The Clinical Practice Model for Persons with Dementia: Application to Music Therapy

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2 Scopus citations


Currently, no drug can cure or effectively mitigate symptoms for the growing number of individuals who live with Alzheimer's disease and related dementias. As they experience declines in memory, communication, and thinking - symptoms that undermine social initiative, autonomy, and well-being - these individuals become increasingly dependent on others. Evidence regarding the benefits of music therapy for persons with dementia is growing. Nonetheless, limitations in existing research have hindered knowledge regarding the use and appropriate application of music as a form of treatment with this population. This article describes the development of The Clinical Practice Model for Persons with Dementia, which provides a theoretical framework to inform evidence-based practice, illustrated here in application to music therapy. Specifically, the model is intended to prompt purposeful application of strategies documented within a broad literature base within 6 thematic areas (Cognition, Attention, Familiarity, Audibility, Structure, and Autonomy); facilitate clinical decision-making and intervention development, including music interventions; and encourage discourse regarding relationships between characteristics of the intervention, the therapist, the person with dementia, and their response to intervention. The model comprises a set of testable assumptions to provide direction for future research and to facilitate the description and investigation of mechanisms underlying behavioral interventions with this population. Although the model is likely to evolve as knowledge is gained, it offers a foundation for holistically considering an individual's needs and strengths, guidance for applying music and nonmusic strategies in evidence-based practice, and direction for future research.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)133-141
Number of pages9
JournalMusic Therapy Perspectives
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the University of Iowa Office of Outreach and Engagement Community Engagement Grant, Dr. Richard and Mrs. Ellen Caplan music therapy gift, and the contributors to a University of Iowa GOLD Rush crowd funding campaign. This work was completed in partial fulfillment of the Doctor of Philosophy degree at the University of Iowa, awarded the Spriestersbach Dissertation Prize, and a finalist for the Council of Graduate Schools National Dissertation Award. I offer my deepest gratitude to my co-chairs Dr. Kate Gfeller and Dr. Daniel Tranel and to my committee Dr. Jeremy Manternach, Dr. Jacob Oleson, and Dr. Mary Adamek, for their guidance. I also thank Gabriel, Milan, and Zyania Hernández for their love and support and Milan for his helpful advice on the appearance of the model.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 The Author(s). Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of American Music Therapy Association. All rights reserved.


  • Alzheimer disease
  • clinical education
  • dementia
  • evidence-based practice
  • models
  • music therapy education

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology
  • Music
  • Complementary and alternative medicine


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