It suggests that 90 per cent of ABI patients who tried such therapy would like to continue attending sessions – while mood and goal achievement seem to improve as a result of the therapy.

The study was conducted by arts therapy provider Chroma, at Exemplar Health Care’s 80-bed Willowbeck inpatient unit in Sheffield, UK.

The centre caters for clients withcomplex needs, including those with an ABI (through accident or illness), people with an intellectual disability and individuals with mental health problems.

Over 12 weeks, a qualified neurologic music therapist from Chroma was assigned to work with individuals and groups of service users.

Evaluation of the pilot found that out of the 39 MDT goals set for 21 service user participants, 17 goals were completed and 12 partially completed (totalling 29 or 74 per cent).

Goals for some service users were very targeted due to the technique used and therefore the outcome (achievement of goal) was easy to measure. Example goals set included:

  • Goal: Extending the distance I can reach forward to touch an object (both arms) – extension of shoulder and elbow joints, moving arms and hands with control.
  • Outcome: Playing the piano or drums when they are positioned further away in front of me – shoulder and elbow joints able to extend with control, allowing hands to move forward functionally.

Aims that service users identified for themselves were included in the pilot, such as those concerning emotional and mental health.

All participants said their mood had become more positive from the beginning to end of the session. Service users’ likes, dislikes and achievements were also documented.

Their comments included: “I wasn’t on my own…getting rid of frustration…absolutely loved playing the drums…songwriting…..that it helped me explore what I feel…..the rhythm that got me moving…..being positive…..having better skills…..having ideas again”.

Overall, 90 per cent service users said they wanted more NMT sessions when the pilot finished.

Techniques used during the project included Patterned Sensory Enhancement (PSE); Therapeutic Instrumental Music Performance (TIMP); Symbolic Communication Training through Music (SYCOM); Oral and Motor Respiratory Exercises (OMREX); Musical Executive Function Training (MEFT); Music Psychotherapeutic Counselling (MPC) and Sensory-based group work.

Sally Watson, Chroma’s neurologic music therapist at Willowbeck, said: “The Willowbeck Neurologic Music Therapy project has been absolutely fascinating to deliver and from a clinical point of view the number of positive outcomes has been extremely high. NMT is the best intervention to support the range of needs service users at Willowbeck have, and by attending just one session per week for 12 weeks, service users have made significant changes that will impact on their everyday lives.

“For example, one service user who played the guitar before his accident which had left him paralysed, found that through NMT he was able to increase his reach with his arms and hands by working with the drums and piano to keep up with a particular rhythm or beat.”

Daniel Thomas, joint managing director of Chroma, added: “The success of this pilot scheme clearly demonstrates the difference music can bring to the quality of people’s lives, especially those with an acquired brain injury. We hope to deliver many more of these projects across the UK, not as pilot schemes, but as a permanent, necessary therapy.”

A spokesperson from Exemplar Health Care said: “The pilot project at Willowbeck gave us an opportunity to see if neurologic music therapy could positively benefit our Service users’ quality of life. Clients, their family members and colleagues have all given positive feedback and we’ve seen some real improvements in the quality of life to those living with an acquired brain injury. We are hopeful that we can expand the service to other Exemplar Health Care homes.”


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