Author ORCID Identifier

Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation


Health Sciences


Rehabilitation Sciences

First Advisor

Dr. Gilson Capilouto

Second Advisor

Dr. Lori F. Gooding


Stroke is the fifth leading cause of death in the U.S. with approximately 795,000 Americans experiencing a stroke each year. In addition to common difficulties with communication and physical impairments following stroke, psychosocial impacts warrant assessment and treatment. Experiencing a stroke can lead to depression, mood disorders, and difficulties with emotion regulation. It is well documented that post-stroke depression (PSD) affects a third of stroke survivors. Higher levels of depression and depressive symptoms are associated with a less efficient use of rehabilitation services, poor functional outcomes, greater odds of hospital readmission, negative impacts on social participation, and increased mortality. The acute phase of stroke recovery may be a key factor in influencing the depression trajectory with early depression predicting poor longitudinal outcomes. The current approach to treating PSD is medication. However, psychotherapy approaches have demonstrated more promise in preventing PSD. Investigations into music-based treatments have shown encouraging results following acquired brain injuries with active music therapy interventions demonstrating large effect sizes for mood improvement. Therefore, the purpose of this three-part dissertation was to examine the effects of active music therapy on mood and describe the clinical decision making process of using music therapy to target mood elevation for hospitalized adults following a first-time acute ischemic stroke.

The first study examined the effect of one treatment of active music therapy on mood following a first-time ischemic stroke during acute hospitalization. Active music therapy was defined as music making interventions that elicit and encourage active participation from participants. The Faces Scale was used to assess mood immediately prior to and following treatment. Forty-four adults received at least one treatment. A significant change in mood was found following one treatment. Comment analysis indicated that participants viewed music therapy as a positive experience.

The second study investigated the impact of receiving two treatments of active music therapy on mood as compared to one. No significant difference was found between those who received one treatment and those who received two. Both dosing groups demonstrated significant mood improvement; however Group 2 (two treatments) had more severe strokes and did not improve until the second session.

The purpose of the third study was to describe the clinical decision-making (CDM) process of a music therapist targeting mood elevation for hospitalized patients following a first-time acute ischemic stroke. The Three Phase Process Model of Collaborative Self-Study was selected as a guiding qualitative methodological framework. Data was collected from four sources: (a) electronic medical records, (b) audio recordings of eight music therapy treatments, (c) a researcher journal, and (d) patient and caregiver/visitor comments. Results indicate that factors influencing CDM included progression through a four-stage treatment process, use of a variety of music-based and therapy-based techniques, and the monitoring and influencing of participant levels of arousal, affect, salience, and engagement.

In conclusion, active music therapy during acute hospitalization following a first-time ischemic stroke is effective in significantly improving mood. Components of clinical decision making to elevate mood are illustrated in a provided conceptual framework. Continued investigation is warranted with consideration of stroke severity, dosing amounts, and additional outcomes of interest. Longitudinal investigation is needed to evaluate the impact of treatment on the trajectory of post-stroke depression.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)