Paula lind ayers: "Song-Physician" for troops with shell shock during world war I

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5 Scopus citations


Background: Little is known about the therapeutic uses of music during the First World War. This historical study provides a biography of Paula Lind Ayers (1891-1974), a vocalist, actress, and YMCA Entertainer who became known as "the girl who could sing away shell shock." Objective: The purpose of this study is to describe Paula Lind Ayers' respite services during World War I and provide a contextual biography of her life. Methods: The author conducted an exhaustive search regarding Paula Lind Ayers' life and her activities during World War I. Numerous databases were used to locate print sources. Libraries, archives, and organizations were consulted to obtain unpublished primary sources. The author evaluated materials via a recursive process that included corroborating evidence, assessing source reliability, and contextualizing information. Data were synthesized and analyzed for emergent themes. Results: Findings suggest that Paula Lind Ayers developed a systematic approach using familiar, live singing that was effective in alleviating symptoms of shell shock. Her method was replicated by others overseas during World War I. After the war, she returned to a successful performance career until the Great Depression. No information was found about Ayers' life from the year 1929 until her death in 1974. Conclusions: Understanding Paula Lind Ayers' contribution to music therapy provides a deeper awareness of past therapeutic uses of music with soldiers who experienced shell shock. Such understanding helps shape the way we view the present conception of music therapy with veterans and how we might answer questions that will affect the future of the field.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)276-291
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Music Therapy
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1 2014

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© the American Music Therapy Association 2014. All rights reserved.


  • Music therapy
  • Paula lind ayers
  • Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Shell shock
  • World war I

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Complementary and Manual Therapy
  • Music


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