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How did a Music Therapy Student Work with Patients with Dementia Who Were Anxious and/or Agitated?

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posted on 15.11.2021, 15:56 by Chin, Hsiau Wung

This research aimed to uncover the strategies and techniques that I used in my work with patients who have dementia and who were anxious and/or agitated. The objective of this study was to examine and learn from my work in order to improve my own, and potentially others’ practice. Secondary analysis of data collected from my music therapy clinical practice in a hospital was used as methodology of study. The analysis found 21 techniques and strategies in my work with patients with dementia who were anxious and/or agitated. They include the use of:  (1) Choice; (2) Culture of race (used Maori songs); (3) Direct Engagement; (4) Exploration; (5) Familiar Song; (6) Favourite Songs; (7) Following the Patient; (8) Identity; (9) Imitation and Matching Patients’ Sound Making; (10) Improvisation; (11) Lyrics; (12) Matching Tempo; (13) Object-Musical Instrument (drum); (14) Observation; (15) Physical Interaction; (16) Safety; (17) Space; (18) Tempo; (19) Verbal Interaction; (20) Voice Only; and (21) Volume.  These techniques and strategies were developed as I learnt from different articles, books, own experiences as well as supported by my supervisors. Apart from helping patients to reduce their anxiety and/or agitation, maintaining or increasing socialisation, interaction, and general wellbeing of patients seemed important too. Patients are likely to experience less anxiety and/or agitation if their needs are being supported. Findings will be of interest to music therapists and music therapy students working in hospitals or in dementia units in New Zealand. Future research about music therapy work with patients with dementia who are anxious and/or agitated together with their family members is suggested.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline

Music Therapy

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Music Therapy

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code


Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

New Zealand School of Music


Rickson, Daphne