Assessment-based Small-group Music Therapy Programming for Individuals With Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease: A Multi-year Clinical Project

Laurie A. Keough
Betsey King
Theresa Lemmerman


Research examining the use of music and music therapy to treat individuals with Alzheimer’s and dementia indicates that active music-making and personalized therapeutic interactions can have a positive effect on reducing symptoms, maintaining function, and improving overall well-being. Many music therapists, however, report working in the role of a recreation therapist, with little opportunity to treat in individualized, assessment-based small-group settings. This article describes a clinical project in which a small-group model of therapy for individuals with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease was developed in an academic setting and then piloted in eldercare community settings. The model utilizes gradual scaffolding of skills over time, rather than the more common theme-based approach. Participants demonstrated not only improvement in social, emotional, language, and musical functioning, but also new learning. The challenges of application when working as a solitary therapist in a facility are discussed, and a model for facilities is offered. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2018 APA, all rights reserved)