Connecting Through the Voice: Reflections on Research and Clinical Practice in Dementia and Palliative Care

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Image of music therapist Dr. Amy Clements Cortes

The voice is a core instrument in working with clients having dementia and those in palliative care. However, discussion on how the voice is used is often not singled out in clinical presentations, descriptive writing, or research studies. Further, singing gets lumped together as an intervention which may or may not include accompanying instruments, might be part of songwriting or other interventions, thus making it hard to decipher how the voice was used and what or was not effective about the music intervention.

As dementia increases, strong connections are made with the voice, and this is often through the use of the voice as a solo instrument. This holds true not only for the client-therapist but also for the client and those accompanying them such as family and caregivers. In palliative care contexts when a person is actively dying the voice is a way to reach them, help them feel grounded, supported, and most importantly know that they are not alone.

Through research and case examples, participants will learn about how the therapist can use their own voice and empower the voices of their clients. This presentation will be of interest to therapists in various parts of the globe as the focus is on meeting the clients where they are and ensuring we are approaching the work from a culturally humble viewpoint. The voice is core to all music therapists’ work.

Learner Objectives

  1. Describe the significance of the voice in music therapy work in dementia and palliative care. (III A 1, 2 g-k, n-p; 4 f)
  2. Learn about vital voice work through case examples in dementia and palliative care. (IV A 1,3,6; V A. 2)
  3. Become familiar with research assessing singing and vocal interventions in dementia and palliative care. (V A 2; III D 2; II C 1-2)


Amy Clements-Cortes, Ph.D., RP, MTA, MT-BC is Assistant Professor, Faculty of Music, University of Toronto; Instructor and Supervisor, Wilfrid Laurier University; a credentialed Music Therapist, Registered Psychotherapist, and Managing Editor of the Music and Medicine journal.