Exploring the self through songwriting: An analysis of songs composed by people with acquired neurodisability in an inpatient rehabilitation program

Felicity Baker, Jeanette Tamplin, Raymond McDonald, Jennie Ponsford, Chantal Roddy, Claire Lee, Nikki Rickard

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9 Citations (Scopus)


Background: 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. Objective: 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. Methods: 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. Results: 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, ηp 2 = .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. Conclusions: 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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)35-54
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Music Therapy
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Adjustment to disability
  • Brain injury
  • Self-concept
  • Songwriting
  • Spinal cord injury

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