Sound thinking: Neurologic music therapy for cognitive training in adult mental health rehabilitation

Mr Cameron Haigh1

1Metro South Health, Brisbane, Australia

BACKGROUND: Cognitive impairment is a key factor limiting long term function and quality of life for individuals with mental illness. While a number of Cognitive Remediation Therapy (CRT) approaches have shown to provide benefits, they often exclude more severely impaired consumers. Access to, and engagement with, CRT remains limited. Neurologic Music Therapy (NMT) is an emerging treatment approach drawing on the neuroscience of music perception and music production to inform clinical techniques for cognitive, communication and sensorimotor dysfunctions. The ‘Sound Thinking’ group incorporates NMT techniques to create an engaging program for individuals in mental health rehabilitation.

AIMS: This project examines whether a group NMT program can provide engaging and effective cognitive training for mental disorders, including for individuals who may not participate in existing CRT programs.

METHODS and RESULTS: Participants were asked to rate the helpfulness of the program’s goals, methodology and overall effectiveness, and provide free text comments on their experience of the program. Survey responses showed strong acceptability and engagement from consumers as well as positive self-reported cognitive outcomes. Consumers also highlighted strong affective and social responses. A further controlled research study is commencing in 2019 using psychometric measures to examine changes in participants’ cognition during the program.

DISCUSSION: The utilisation of group musical experiences to teach and train improved cognition holds promise for increased engagement in cognitive rehabilitation.  This project addresses a need for rigorous evaluation of NMT in the psychiatric setting and may lead to improved treatment options for consumers with cognitive deficit.


Cameron Haigh is Senior Registered Music Therapist and Music Therapy Clinical Educator in Metro South Health, working in mental health rehabilitation, clinical education and acquired brain injury rehabilitation. Cameron is a Fellow of the Academy of Neurologic Music Therapy and is completing Masters research with the University of Melbourne on the use of music therapy for cognitive rehabilitation.

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