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How Gabrielle Giffords is Using Music Therapy to Heal

The world was stunned when House of Representatives member, Gabrielle Giffords, was shot in the head while meeting constituents in January 2011. The democrat from Arizona was critically injured but never gave up. She has had to learn to walk and talk all over again and, while speaking was initially very difficult, she has regained an amazing talent – the ability to sing.Music

The former congresswoman posted a video on Facebook that went viral because it showed her singing gleefully along to “Maybe,” a song from the hit Broadway show, Annie. The song choice was particularly meaningful since the 44-year-old shared a photo of herself in the title role of Annie in community theater as a child.

Giffords shared the video wanted to show other brain injury patients how much they can accomplish with the help of music. During her recovery, Giffords saw a music therapist (with whom she sings in the video) at the TIRR Memorial Hermann Rehabilitation and Research Hospital in Houston.

She told People magazine: “I shared the video because I wanted other people who have experienced brain injuries or setbacks to know that while your recovery can be difficult and the rehab can be painstaking, you can get better.”

The inspiring woman’s struggle was particularly difficult because she was injured on the left side of the brain in an area responsible for speech production. She explained: “Music has always been really important to me. While my speech is getting better every day, throughout my recovery, I have been able to sing to some extent. Music therapy was so important in the early stages of my recovery because it can help retrain different parts of your brain to form language centers in areas where they weren’t before you were injured.”

She’s right. More and more research provides further evidence suggesting the effectiveness of music therapy in the recovery of patients with brain injuries. At the very least, as Dr. Bradt of the Arts and Quality of Life Research Center at Temple University, states, it’s an option that is “definitely worth offering to patients to see if it works for them.”

Determined to regain all areas of her life, Giffords has set another goal – to relearn Spanish. Nearly fluent in the language before the assault, she admits that it has “been slower to come back” but that she’s “working hard on it.”

If her cognitive and speech improvements aren’t impressive enough, she’s also made huge progress with her coordination, balance and overall physical recovery. Just this past November, she and her husband, retired astronaut Mark Kelly, were able to complete the 11-mile El Tour de Tucson bike ride. Of the achievement, Giffords said: “I’ve worked really hard to get there. It’s an exciting step.”

I don’t know about you but I am feeling inspired to push my limits and improve my mental and physical health. Gabrielle Giffords is the definition of a survivor.

How Gabrielle Giffords is Using Music Therapy to Heal

Jeanne Croteau

Jeanne has been a celebrity blogger for eight years and also teaches psychology at the college level. In addition to her passion for mental health, she is an avid reader, hockey fan and mother of four.

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APA Reference
Croteau, J. (2015). How Gabrielle Giffords is Using Music Therapy to Heal. Psych Central. Retrieved on April 9, 2020, from


Last updated: 25 Feb 2015
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