News Video | Policy | GPs | Hospitals | Medical | Mental Health | Welfare | Search


Treatment pilot combines speech-language and music therapy

Press Release
Innovative Christchurch treatment pilot combines speech-language therapy and music therapy

“Songs and music are processed in a different area of the brain than speech and while people living with the effects of a stroke can't speak, they may be able to sing.”

Christchurch allied health services provider Therapy Professionals has been awarded a contract to run a pilot programme designed to improve and maintain vocal function for people living with impaired neurological function. Inspired by Auckland's CeleBRation Choir and the latest findings about the role of music in rehabilitation, the Christchurch pilot adds a speech-language component to accelerate and boost the benefits of stand-alone music therapy.

Therapy Professionals general manager Shonagh O'Hagan says a growing body of scientific evidence from biomedical research is showing singing may help to ‘rewire’ the brain after neurological injury while also restoring verbal communication skills through improved breath control, perception, and timing of speech.

"Songs and music are processed in a different area of the brain than speech and while many people living with the effects of a stroke can't speak, they may be able to sing,” says O'Hagan.

“In people with neurological conditions, singing can help improve their concentration, speech, organisation of thoughts, and formation of coherent sentences.”

Shallow breathing is a common experience for people living with Parkinson's disease, usually resulting in diminished vocal strength, weaker speech muscles, and loss of co-ordination of the muscles involved in speech production. O'Hagan explains that singing helps co-ordinate these muscles, strengthening the voice and improving the sound that's produced. It also provides an expressive outlet for feelings of anger and frustration.

“When you combine all these benefits you may see improvements in confidence, self-esteem and motivation, which are important factors in enhancing the prospect of rehabilitation.”

Assembling regularly as a group creates the opportunity for choir members to gain support and be in regular contact with people experiencing similar health issues. This social dynamic provides a very positive experience and can assist with the healing process, O'Hagan says.

“Singing is also a useful way of addressing the common difficulty of getting people to participate fully in their own rehabilitation. We know there are barriers to doing vocal exercises regularly at home and that many people lapse, however singing is an enjoyable way to practice.”

The 10-week pilot is funded by Music Therapy New Zealand and has already attracted interest from 28 people with neurological conditions who have heard about the choir primarily from health professionals in the Canterbury District Health Board, the Multiple Sclerosis & Parkinson's Society, and the Stroke Foundation.


© Scoop Media

Culture Headlines | Health Headlines | Education Headlines


Howard Davis: Emerald Fennell's Promising Young Woman'

The Guardian needed not one, but three reviews to do justice to Fennell's unsettling approach, which indicates exactly how ambiguous and controversial its message really is. More>>

Howard Davis: Jill Trevelyan's Rita Angus

Although Angus has become one of Aotearoa’s best-loved painters, the story of her life remained little known and poorly understood before Jill Trevelyan's acclaimed and revelatory biography, which won the Non Fiction Award at the Montana New Zealand Book Awards in 2009, and has now been republished by Te Papa press. More>>

Howard Davis: The Back of the Painting

Painting conservators are the forensic pathologists of the art world. While they cannot bring their subjects back to life, they do provide fascinating insights into the precise circumstances of a painting's creation, its material authenticity, and constructive methodology. More>>

Howard Davis: Black Panthers on the Prowl

A passionate and gripping political drama from Shaka King, this is an informative and instructive tale of human frailty that centers around the charismatic Chicago Black Panther leader Fred Hampton, who was murdered at the age of twenty-one during a police raid. More>>

Howard Davis: Controlling the High Ground

Stephen Johnson's raw and angry film not only poses important questions with scrupulous authenticity, but also provides a timely reminder of the genocidal consequences of casual bigotry and xenophobia. More>>

Howard Davis: Dryzabone - Robert Conolly's The Dry

After the terrible devastation caused by last year’s bushfires, which prompted hundreds of Australians to shelter in the ocean to escape incineration and destroyed uncountable amounts of wildlife, The Dry has been released during a totally different kind of dry spell. More>>

Howard Davis: Hit the Road, Jack - Chloé Zhao's Nomadland

Nomadland is perhaps the ultimately 'road' movie as it follows a group of dispossessed and disenfranchised vagabonds who find a form of communal refuge in camp sites and trailer parks after the economic contraction of 2008. More>>



  • Wellington
  • Christchurch
  • Auckland