Arts therapies for dementia: a systematic review and community-based case study on the value of music therapy and dance movement therapy


Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


The increasing number of people being diagnosed with dementia presents a need to find more evidence-based therapies that help maintain health and wellbeing post diagnosis. Music therapy (MT) and dance movement therapy (DMT) are two forms of arts therapies that share a non-verbal, holistic approach and offer a non-pharmaceutical treatment option. However, evidence for their effectiveness remains inconclusive with uncertainty regarding therapeutic components.

The first stage of this PhD involved collating quantitative and qualitative evidence for MT and DMT in a systematic review of primary sourced literature. Findings of this review indicate that both MT and DMT work to meet psychosocial needs and celebrate personhood. There was no consensus on health outcomes though there was some high quality quantitative evidence for reducing symptoms of depression and agitation. Qualitative findings focused on the importance of embodied communication and identified therapeutic components across studies including regulating arousal, increasing bodily awareness and improvisation. The evidence available focused on participants in nursing homes, revealing a lack of community-based studies, and an absence of arts-based methodologies.

Building on these findings, an evidence-based treatment manual was developed for a collaborative MT and DMT group to take place in the community. This phase adopted a case study design. Qualitative findings focused on significant moments of connection between thoughts, feelings and physical sensations and generated three main themes in the therapeutic process: making connections, acknowledging grief and loss, and growth and empowerment, while quantitative findings suggested a reduction in depressive symptoms.

The study contributed original knowledge to arts therapies research in gathering relevant evidence associated with the process and outcomes of two of the arts therapies, namely MT and DMT. It also enabled the development of a research-based treatment manual and proposed an interdisciplinary collaborative model of practice, an exploration of new arts-based data collection tools, and testing the intervention in a community setting.
Date of Award14 Jun 2019
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Edge Hill University
SupervisorVicky Karkou (Director of Studies)


  • dementia
  • community
  • music therapy
  • dance movement therapy
  • case study

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