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Singing together!

What impact does group music therapy have on people with quadriplegia?

Author of summary: Jelena Obrenovic (Swiss Paraplegic Research)

Original article: Tamplin J, Baker FA, Grocke D, Berlowitz DJ. Thematic Analysis of the Experience of Group Music Therapy for People with Chronic Quadriplegia. Topics in Spinal Cord Injury Rehabilitation. 2014;20(3):236-47. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4257149/

People with quadriplegia are especially at risk for social isolation and depression. This study showed that group music therapy can have psychological, physiological as well as social benefits for people with quadriplegia.

What was the aim of the study?

Individuals with quadriplegia are at higher risk to experience isolation and depression. This study wanted to investigate what it is like for quadriplegic people to participate in group music therapies. Are there any benefits from this kind of therapies? Do they help prevent depression and isolation?

How did the researchers proceed?

The researchers split the 24 participants (with C4-C8 quadriplegia) into two groups. One group received active music therapy for 12 weeks. It included group singing using Neurologic Music Therapy techniques, vocal and respiratory exercises, singing familiar songs as well as vocal improvisation. The other group of participants attended receptive music therapy, focusing on group music appreciation, song sharing and discussion, musical games and music-assisted relaxation. All therapy sessions lasted one hour.

In order to assess data on the effect of the music therapies, participants received questionnaires before and after the music therapy. Additionally, the researchers conducted individual, so-called semi-structured interviews with 20 of the participants (5 women and 15 men) after the therapy. The aim was to capture general information about the experience of group music therapy. The interviews included questions about what participants liked or not, whether their appreciation or use of music changed because of the intervention, and what it was like to be part of a group. The researchers then transcribed and thematically analyzed the interviews.

What did the researchers discover?

The findings imply that group music therapy had significant psychological, physical and social benefits on all participants. The therapy sessions provided opportunities for individuals to reintegrate in a community as well as to develop self-confidence and social skills.

Participants said that they gained a sense of joy and accomplishment, accompanied with stronger social and friendship networks. They also reported an increased satisfaction with well-being and sense of safety within a community.

What do these findings mean?

The researchers concluded that social music participation, whether it is active singing or intentional music listening, is accessible, enjoyable, beneficial as well as motivating for people with quadriplegia. The findings of this study are particularly important for potential efforts to strengthen community engagement and to prevent negative health outcomes associated with depression and isolation.

Who conducted and financed the study?

The study was conducted at a large public hospital in Melbourne, Australia. All authors worked at the University of Melbourne and two of them also worked at the Institute for Breathing and Sleep of Austin Health in Melbourne. The study was funded by a grant from the Victorian Neurotrauma Initiative at Geelong, Victoria, Australia.

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