Date of Award

Spring 5-16-2020

Document Type


Degree Name

PHD - Doctor of Philosophy


Expressive Therapies

First Advisor

Dr. Mitchell Kossak

Second Advisor

Dr. Jason D. Bultler

Third Advisor

Dr. Kenneth Aigen


The dissertation research explored the lived experiences of music therapists who are performing musicians. A conceptual foundation of music therapists as musicians, a “musician-therapist” who is deeply versed in the unique properties of music can be identified in the literature (Ansdell & Verney, 2008; Nordoff & Robbins, 1973). The objectives of this study were to explore three topics: 1) deeper understandings of music therapists’ musical improvisation both in clinical and nonclinical settings, 2) the connection between music therapists’ personal and professional musical growth, and 3) identity formation. A qualitative method was chosen for this research including reflexive/embodied/interpretative phenomenology, and arts-based research. Data gathering relied on semi-structured in-depth interviewing, observation, narrative description of a reflexive journal, and reflective arts. There were eight main themes (three subthemes) from the data analysis, 1) Continuous perspectives in music and music therapy worlds, 2) The advantages of being a performing improviser, 3) The advantages of being a music therapist, 4) Reciprocal growth of being performing musicians and music therapists, 5) Performance as an outlet for music therapists’ self-expression and well-being, 6) Embodiment: developing improvisational musicality, 7) Challenges to pursuing both careers, 8) Gender perspectives. By building a better understanding of the performing musician-therapists’ perspectives, it is hoped that this research will lay the ground work for the applicability of the field of music therapy in terms of music therapists’ clinical presence and skills in conducting effective clinical improvisation, and for implications for music performance education.

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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
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