Date of Award

Spring 3-26-2019

Document Type


Degree Name

PHD - Doctor of Philosophy


Expressive Therapies

First Advisor

Michele Forinash

Second Advisor

Michaela Kirby

Third Advisor

Nisha Sajnani


This dissertation explores how Black/African American youth from limited resource communities described and demonstrated their social identities through their music-making choices in the therapeutic relationship with a board certified music therapist who was also a Black/African American person regarded as a participant in the study. A review of literature regarding social psychology and identity theory, as well as culturally relevant pedagogy and participatory action research (PAR), which form the foundation of this study’s methodology, is included. Findings include that participants placed a high degree of importance on their social status as authorities on their chosen identifying groups, and consistently reinforced their verbal assertions with behavior that promoted their identifying groups as ideal, and degraded others as being lesser. Their music making choices reflected their stated beliefs as well, through the purposes they ascribed to their songs’ elements (including lyrics), and the structural decisions made in collaboration with—or isolation from—their peers. The project facilitator described the process of facilitating these experiences as one that was strongly influenced by her cultural proximity to the participants, as well as her supervisory relationship with the primary researcher, who was also a Black/African American woman. These results are discussed in the context of the PAR framework, including insights gained by the primary researcher that clinicians may find useful in their own quest for promoting the most authentic and meaningful connections possible in the therapeutic relationship.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License



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