Music Therapy in Neuro-Rehabilitation

Music therapy has the ability to reach even the most vulnerable and isolated people – and this couldn’t be more apparent than in the instances of our work in Neuro-Rehabilitation settings.

Julia is one of our trained Nordoff Robbins music therapists, and she works in a neurological rehab centre in the North West of England, delivering music therapy to support the care plans for those who access their services. The sound of her music with the residents often carries around the corridors from her room, or is shared with residents and staff in the communal spaces. Music has become a fixture at the centre, and Julia is now very much part of the furniture.

One such resident at the centre is Steve* – he was in an accident about five years ago, sustaining significant injuries which have left him ‘locked in’, with movement limited to only his eye and mouth. Julia first worked with him as a student while on the Nordoff Robbins Master of Music Therapy programme, and has had the fortune of making music with Steve for some time now. It was in music therapy that Steve made his first vocal sound since his accident, a moment which meant so much to his family.

Today, when Julia approaches Steve to collect him for his session his eyes are fixed on the TV, but as soon as she steps into his eye line, a smile spreads across his face as she asks him “shall we make music?”

Steve’s injuries mean that what he can physically offer in music may be limited, but that doesn’t matter, because our approach focuses solely on what a person can do, not what they can’t. We consider all contributions as meaningful, and what Steve has to offer is a valuable response in his breathing.

Julia has learnt that he likes loud drum sounds, and so builds this into their sessions. Julia carefully builds the volume with each purposeful drum beat, led by Steve’s increasingly strong breathing pattern. He smiles and maintains eye contact with Julia – the louder the beat, the bigger his response is – he makes long vocal sounds which forms a musical conversation between them.

When the drum beat reaches a peak, Steve takes a big, deep, purposeful breath, and the session draws to a close. 

In this moment, in these seemingly small ‘details’, is communication and an opportunity for Steve to be expressive.  For Nordoff Robbins, it is all about the detail, because in the detail, people are heard.

*Name has been changed for confidentiality purposes