Felicity A. Baker, PhD, Jeanette Tamplin, PhD, Raymond A. R. MacDonald, PhD, Jennie Ponsford, PhD, Chantal Roddy, BA (Hons), Claire Lee, PhD, Nikki Rickard, PhD; Exploring the Self through Songwriting: An Analysis of Songs Composed by People with Acquired Neurodisability in an Inpatient Rehabilitation Program. J Music Ther 2017 thw018. doi: 10.1093/jmt/thw018
Neurological trauma is associated with significant damage to people’s pre-injury self-concept. Therapeutic songwriting has been linked with changes in self-concept and improved psychological well-being.
This study analyzed the lyrics of songs composed by inpatients with neurological injuries who participated in a targeted songwriting program. The aim of this study was to understand which of the subdomains of the self-concept were the most frequently expressed in songs.
An independent, deductive content analysis of 36 songs composed by 12 adults with spinal cord injury or brain injury (11 males, mean age 41 years +/– 13) were undertaken by authors 1 and 2.
Deductive analysis indicated that when writing about the past self, people created songs that reflected a strong focus on family and descriptions of their personality. In contrast, there is a clear preoccupation with the physical self, on the personal self, and a tendency for spiritual and moral reflections to emerge during the active phase of rehabilitation (song about the present self). Statistical analyses confirmed a significant self-concept subdomain by song interaction, F(10, 110) = 5.98, p < .001, ηp2 = .35), which was primarily due to an increased focus on physical self-concept and a reduced focus on family self-concept in the present song, more than in either past or future songs.
The analysis process confirmed that songwriting is a vehicle that allows for exploration of self-concept in individuals with neurological impairments. Songwriting may serve as a therapeutic tool to target the most prevalent areas of self-concept challenges for clients undergoing inpatient neurological rehabilitation programs.