Baker, Felicity

Meaning making process and recovery journeys explored through songwriting in early neurorehabilitation: Exploring the perspectives of participants of their self-composed songs through the interpretative phenomenological analysis

Felicity Baker

Objectives: This pilot study examined how fifteen participants in early rehabilitation described their self-composed songs six- to twelve-months following participation in a 6-week identity-focused songwriting program. Specific focus was given to the process of meaning making and identity reconstruction in the participants’ self-composed songs.

Methods: Participants with either an acquired brain injury or spinal cord injury, engaged in the creation of three songs: Song 1) a song describing the past self, song 2) a song describing the present self, and song 3) a song describing an imagined future self. Data were collected through individual semi-structured interviews (n = 15) and analysed using interpretative phenomenological analysis. Findings were developed idiographically as super-ordinate themes unique to each participant, then analysed across cases to identify recurrent themes and subthemes.

Results: Participants described the songwriting process as taking them through one of four distinct recovery journeys.  These included: 1) re-conceptualising values and shifting perspectives about self (my body is broken but my mind has been set free); 2) recognising acquired inner resources to negotiate discrepancies in self (hope is there); 3) confirming existing values and identifying resources and coping strategies (I have what I need to move forward); 4) confirming previously held values and ongoing process of negotiating discrepancies in self (I don’t yet have the answers).

Conclusions: The current study provides insight into the nature and process of meaning making and recovery journeys perceived by individuals with neurodisability. Our findings suggest that songwriting could be a therapeutic tool to facilitate identity reconstruction in neurorehabilitation.



Professor Felicity Baker is Head of Music Therapy and Co-Director of the Creative Arts Therapies Research Unit, University of Melbourne, and Professor of Music at The Norwegian Academy of Music, Norway. She is Associate Editor of the Journal of Music Therapy, and currently co-editor of a special issue of the Creative Arts Therapies in Frontiers in Psychology.

She has authored 10 books, over 100 refereed publications, amassed more than $4million in grant funding and has received numerous awards including being the second recipient of the World Federation of Music Therapy research award (2017). She has presented 13 keynote addresses and 35 invited plenary addresses. She is regularly invited to teach at universities in Asia, Europe and South America.


Recent Publications

Baker, F.A., Stretton-Smith P., Clark, I.N., Tamplin, J. and Lee, Y-EC. (2018) A Group Therapeutic Songwriting Intervention for Family Caregivers of People Living With Dementia: A Feasibility Study With Thematic Analysis. Front. In Medicine. 5:151. doi: 10.3389/fmed.2018.00151

Roddy, C., Rickard, N., Tamplin, J., Lee, C., Baker, F.A. (2018). Exploring the personal identity narratives of therapeutic songwriting participants following acquired brain injury: A case series analysis. Neuropsychological Rehabilitation, doi. 10.1080/09602011.2018.1448288

Baker, F.A., Metcalf, O., Varker, T. & O’Donnell, M. (November 2017). A systematic review of the efficacy of creative arts therapies in the treatment of adults with PTSD. Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy,

Viega, M., & Baker, F.A. (2017).  Remixing Identity: Creating Meaning from Songs Written by Patients Recovering from a Spinal Cord Injury using Arts-based Research. Journal of Applied Arts and Health, 8, 1, 57-73, doi: 10.1386/jaah.8.1.57_1

Roddy, C., Rickard, N., Tamplin, J., Baker, F.A. (2017). Personal identity narratives of therapeutic songwriting participants following spinal cord injury: A case series analysis. Journal of Spinal Cord Medicine.