Intervention Inspiration Series: Cognitive and Social Stimulation

As a new initiative for MTSA this summer, we are choosing to share different ideas for Music Therapy practice in the hopes that this will provide a valuable resource for beginning music therapists and as inspiration for practicing therapists. Every Monday, a different intervention idea will be presented. They will be very basic and will be best as beginning inspiration to be varied and adapted for different clinical settings. They may include specific music, but will typically only indicate the style of music to be incorporated.

The following basic format will be given for each intervention: 1) Activity, the type of intervention; 2) Target population, the intended client population for the intervention; 3) Materials, the instruments and supplies required; 4) Goals/Aims, ideas for goals or aims that could be addressed in the intervention; 5) Method, a detailed description of what would occur during the intervention; 6) Comments, an explanation of why this intervention is applicable for the given client population and how the goals/aims are addressed; and 7) Evaluation, questions to allow for reflection on whether or not the intervention was effective for a particular client or clients.

Cognitive and Social Stimulation

by Carmen Lee

Cognitive and social

Photo Source


Singing familiar songs – “Do-Re-Mi” from Sound of Music

Target Population:

Children with traumatic brain injuries – behavioural, mood, and social impairments



Paper, Marker


– To stimulate cognitive functioning

– To reduce agitation

– To increase communication skills

– To facilitate interpersonal interaction

– To motivate participation

– To facilitate turn-taking

– To use singing as a method to enhance speech


The music therapist will either ask the client, talk to the client’s family, or assess from past sessions for familiar song suggestions.  After a song has been decided on, the therapist will sing it once through.  The second time, the client will be asked to sing the solfege (which will be written on the paper), while the therapist sing the other words.  And each time thereafter, the client will continue to sing the solfege, but can choose to sing/hum the rest of the song with the therapist if capable.

The therapist will begin the song a cappella.  After once through, the therapist will add guitar accompaniment.  Each time they sing the song thereafter, the speed will increase.  Number of times sung is dependent on the client’s mood and reaction on the particular day.


Due to brain damage, pediatric TBI clients have impairments to the regulation of mood and behaviour, which in turn, can affect their social capacity.  They may be unable to inhibit extreme inappropriate behaviour, especially agitation to stimulation.  The use of familiar songs in pediatric TBI clients can help induce cognitive stimulation, but not over stimulate the client as the song is favourable and familiar.  Also, the song is simple and can be easily repeated.  In this way, it is easier for the client to process the music and the client will be less likely to respond with agitation.  Furthermore, the client may be more encouraged to interact with the therapist by singing/moving along.  By incorporating the guitar after singing without it and slowly increasing the speed, it also helps with pacing the integration of stimulation in order to reduce agitation.


Did the client enjoy the song?

Did the client react with agitation?

Was the client willing to sing/hum/move along?

Did the therapist need to prompt the client?

Could the client sing the solfege?

Could the client sing the words?

How can the therapist build on this activity?


About Laurier MTSA

We are a student association at Wilfrid Laurier University and most of our members are students in the Music Therapy program. We exist to educate about, promote, and support the work of music therapy, and to support the academic, career, and personal needs of the Music Therapy Students. Our mandate is to unite prospective, current and alumni students while promoting our profession in the larger community.
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