Neurologic Music Therapy

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Neurologic Music Therapy (NMT): the innovative intervention that’s making noise in neurorehabilitation.

Elizabeth Nightingale, Neuro Services Lead at Chiltern Music Therapy, NMT experts in the medicolegal sector

What is Neurologic Music Therapy?

Neurologic Music Therapy is an evidence-based, neuroscientific model of music therapy. It is made up of 20 standardised clinical techniques that can be used to support rehabilitation of speech & language, movement, and cognitive skills. Supporting emotional wellbeing and adaptation to life after injury also forms an important part of this work. Each technique has its own  research base and clinical protocol; the focus is on supporting non-musical goals (e.g. speech intelligibility, breath control, range of motion, attention, choice-making etc).

How does it work?

Advances in neuroimaging mean we now understand more about the way in which music is processed in the brain. To date, research shows that nothing else stimulates so many different areas of the brain simultaneously, as music. If we are wanting to give someone with a brain injury the best possible opportunity to respond and engage in their rehabilitation, music is invaluable. Due to the distinctive way in which it is processed, it can actually be used to build new neural pathways around areas of the brain that have been damaged by disease or injury. This makes it an especially unique tool in neurorehabilitation. Neurologic Music Therapists might use singing or vocalising to re-train speech, rhythm to support someone relearning to walk, or mnemonics and original songs to support someone’s sequencing skills for getting dressed or making their breakfast. Once somebody is referred for NMT, their therapist will identify what relevant techniques to explore as part of their treatment, and work alongside the client, their MDT and family as part of an integrated collaborative approach.

Who can benefit from Neurologic Music Therapy?

Neurologic Music Therapy can be used to support those with an acquired brain injury, stroke, cerebral palsy, autism, Parkinson’s, Huntington’s and more. It is for people of ALL ages; music is used as the functional tool to support with an individual’s rehab goals – no musical experience necessary!

What happens in a session?

Sessions are tailored in line with an individual’s rehab goals and will therefore feature use of the techniques most relevant for supporting them in those areas, but NMT tasks and exercises can include: blown instrument exercises, vocal exercises, singing, music-making on live and virtual instruments, receptive listening, song/track-writing, and the use of music technology. Sessions can be face-to-face, or online.

How and when do you refer?

Case Managers and individuals are able to refer for an assessment direcly through NMT companies like Chiltern, or through making enquiries via the professional membership body, British Association for Music Therapy. Early intervention is recommended, but referrals can be made at any time. NMT can be accessed across the care pathway – from acute, to rehabilitation, and discharge back into the community.

What do people say about it?

"One of the most rewarding aspects has been to see the positive effect on him after taking part in neurologic music therapy. His ability to engage and communicate with his therapist through music-making has been wonderful to see, particularly when he was thought by some of the medical experts assessing him to have been left with little or no ability to communicate reliably” – Sarah Campbell, Partner at Leigh Day

Her attention is much better now when walking. Before, if she was distracted at all in any way she could end up on the floor, but now I have her walking and talking, so thank you” – Physio therapist of a stroke patient at Regional Neuro Rehabilitation Unit, Homerton Hospital

Thanks to NMT, Jack can now handle situations that in the past would have overwhelmed him. It seems that he can process his thoughts while playing and can then speak about his feelings. The therapy has truly been life-transforming for him and has enriched all our lives” – Grandparent of a young child with ASD

For more information on Neurologic Music Therapy, or to discuss a potential referral, you can reach Elizabeth on

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