Music Therapy and ABI
Author: Ri Na Yu, Registered Music Therapist
This photograph is for illustrative purposes only and does not represent the person featured in this case study.
Brain injury and Quadriplegia
To improve communication skills, self-expression and to experience enjoyment.
Areas of Intervention
Focused on singing and listening exercise.
Benefits Gained Through Therapy
Improved communication skills, expressed identity and well-being.
Freya is a 67-year-old woman, who sustained a significant brain injury and quadriplegia following a horse-riding accident in her 30s. As a result of her accident, Freya has low levels of alertness, significantly reduced cognition, impaired communication and a severe swallow impairment. Freya currently lives in an aged care facility and is supported by aged care staff with all activities of daily living. Freya’s sister sought music therapy for Freya to improve her communication skills, self-expression and for her to experience joy.
When Freya started music therapy, her capacity for attention was limited. However, during the sessions, the Registered Music Therapist (RMT) played the guitar and synchronised to her breathing tempo, which motivated and engaged Freya by creating a sense of shared music-making and understanding. As a result, she began actively participating in the therapy, making eye contact and using her voice.
Freya now consistently makes eye contact with the NMT and has communicated her music preferences, resulting in the creation of a playlist of her favourite music. During the sessions, she expressed enjoyment widening her eyes when the music resonated with her and closing them when she disliked something.
- The RMT hummed various melodies, which positively influenced Freya to engage in vocalisation exercises. Freya demonstrated her participation by producing sustained single-note sounds. The duration of her responses appeared to indicate her current condition or state on that particular day.
- RMT frequently observed that Freya found enjoyment in the music played on her CD player. The care workers have proactively provided her with access to music that was given by RMT as part of her care plan, with the aim of alleviating symptoms of low mood. This is also a point of connection with her carers and the people in her life who can now share in her preferred music and hear it as an expression of her identity.
- Freya demonstrates improved attention and actively engages by playing the shakers for a duration ranging from 10 to 20 seconds, which she previously did not do.