A music-based intervention for adults on the autism spectrum: Effects and underlying mechanisms

Kaja Korošecs doctoral thesis in collaboration with Karolinska Institutet aims to develop a music-based intervention led by a musician which could help raise quality of life, subjective well-being and self-compassion as well as lower social interaction anxiety in adults with autism.

Purpose

Can we raise an individual's quality of life through collective music making? Music is being recognised for e.g. its power to dull pain and to alleviate mood- and anxiety disorders but it also touches the other pole of the illness-health continuum. It has the potential to induce and support positive emotion, well-being and sense of meaning in life, as well as social functioning which predicts levels of anxiety and how much support from healthcare a person is going to need.

Although music has been used to promote health and well-being throughout the earliest known human history, it is not fully integrated in a systematic way into our health care systems.

The aim of this doctoral thesis is to develop a music-based intervention led by a musician which could help raise quality of life, subjective well-being and self-compassion as well as lower social interaction anxiety in adults with autism. The objective is to evaluate the efficacy of the intervention and develop a model that explains possible changes that occur. The thesis will adress questions such as:

  • Which outcomes are important to adults with autism? What do they think is most important for the quality of their lives in relation to music?
  • How do participants experience group music-making?
  • In what ways could the music-based intervention affect quality of life (and other relevant outcomes) in adults with autism?
  • How long can possible effects be observed?
  • How could the underlying mechanisms of changes be explained through a model?

Method

The studies will combine qualitative and quantitative approaches. A first-person perspective approach will be used to see what outcomes are important to the service users, and to align their goals with those of the health care providers. Their experience of group-music-making will be explored in great detail using micro-phenomenological interview.

A two-armed randomised controlled trial will be conducted to assess participant’s quality of life and other relevant outcomes. These will be assessed through questionnaires at four time-points. The data will be used to develop a model of how (if) the changes occur; the model will also be evaluated with reference to data base material.

About the Doctoral Student

After graduating from Violin Performance at the Conservatory for Music and Ballet Maribor, Kaja Korošec pursued her studies in the field of psychology at the University of Maribor and later at the University of Ljubljana earning a master's degree in psychology. Her research work so far was focused on anxiety, flow and motivation in musicians and on uses of music in therapeutic and educational settings for children with emotional-behavioral difficulties and children on the autism spectrum.