fallen in love with the Isabel character, and they wanted a ‘happy ending’ .. so I opted for the waltz. And it is lovely. Enjoy!


    PS film shortly to be available on, freely and with love.

  2. Thank you Rebecca for an informative and entertaining blog about Music Therapy. I would imagine its impact to be quite powerful and certain music just has the ability to grab you- good or bad. Music of course is all around us when we are shopping, driving, cooking…and can change our mood in an instant, depending what and how its being played…I can now see how the expertise of a music therapist in dementia care can assist to maximise a person’s verbal and non verbal expression and mood….excited about working jointly with MusicTherapists to assist a person live well with dementia in the near future. Thanks also for signposting for more info !

  3. Hi,
    Very interesting article, thank you.
    Having read Sally Magnusson’s book “Where Memories Go”, a memoir of her mother’s life and her decline with dementia, and having heard about Sally founding as a result of the impact of music on her mother during her dementia, it is really interesting to hear that music therapy is being used clinically for dementia sufferers. I have two family members with dementia and it is lovely to see them brighten up when a familiar piece of music is played.
    Keep up the good work!

  4. Thanks for sharing this Rebecca. I’ll refer people to the music therapy website when I deliver the Mental Health First Aid courses. There’s so much that can be done with music to sooth and/or stimulate the mind and body. I love to listen to dub, especially Augustus Pablo. In the later stages of his dementia my dad loved to listen to Jean Auty’s ‘South of the border’. DJ Pascoe’s book ‘Top Ten Tunes’ is a great list of popular music listed by genres that could help kick start a mydic session with a diverse audience as it includes classicak, bollywood, rap and acid jazz for example. Music really is a universal language.

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