Music Therapy - Service Evaluation

Clients and sessions | Questionnaire responses | Staff and volunteer perceptions | Recommendations for future investigation | Enquiry

This page provides some details of a service evaluation I carried out during my final year student placement.

Music therapy was introduced as a new provision at a dementia resource centre which hosted a drop-in cafe for people with dementia, their spouses and carers. Several people with mild to moderate dementia were referred to music therapy over the course of six months.

"Music therapy sessions at the drop-in have enhanced the wellbeing of the people who attend, and improved the mood of the environment."
- Staff member
"When you're singing, you feel happy. And the songs come out a lot better."
- Client
"I have observed a definite improvement in self-esteem / confidence in 2 people who attend."
- Staff member
"Based on the outcomes I have physically observed, I do believe music therapy should be made available to more people."
- Staff member

Content taken from: Muirhead, E. (2017). Establishment of music therapy at a centre for people with dementia: Personal reflection and service evaluation findings. Unpublished Master's Dissertation, MSc Music Therapy Programme, Queen Margaret University, Scotland.

Clients and sessions

The music therapy clients were two women and three men with mild to moderate dementia, their age at commencement of music therapy was between 69 and 85 years (mean 76.6, range 16). Three music therapy sessions were provided weekly for 22 weeks, with most lasting 30-45 minutes (mean 36.4, standard deviation 8.6). Figure 1 shows durations for the sessions each week.

Figure 1 - Duration of music therapy sessions

Questionnaire responses

Service users (n=4), carers (n=4) and staff/volunteers (n=3) were each provided with a questionnaire targeted to them. They were also given verbal and written information about the evaluation, and were offered the opportunity to ask questions. Service users were guided through their questionnaires by a staff member who was not involved with the therapy or responses.

Consent was obtained from all respondents, and all returned questionnaires were kept anonymous and confidential, so responses could not be linked to any individual.

Assessment and benefits

All respondents agreed that a few assessment sessions were useful to check if music therapy had the potential to help each person.

Service users were asked whether they felt music therapy was beneficial to them, three answered "Yes", one answered "Unsure". Additional comments:

"Just great."
"Enjoy it very much, and it's relaxing."
"Enjoyment, relaxation, always having music."

All four carers said music therapy was beneficial to the person they know. Their comments were:

"Always look forward to it."
"Look forward to seeing Ed."
"Very happy after sessions."

Service users and carers were asked which aspects of music therapy were enjoyable. Of the four aspects listed, singing was ranked highest, followed by hearing music. Playing instruments and talking were both indicated by 50%. There was space provided to mention others, but none was entered. One comment was provided by a carer:

"Very good experience."
Figure 2 - Aspects of music therapy found enjoyable
Session length

The majority of service users and carers felt that the length of music therapy sessions was "about right" (Figure 3). One service user felt music therapy sessions were too long, none thought they were too short. To put this in context, most sessions were 30-45 minutes (Figure 1).

Figure 3 - Opinions on length of sessions

With regard to frequency of music therapy, respondents were split between the current provision "Once a week" (50% of service users/staff, 75% of carers) and "More often" (50% of service users/staff, 25% of carers). No-one replied "Less often" (Figure 4)

Figure 4 - How often should music therapy be available?

Respondents were asked to rate the music therapy provided. The response was positive across all types of respondent: 50% service users and carers and 67% staff rating "Excellent", with the remainder rating "Good" (Figure 5). One carer did not provide a response.

Figure 5 - How would you rate the music therapy overall?

When asked if they would recommend that a music therapy service continues, all respondents answered "Yes". Additional comments from service users were:

"Yes if I can come"
"Really helps and good for people"

There was one staff comment:

"Music therapy sessions at the drop-in have enhanced the wellbeing of the people who attend, and improved the mood of the environment".

Staff and volunteer perceptions

Staff and volunteers answered 5 questions addressing their perception of effects of music therapy on service users and carers. They all observed positive effects, with two comments:

"Appears mood is uplifted"
"I have observed a definite improvement in self-esteem/confidence in 2 people who attend".

They were also asked "Do you feel the student music therapist contributes positively to the staff/volunteer team?". All responses were "strongly agree", showing a very positive contribution by the student music therapist to the team.

There were two questions aimed at gathering feedback received by staff or volunteers directly from service users or carers. All respondents had received feedback about music therapy from service users. The comments were:

"Users expressed happiness about the opportunity to attend and how much they enjoyed the time with Ed"
"Service users have said that positive attitude and enhanced wellbeing continues to last throughout the day after the morning sessions".

Two-thirds of respondents had received feedback about music therapy directly from carers, with one comment:

"Carers have agreed as above and also the people with dementia have expressed their enthusiasm each day prior to their session".

All respondents thought music therapy should be made available to more people (Figure 6), based on their knowledge of service users who receive music therapy. There was one comment:

"Based on the outcomes I have physically observed, I do believe music therapy should be made available to more people".
Figure 6 - Should music therapy be available to more people?

Each questionnaire had space to provide further comments or suggestions about music therapy, responses are shown below.
Service users
"I enjoy sessions on my own"
"I think small groups would be very good for individuals and it helps in lots of ways"
"Enjoyable time. Relaxing. One-to-one or small group."
"Ed has good understanding of issues. Always come out of session feeling good."
"Very positive effect. Looks forward to sessions."
"This service should be in the organisation on a weekly basis."
"It was good to have a chance to complete this".
"Group sessions to be made available to provide opportunities for like-minded people to engage and have fun."
Additionally, there were two comments noted from visiting staff members, working in rooms adjacent to the music therapy room:

"It was lovely to hear the music from our office, the clients have such great voices! And the songs were so poignant, I felt quite emotional."
"It was great to overhear the music therapy today!"

Recommendations for future investigation

Music therapy within community-based care for those with mild to moderate dementia could prove a fruitful area for further investigation. People with a recent diagnosis still have the capacity to recall memories and rediscover music from their past. They also have the ability to participate in music sessions and provide feedback to a music therapist or evaluator. In addition, there is the possibility that music therapy can maintain cognition and enhance the quality of life of someone who still lives at home, and perhaps involve their carer in the music-making process.


Music therapy is available for individuals and small groups. My recent experience is listed on the about page.
To enquire about music therapy, please call 07948 504355 or email.