Song Writing With Clients Who Have Dementia: A Case Study


Bill Ahessy


The Arts in Psychotherapy




This paper highlights the role of person-centred music therapy in the care of people with Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia. To begin, it summarizes global dementia statistics and examines the associated symptomatology of the disease. It provides an overview of the research supporting the use of music therapy with people who have dementia and considers the overlap between the person centred care approach and music therapy theory and practice. After identifying the methods most frequently used by music therapists in dementia care, it highlights song writing as a potent music therapy approach in dementia care with older adults. An illustrative case study is presented of a 94-year-old woman with Alzheimer’s disease who received individual music therapy for 18 months. The case presentation highlights Margaret’s (pseudonym) experience of person-centered music therapy in which song writing was a key component. Writing songs provided opportunities for strengthening and validating identity, for expressing difficult to verbalize emotions, and for reflection on the experience of Alzheimer’s disease. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)

Music and Health Institute Terms

Alzheimer's and Related Dementias; Cognitive Abilities; Composition; Elderly; Emotional Functioning; Gender Disparities; Improvisation; Neurodegenerative Disorders; Songwriting

Indexed Terms

Dementia; Person-centred therapy; Song writing; Improvisation; Alzheimer's Disease; Client Centered Therapy; Human Females

Study Type

Case Study; Qualitative Methods

Document Type