Healing Through Music and the Power of Song to Promote Recovery of Language Function


As discussed in the article shared from Harvard earlier this week, music has positive medical benefits for depression and anxiety related to invasive procedures; reduces side effects of cancer therapy; helps with pain relief; and improves quality of life for people suffering from dementia. What’s more, music can help to restore lost speech. These are some of the many ways people experience healing through music.

The Harvard U article indicated that “…music therapy can help people who are recovering from a stroke or traumatic brain injury that has damaged the left-brain region responsible for speech. Because singing ability originates in the right side of the brain, people can work around the injury to the left side of their brain by first singing their thoughts and then gradually dropping the melody…”


Melodic Intonation therapy was developed by Robert Sparks in Boston at MIT. This approach takes advantage of the brains right-sided processing of music to tap into remaining strengths following left-sided brain damage. By using song in sessions, therapists are able to bring out words and phrases that were otherwise “lost”. Helping clients to find these lost words and phrases is empowering! This approach was designed to help with aphasia – a disorder of language function.

Many clients who have arrived to their session depressed have left with big smiles on their faces after singing and getting words out through song. They appear to experience healing through music before my eyes. For some, this was the first time that they produced entire sentences. The sense of hope, progress and well-being should be measured, just like other therapeutic outcomes as these outcomes are equally important.


Many clients with speech disorders (e.g. from stroke, ABI, or progressive conditions like MS or Parkinson’s Disease) have trouble changing their pitch when speaking which results in a flat monotone voice. This makes it hard to interpret the meaning of what they are saying (e.g. is he or she being sarcastic?) In my experience, use of song has provided a way to increase the range of pitches used in speech and has made the person’s meaning more recognizable. This is yet another way client’s experience healing through music.

Do you know anyone that has benefitted from musical approaches within speech therapy? We would love to hear your story.

Bobi Tychynski Shimoda is a Speech-Language Pathologist with more than a decade of experience working with neurological communication and swallowing disorders. She has worked in a variety of settings including inpatient rehab, acute care, community, and private practise. She is highly skilled in assessment, and innovative treatment approaches.