The 'Ripple Effect': Towards Researching Improvisational Music Therapy in Dementia Care Homes

Dementia (London). 2015 Sep;14(5):659-79. doi: 10.1177/1471301213514419. Epub 2013 Dec 18.


Increased interest in, and demand for, music therapy provision for persons with dementia prompted this study's exploration of music therapists' strategies for creating musical communities in dementia care settings, considering the needs and resources of people affected by dementia. Focus group discussions and detailed iterative study of improvisational music therapy work by six experienced practitioners clarify the contextual immediacy and socio-musical complexities of music therapy in dementia care homes. Music therapy's 'ripple effect', with resonances from micro (person-to-person musicking), to meso (musicking beyond 'session time') and macro level (within the care home and beyond), implies that all who are part of the dementia care ecology need opportunities for flourishing, shared participation, and for expanded self-identities; beyond 'staff', 'residents', or 'being in distress'. On such basis, managers and funders might consider an extended brief for music therapists' roles, to include generating and maintaining musical wellbeing throughout residential care settings.

Keywords: dementia care homes; music therapy; practice-led methodology; ripple effect; wellbeing.

MeSH terms

  • Communication
  • Dementia / therapy*
  • Focus Groups
  • Homes for the Aged
  • Humans
  • Music Therapy / methods*