Examining Ableism in Music Therapy Education and Clinical Training: Student and Educator Perspectives
Ableism is the discrimination against disabled people and favoring of nondisabled people. Ableism can pervade societal expectations, medical systems, educational systems, and culture. Within higher education, ableism can prevent disabled students from succeeding in programs with unique requirements, like music therapy. College music therapy programs combine aspects of music, psychology, and clinical training. While music therapy students frequently will work with disabled clients, there is a lack of consideration for disabled music therapy students and disabled music therapists. The purpose of this phenomenological study was to examine ableism in music therapy education and training. Participants completed a creative writing response about their story as a disabled music therapy student or music therapy educator. Student participants attended virtual focus groups, and music therapy educators had virtual individual interviews. Some participants answered questions by email. Through thematic analysis, the essence of ableism in music therapy in education and training was revealed. This included experiences with interpersonal, internalized, institutional, and structural ableism. Inherent ableism in music therapy was also discussed. A similarity among the educators was referring to their anti-ableism efforts as a work in progress, with some disabled educators sharing their lived experience with disability. Disabled music therapy students and music therapy educators discussed specific aspects of music therapy education they perceived as ableist, as well as ableist microaggressions they experienced or witnessed. Suggestions for future systemic changes in music therapy education and training are considered.
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