Man with music therapist

How music therapy can support people who have suffered a stroke

Director of Music Services, Dr Simon Procter, writes about how music therapy can support people who have suffered a stroke to live well through music.

At Nordoff Robbins, we were delighted to see The Sunday Times profiling the impact of music in their recent article ‘Music hits a healing note for stroke patients,’ and we stand by the positive results of the two studies cited, which show music as supporting “significantly better recovery.”

Our music therapy work is dedicated to helping people with a range of issues and challenges through the skilled use of collaborative music-making – and a proportion of that work is in care homes and rehabilitation centres, where we support people who have suffered a stroke to live well through music.

Beyond the effects of different musical genres on mood and emotional wellbeing, music therapy has a far broader potential to offer those who have suffered from the life-changing effects of a stroke.

The neurological impact of a stroke varies from person to person but has one common thread – that life is more challenging as a result. Music therapy can help in the immediate aftermath of a stroke, during rehabilitation and in the longer-term management of permanent effects, enriching people’s lives and supporting them on their journey of recovery.

Whilst music therapy never claims to be a cure, what it can do is evoke positive change within a person, on a psychological and emotional level, and also in certain situations, on a physical level. Music therapy sessions are tailored to the individual, their needs and their aspirations, and as such our therapists can skilfully work in music to encourage improvement in muscular control, fine motor-coordination, sensory responsiveness and orientation. But for many who have had a stroke, the challenges also include communication and expressiveness. Stroke can devastate speech, and people can find themselves feeling frustrated and isolated: in music therapy sessions people do not need words to be heard – barriers are transcended, as we are able to connect musically with those aspects of a person which are still very much whole and wanting to communicate. This work is skilled, requiring much attention to musical detail, but is perhaps the most rewarding work for a musician.

At Nordoff Robbins we are dedicated to investigating the positive impacts that the therapeutic use of music can have for those affected by life-limiting illness, isolation or disability, and our research team contributes to the development of this knowledge. These findings ensure that our music therapy practice is effective and led by our beneficiaries’ lived experiences, and also inform our public policy work, where we champion the social value of music and the positive impact that we know music can have on our health and wellbeing.

See more about our work with neurological conditions and brain injury


*Pictured: Gareth with our music therapist, Lucie at a neuro-rehabilitation centre in south Wales.