Cultural Intersections and Ethnocultural Countertransference in the Music Therapeutic Relationship

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Osman, Suzanne
Master of Arts in Music Therapy
Amid enduring efforts towards cultural diversity and inclusion in the field of music therapy, discussions on topics such as self-awareness have become increasingly significant. The focus of this study was to investigate countertransference through an ethnocultural lens and highlight the clinician's self-awareness in relation to ethnic or cultural self-parts or parts of others. This idea strongly considered the therapeutic use of self and explored how various cultural intersections or interactions with a client may inform ethnocultural countertransference in the music therapeutic relationship. Research shows that the field of music therapy in the United States maintains a predominantly white female identity. Now, perhaps more than ever, clinicians are encouraged to consider the relevance and ethical significance of diversity and examine the potential for bias or cultural misunderstanding in music therapeutic relationships. For this study, three music therapy clinicians and one music therapy graduate student were invited to reflect on a particularly challenging clinical encounter with ethnocultural countertransference. During virtual interviews ranging from 60-90 minutes in length, study participants were asked to describe their experience and share the extent to which this encounter proved to be insightful or beneficial to their clinical practice. The study yielded the following four themes: intraethnic countertransference and overidentification; the experience of otherness as a form of identification; mistrust of supervisors; and cultural humility, diversity, and education as pathways towards awareness.