Music Therapy and Parkinson's Disease

Why is Music Therapy Good for People with Parkinson’s Disease?

Parkinson’s Disease, like many medical diagnoses, brings with it many challenges. Along with the obvious physical difficulties, a new diagnosis can be stressful for both the patient and his/her loved ones. Navigating a confusing system of healthcare options while just trying to get through a day without pain or discomfort can be exhausting, and many patients feel alone in the process. Music therapy, particularly group music therapy, is an option that can address cognitive, physical, and psychosocial issues all at once. Here are a few key examples:


Steadier gait, improved walking speed

            Rhythmic Auditory Stimulation is when the music therapist creates music to match the tempo of the walker, and then gradually increases the tempo (or pace) of the music. The walker will entrain to this tempo and gait will even out, improving speed and balance.

Improved Clarity of Speech

            Melodic Intonation Therapy is a technique that’s been used by speech therapists for years. Important phrases are slowed down and sung to a steady beat until the speaker is able to enunciate clearly, when the music is removed and then the melody is removed and the phrases are spoken. Singing of familiar songs and beloved melodies bring up memories and associations that motivate group members to participate, keeping up with the words of the song.

Emotional Well Being, Quality of Life

            Listening to music can help individuals relax- in music therapy, receptive techniques are explored on a deeper level. Guided imagery and breathing exercises are resources that can be taken home and practiced more regularly for long-term results. Lyric discussion allows clients to discuss feelings and life circumstances in a safe, contained environment.

            Group music therapy helps build lasting connections within a community, creating peer resources for social support and health advocating.

Improved Motor Function in the Extremities

            Therapeutic instrument playing in a group setting increases range of motion and physical strength- percussion instruments, especially, are a fun and accessible instrument for those who have never studied music but want to benefit from music making!