Dementia and the Power of Music Therapy

Steve Matthews


Dementia is now a leading cause of both mortality and morbidity, particularly in western nations, and current projections for rates of dementia suggest this will worsen. More than ever, cost effective and creative non‐pharmacological therapies are needed to ensure we have an adequate system of care and supervision. Music therapy is one such measure, yet to date statements of what music therapy is supposed to bring about in ethical terms have been limited to fairly vague and under‐developed claims about an improvement in well‐being. This article identifies the relevant sense of wellbeing at stake in the question of dementia therapies of this type. In broad terms the idea is that this kind of therapy has a restorative effect on social agency. To the extent that music arouses a person through its rhythms and memory‐inducing effects, particularly in communal settings, it may give rise to the recovery of one's narrative agency, and in turn allow for both carer and patient to participate in a more meaningful and mutually engaging social connection. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)