Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

PHD - Doctor of Philosophy


Expressive Therapies


The purpose of this mixed method investigation was to discern whether participation in a task-specific music therapy group contributed to quality of life for adults with intellectual disabilities. Engaging in social interaction had previously been shown to benefit physical and emotional health (Duvdevany, 2008) while lack of social connection had produced detrimental effects, most often loneliness and depression (de Belvis et al., 2008). Two research questions were posited: 1) Does the level of social interaction increase when individuals participate in a group activity as compared to unstructured leisure time? 2) Does active participation in the group activity contribute to the quality of life of the participants? Socialization was defined as a verbal statement. Intervention consisted of 12, 45-minute music therapy sessions during which each of the three small group (n = 3) engaged in the process of producing and ultimately publically presenting a music DVD of themselves singing. The control group (n = 4) participated in coffee breaks of equal duration, frequency, and location. Employing the Social Interaction Scale and Group Environment Scale (Moos, 2002), four categories of verbal response were measured quantitatively for each participant: Initiating with the therapist, responding to the therapist, initiating with a peer, and responding to a peer. In addition, session content, a pre-post session Quality of Life Interview (Snow and D’Amico 2009), and an informal post-performance interview were analyzed qualitatively. Quantitative analysis demonstrated no statistically significant increase in any of the identified interaction categories. The only notable finding was a moderate effect size (r = .40) for initiations with the group as demonstrated in the Mann Whitney U test results. Interestingly, the control group actually produced more verbal statements, However, the content of these conversations proved rote, repetitive, often non-reciprocated, and engaged in unequally by participants. Conversely, while the intervention groups talked less, the verbal exchanges were robust, varied, new, interesting, reciprocated, and all participants engaged with relative equality. Qualitative analysis produced two major themes: The need for social interaction, and prevailing loneliness. An additional theme of nervousness presented during the initial sessions, but later subsided. Overarching findings indicated participants’ strong desire to be socially engaged yet frequently expressing feelings of loneliness. The post-performance interview revealed that nine of the ten participants expressed a positive response to participation in the project and public event. Qualitative results also indicated that there was healthy group process and positive cohesion amongst participants, implying that quality of life was increased by participation in this project.

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