Understanding Music Therapists’ Lived Experiences of Professional Identity: A Phenomenological Inquiry

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Kurowski, Melinda
Master of Arts in Art Therapy
The purpose of this phenomenological inquiry was to begin to explore the professional identity of music therapists. The researcher used the lens of identity theory (Burke & Stets, 2009) in order to investigate this phenomenon further. Through focused, in-depth interviews with five full-time music therapists, the researcher found that the identity standard (i.e., the ideal) identified by the participants is also the error signal (i.e., when others’ perceptions do not match the ideal self-perception). At the present time, participants feel unsupported, misunderstood, and undervalued for the components of the work that they feel are most integral to the identity of music therapy. It was also found that participants struggle to make those components fit into a paradigm that is “data2% ¢¢ focused,” “measurable,” “evidence-based,” and “objective.” The researcher recommends further research as well as a new paradigm for the field based upon these findings.