Development of Professional Identity in Music Therapy: Interviews with Influential Voices

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Brewer, Megan
Master of Arts in Music Therapy
The purpose of this phenomenological inquiry was to investigate factors that influence the development of professional identity of music therapists. Professional identity is an enduring amalgamation of "attributes, values, beliefs, motives, and experiences that defines one in a professional role" (Ibarra, 1999, p. 765) that occurs over time and informs clinical practice. Music therapists add to their professional identity the dimensions of musicianship and foundational relationships to music, aspects of individual self-identities, and leanings toward theoretical orientations. It is essential for music therapists to be knowledgeable of these aspects and to explore their own development of professional identity in order to be reflexive in clinical practice to best serve our clients (Bruscia, 2014). It was thus imperative to explore how music therapists develop in their professional identity. Eight influential music therapists volunteered to participate in this exploration of the development of professional identity of music therapists. An overarching question relating to one's relationship to music was presented and rich descriptions of life experiences and professional identity development were discovered through the process of a content analysis. Five themes and nineteen subthemes exemplifying factors that influence development were discovered during the analysis. The experience of professional identity development is an individual process; however, key factors identified may assist individuals in exploring their own place within the greater music therapy community.