Group Therapeutic Songwriting and Dementia: Exploring the Perspectives of Participants Through Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis


Music Therapy Perspectives




This pilot study explored how four people living with mild to moderate dementia described their experiences of a community-based group therapeutic songwriting (TSW) program. Sessions took place at a dementia care day center. Support staff, who were co-participants in the songwriting group, also reported their observations. Specific focus was given to what participants described as meaningful about the process, and how they experienced writing songs with others. Data were collected through seven semi-structured interviews (four with people with dementia and three with support staff) and analyzed using interpretative phenomenological analysis. Findings were developed idiographically as super-ordinate themes unique to each participant, then analyzed across cases to identify recurrent group themes and subthemes. Group songwriting was emphasized as a positive, enjoyable, and rewarding experience. Both people with dementia (PWD) and staff members described TSW as: (a) motivating participation; (b) enhancing confidence to actively engage; (c) highlighting ability and leading to feelings of accomplishment; and (d) stimulating engagement in creative, cognitive, language, and learning processes. Participant collaboration within songwriting was described as enhancing feelings of connection, belonging, and group cohesion, while sometimes also highlighting challenges and leading to feelings of self-consciousness. Numerous aspects of the songwriting process were described as challenging staff members’ assumptions about what PWD can do and PWD’s assumptions about what they, themselves, can achieve. This study highlights group TSW as an opportunity to focus on the ability, rather than disability, of people with mild to moderate dementia. Further, this methodology promotes the importance of a person-centered framework within research, specifically with PWD. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2018 APA, all rights reserved)

Music and Health Institute Terms

Adult Day Care; Alzheimer's and Related Dementias; Composition; Engagement Level; Interviews; Music Therapy; Neurodegenerative Disorders; Positive Verbalizations; Songwriting

Indexed Terms

dementia; songwriting; interpretive phenomenological analysis; community-based; Community Services; Phenomenology

Study Type

Phenomenological Study; Qualitative Methods

Document Type