Overview of Music Therapy Research

Music Therapy is the clinical and evidence-based use of music interventions to accomplish individual goals by a credentialed professional who has completed an approved music therapy training program.  Learn more about Music Therapy on the American Music Therapy Association website.  

Research shows benefits of Music Therapy for multiple populations including children with Autism and elders with Alzheimer’s Disease.  Through peer-reviewed journals inside the profession such as the Journal of Music Therapy and extensive articles in journals outside the profession, below is an overview of some of the research findings.

Music therapy interventions based on family- centered practice may increase social engagement in the home environment and community (Thompson, McFerran, & Gold, 2013). 

Music therapy services for young children with ASD are very effective (overall effect size of d = 0.76; p < 0.0001) for improving communication, interpersonal skills, personal responsibility, and play (Whipple, 2012).

Music therapy interventions may assist individuals with ASD to identify and appropriately express their emotions (Katagiri, 2009).

Music therapy interventions may impact joint attention, memory, and visual recall of individuals with ASD (Kalas, 2012).

Music therapy interventions may enhance auditory processing and other sensory/motor, perceptual/motor, or gross/fine motor skills in individuals with ASD (LaGasse & Hardy, 2013).

Music therapy interventions using musically adapted social stories may modify target behavior and teach new skills (Brownell, 2002).

View references and more information at: Music Therapy and Autism Spectrum Disorder Factsheet

Research Highlights of Music Therapy with persons with Alzheimer's

Music is effective in decreasing the frequency of agitated and aggressive behaviors for individuals diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease and related dementias.

Music therapy interventions have been shown to reduces depression among older adults. 

Music experiences can be structured to enhance social/emotional skills, to assist in recall and language skills and to decrease problem behaviors. 

Music tasks can be used to assess cognitive ability in people with Alzheimer’s Disease. 

Individuals in the late stages of dementia respond to and interact with music.

View references and more information here: Music Therapy and Alzheimer’s Disease Factsheet

Singing for Health

Group singing, and music in general, promotes better moods, combats loneliness, and improves memory as shown in preliminary studies conducted at the University of California San Francisco in 2013.  View more at Singing for HealthHandout.docx

Overview of Music Strategies to engage people with dementia including Alzheimer's


Download this overview of Music Strategies to engage people with dementia.