Masters Theses

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    Exploring the role of music therapy in building resilience in the mental health of gifted students
    (2024) Engler, Isabelle
    Board-certified music therapists (MT-BCs) working with educators or in mental health may come across a unique population - gifted students. Gifted students experience high degrees of emotional intensity and extreme pain in times of crisis while having unique social-emotional development and needs (Burke, 2009; Cross & Cross, 2015). Among typically-functioning students, ten percent with no psychiatric diagnosis report suicidal ideation (Hyatt & Cross, 2009). Psychologists and educators point out that gifted students may be prone to anxiety, depression, suicidal ideations, unhealthy perfectionism, underachieving, obsessive-compulsive disorders, and anger outbursts (Cross & Cross, 2015; Cross, 2009; Nugent, 2000). Yet this is commonly overlooked due to the perception that gifted students have more advanced cognitive abilities and are high achievers in overcoming these struggles. While there is research on music therapy supporting hospitalized children and within psychiatric settings to reduce anxiety, as well as psychological research on the importance of learning grit and resilience, there is a gap within the field of music therapy in supporting gifted students. The four-week clinical study, completed for a master’s thesis project includes a review of the literature, clinical research method of utilizing standardized assessments and music therapy interventions, data analyses, and discussion on the research data measuring whether music therapy helps gifted students reduce anxiety and build resilience to overcome their mental health difficulties. This study shows that the implementation of music therapy has contributed to reducing anxiety with statistical significance and increasing resilience level in gifted students.
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    Music Therapy for the Mental Health Needs of Individuals with Intellectual Disabilities (IDs): A Qualitative Survey of Clinical Practices and Perspectives
    (2024) Knapp, Savannah
    The purpose of this study was to collect information through a qualitative survey regarding the clinical practices and perspectives of music therapists (MT-BCs) for supporting the mental health needs of individuals with Intellectual Disabilities (IDs). The results from the eight participants revealed that MT-BCs may be aware of the presence of mental health needs, higher risk of trauma, differences in mental health needs, and the false assumptions related to ID and mental health, but there are personal gaps in knowledge regarding mental health needs. Participants believe that their role in supporting these needs is through promoting and aiding in self-expression, fostering connection, demonstrating the use of music for generalizable skills, and addressing needs in the moment; all while staying within their scope of practice. Participants work towards emotional skills and self-expression goals, and they utilize various improvisational, re-creative, compositional, and receptive music experiences to address these goals. Participants adapt these music experiences through simplification, adapted aids, addressing sensory needs, and providing more structure. Participants would like there to be more education and discussion on this topic, mental health needs to be addressed in music therapy sessions, and for MT-BCs to stop making false assumptions related to ID and mental health. This information can be used to inform the clinical practices of current and future music therapists in supporting individuals with IDs.
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    “Burning Down the House”: A Descriptive Study of Workplace Preference and Burnout in New Music Therapists
    (2023) Teall, Clara
    This survey study examined new music therapists’ experiences of burnout and feelings related to various aspects of their work including clientele age, population, and workplace setting. The purpose of this research was to gather information about the experiences of new music therapists including how long they have been practicing, what type of work they do, how they feel about various aspects of their workplace, and whether there is any connection between these experiences and burnout in the field of music therapy. This survey received 65 total responses, with 49 responses meeting the requirements for participation. Survey results indicated a high burnout rate among new music therapists. A statistically significant positive correlation was also found between rate of burnout in past positions and feelings surrounding past clientele age, population, and work setting.
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    Music Therapy Interventions That Incorporate Augmentative and Alternative Communication: A Survey Study
    (2023-12) Voris, Chloe White
    Many music therapists work with individuals who have complex communication needs and may utilize different types of augmentative and alternative communication (AAC). However, formal AAC training and education is not a common part of music therapy undergraduate education. The purpose of this quantitative survey study was to gather information about music therapists’ experience with learning and using different types of AAC in sessions and examine the types of music interventions therapists use that incorporate AAC. Fifty-five music therapists participated in the survey reporting on their professional experience, AAC learning/training opportunities, ways they incorporate aided and unaided AAC in sessions, and self-confidence when utilizing AAC. Following data collection, the results revealed that music therapists working with individuals who utilize AAC are incorporating both aided and unaided AAC into sessions in diverse ways, despite a lack of formal training in most cases. Many music therapists are gaining knowledge about AAC and its uses through experience and collaborating with other interdisciplinary professionals, such as speech-language pathologists (SLPs). However, additional training and education would be beneficial to increase competency and efficacy. Furthermore, additional research is recommended regarding specific music therapy interventions used with various types of AAC systems to further music therapists’ knowledge and practical use of AAC in sessions.
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    Music Therapists’ Awareness for the Potential of Harm in Music Therapy: A Qualitative Analysis
    (2023-12) Wendel, Olivia M.
    Music therapists are not immune from causing harm to their clients within music therapy services. Understanding how harm might occur in sessions from direct experience has been under researched, despite emerging literature conceptualizing where harm might arise. The purpose of this qualitative survey study was to examine instances of harm from music therapists who have caused or observed harm within a music therapy setting. Ten music therapists’ responses were recorded. Responses of instances of harm were analyzed by comparing to the Music Therapy and Harm Model (Murakami, 2021) sections (harm arising from the 1) music, 2) the music therapists, 3) therapeutic application of music, 4) client-music associations, 5) therapeutic application of music, and 6) ecological factors). Other responses recorded including music therapists’ observed client responses, the music therapists’ awareness to the harm, how the music therapist addressed the harm, and what the music therapy field could do to prevent harm. These responses were analyzed using in-vivo and descriptive codes to generate themes. Upon completion of this study, it was confirmed that the Music Therapy and Harm Model has provided a foundational framework to conceptualize where and how an instance of harm might arise within music therapy sessions, which includes harm arising from all six of the MTHM sources named above, including the primary music therapists’ awareness of the harm occurred, how the music therapist addressed the harm, how music therapists might prevent harm, and how the music therapy field should respond to harm. Additional research into including a larger sample size, identifying music therapist theoretical approaches, specific setting/population studies recommended to continue to understand the potential for harm and how music therapists might prevent these instances.