Interconnectivity in Music Therapy

February 10, 2015
Amy Clements-Cortes PhD MT-BC MT FAMI

Amy Clements-Cortes, PhD, MT-BC, MTA, FAMI, NMT, is Assistant Professor, Music and Health Research Collaboratory, University of Toronto


This past weekend I had the honor to present at and attend the fourth annual Online Conference for Music Therapy (OCMT). This was my fourth time attending the superior opportunity to learn from a diverse group of music therapists about providing care for persons across the life span; while also sharing my own work with older adults on sound stimulation and Alzheimer’s disease (AD).

The conference featured two keynote presentations given by leading researchers: Dr. Michael Thaut (Colorado State University, USA) and Dr. Gerhard Tucek, (IMC University of Krems, Austria); alongside a variety of oral papers. I had the honour of being trained in Neurologic Music Therapy (NMT) by Dr. Thaut in May 2013 at the University of Toronto’s first NMT training institute, and to work with Dr. Tucek in his role as Conference Chair of the World Federation of Music Therapy (WFMT) Congress held in July 2014 in Austria in my WFMT presidential role. It was wonderful to hear the updates on their research and current research in the field.

Of relevance to the ALTC audience were two papers I was privileged to hear related to persons with dementia. Music therapist Rachelle Norman (USA) shared on caring for the caregivers of persons with dementia. She identified the challenges faced by family caregivers of persons with dementia and addressed the ways that both music therapy and alternative support can assist these persons. Michelle Westfall (USA) spoke to the use of music therapy to reduce anxiety and stress for persons diagnosed with dementia. Her talk featured a theoretical basis for the use of music therapy to reduce anxiety and stress for individuals who have dementia, alongside case study examples and descriptions of the mechanisms of stress, anxiety and agitation as they relate to dementia.

On a personal note, I was pleased to present an oral paper on “Good Vibrations: Sound Stimulation, Rhythmic Sensory Stimulation (RSS) and Alzheimer’s Disease”. In this talk I was able to share a review of the literature on sound stimulation for AD; information on sound and music as rhythmic stimulation of the auditory or somato-sensory system as well as sound and music as the user of cognitive processing channels; and to discuss the study design of a pilot currently underway. The RSS and AD pilot study taking place at Baycrest Centre in Toronto, and funded by the Music and Health Research Collaboratory (MaHRC) is headed up by a truly dynamic team of researchers including: Dr. Lee Bartel, (MaHRC), University of Toronto), Dr. Heidi Ahonen (WLU), Dr. Morris Freedman (Baycrest and University of Toronto), Dr. Bernard Ross (Baycrest), Dr. Malcolm Binns (Baycrest) and myself. This crossover design study involves participants at all stages of AD and is anticipated to be completed by the summer 2015.

There is considerable music and health-related research underway at the MaHRC. To learn more visit http://www.music.utoronto.ca/about/MaHRChome.htm

I encourage long-term care to truly reflect on opportunities for providing sound stimulation in long-term care and encourage you to look for an upcoming article by myself and Dr. Lee Bartel in the ALTC, which outlines a number of strategies and considerations.