ALS Music Therapy

Home » MusicALS » What is music therapy? » Music Therapy for PALS and CALS

Music Therapy for PALS and CALS

What is music therapy?

Music therapy is clinical, evidence-based use of music to accomplish individual non-musical goals. Music therapy has been found beneficial for psychological wellbeing (Davies et al., 2016) and for decreasing perception of physical symptoms of the disease, increasing communication and improving quality of life (Raglio et al., 2016) of people with ALS. Music listening may have a beneficial effect on heart rate, respiratory rate, and anxiety in mechanically ventilated patients (Bradt et al., 2010).


Benefits of music therapy for PALS and CALS:

  • psychological support and counseling
  • relaxation and sleep facilitation
  • self-expression (verbal or nonverbal)
  • mood enhancement
  • energy boost
  • moderate physical exercise
  • pain management
  • support for making decisions
  • support for adjustment to the disease
  • relationship closure
  • enhancing family dynamics
  • community building
  • respite care


Music therapy may look and sound like:

  • instrumental or vocal improvisation
  • singing songs
  • playing simple music instruments
  • listening to live or recorded music
  • songwriting
  • discussing favorite music
  • creating play lists
  • music-supported visualizations
  • exercising to music
  • dancing to music
  • music-evoked reminiscing
  • vocal or breathing exercises
  • drawing to music


Who can practice music therapy?

Music therapy is an allied health profession, like physical therapy or speech therapy. Music therapists hold a degree in music therapy; in most countries, they also have to be board certified or licensed to practice. Music therapists have theoretical and practical knowledge of music, human psychology and physiology, and work closely with a multidisciplinary team to provide individualized, evidence-based treatment for every clinical situation. Volunteers, caregivers and patients cannot practice music therapy, but can be trained in therapeutic applications of music for particular, simpler purposes.

Download Music Therapy for PALS and CALS guide.


Neurologic music therapy to sustain vital functions

Screen Shot 2018-12-07 at 11.47.50 AMSince the 1990ies, neurologic music therapy has been used worldwide in rehabilitation of stroke and TBI survivors to improve their gait, gross and fine motor skills, balance, speech, swallowing, and emotional regulation. The success of this treatment is rooted in neuroplasticity and in the fact that music shares neural pathways with other vital processes (such as speech production or movement). These findings inform our ongoing research on the effect of neurologic music therapy protocol on bulbar and respiratory functions of people living with ALS.


Safe and effective set of exercises for PALS

alskidsAs a certified music therapist and an international advisor for ALS Foundation “Live Now”, I have been responsible for developing music therapy program for people affected by ALS and their caregivers in Russia. In collaboration with the multidisciplinary team at ALS Centre Moscow, the treatment protocol addressing physical, emotional and cognitive needs of PALS was developed. I trained and currently supervise two music therapists who provide home-based services for ALS patients and their families. Previously we also trained two groups of “musicians-visitors” (2015) and “expressive arts volunteers” (2016), who currently work in Moscow and Saint Petersburg, providing psychological support and opportunities for self-expression to PALS and CALS. This work was done pro bono.

Currently I am undertaking full time clinical research on the effect of music therapy exercises on breathing, speech and swallowing of people with ALS / MND. The ultimate goal of this research is to create a set of safe and effective music therapy exercises to maintain and prolong vitals functions in people with ALS and to improve their quality of life. This research requires additional expenses which, unfortunately, I am unable to cover myself. Please kindly consider contributing to or sponsoring this work to make music therapy treatment available for ALS / MND patients around the world. I will be happy to answer any questions you may have, and I will consider teaching opportunities in the USA and internationally.


Download our Music Therapy for PALS and CALS pdf 2018.

%d bloggers like this: