Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

PHD - Doctor of Philosophy


Expressive Therapies


The purpose of this research was to understand the experience of singing an imaginal dialogue with a deceased loved one. This bereavement-specific music therapy intervention was an adaptation of Shear, Frank, Houck, and Reynolds’ (2005) imaginal dialogue intervention and was heavily influenced by Austin’s (2008) method of vocal psychotherapy. Following Shear’s (2006) use of the spoken imaginal dialogue with therapists, the guiding question of the present study was: What are creative arts therapists’ experiences of singing the intervention? The sample consisted of nine female creative arts therapists with a minimum of three years of clinical experience. It included women who identified as minorities in the realms of race, culture, ethnicity, and/or sexual orientation. Participation entailed one music therapy session with a music therapist who was not the researcher. After the session, participants completed a questionnaire and were interviewed about their experience by the researcher. Distress levels during and after the intervention rated on a scale of zero to 100, and these quantitative data were analyzed using descriptive statistics. The qualitative data were analyzed using inductive thematic analysis (Braun & Clarke, 2006) and six themes were found: (a) I cried the whole time - Elicitation of profound emotional expression; (b) I was scared to sing - Discomfort, nervousness, and anxiety; (c) I felt safe - Containment and support; (d) I felt his/her presence - Emotional and spiritual connection to the deceased; (e) I’m finally grieving and have greater acceptance - Helpful opportunity for grief resolution; (f) It bypassed the intellectual - More effective to sing than speak. These findings support previous research on grief therapy and imaginal dialogue and contribute to the field of expressive arts therapies by deepening our understanding of the applications of singing an imaginal dialogue with a deceased person. More research is needed to gain an understanding of grief-specific music therapy interventions for adults.

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