Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Supporting people with dementia who are experiencing loss and grief; developing student music therapy practice

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posted on 2021-12-08, 02:11 authored by Stewart, Alicia Joy

This study is an action research project to develop my music therapy practice with people living with dementia who are encountering loss and grief. The research was developed during my practicum at the Music Moves Me Trust; a charitable trust offering music therapy services to people and their families living with dementia in the Waikato, New Zealand. The researched question was, “How can I use music therapy to support people with dementia through loss and grief?” This research is particularly relevant given the call for non-pharmaceutical dementia care in New Zealand. Over three action research cycles, I planned, performed, evaluated and reflected upon focused research actions. Thematic analysis was used to find common themes across the research cycles. Five themes of: sensing over speaking; human connection; honouring spirituality; knowing individuals closely and therapist self-care are presented in the model of a human hand. The palm of the hand holds the core theme valuing the person, as inspired by Kitwood (1997)’s model of personhood. The research’s findings valuing spiritual care, and an emphasis on nonverbal connection aligns with Kirkland, Fortuna, Kelson, and Phinney (2014)’s study of a spiritual care and music therapy group.


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

970119 Expanding Knowledge through Studies of the Creative Arts and Writing

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

New Zealand School of Music


Hoskyns, Sarah