Date of Award


Document Type


Copyright Status, No Creative Commons License

All Rights Reserved

Degree Name

Master of Science in Music Therapy


Music Therapy

First Advisor

Dr. Maria (Nina) Guerrero


This study examined the non-verbal expression and experience of an autistic adolescent with language delay in improvisational, relationship-based music therapy. The purpose of the study was to gain a fuller understanding of the adolescent’s experience in music therapy and to discover the roles of music therapy in the larger context of the adolescent’s life. The adolescent’s mother and a professional from his treatment team at his school were each invited to participate in an individual interview consisting of review of a music therapy session video and semi-structured discussion. Thematic analysis of the transcribed interviews yielded themes related to the following: a) the adolescent’s individual differences in sensory processing and its impact on his experience; b) the adolescent’s emotional engagement during the session, undergoing a spectrum of emotions with the therapist; and c) the adolescent’s intrinsic interest in musical and relational engagement. Music therapy appeared to offer an opportunity for the adolescent to cope with difficult feelings and experiences, as well as a space for him to “just be” without external expectations. When taking the broader context of his life into consideration, through music therapy the adolescent appeared to develop a strong therapeutic relationship characterized by expressions of emotional intimacy, to develop his own voice, and to gain an outlet to emotionally connect with his inner life and cope with varied emotions.

Related Pillar(s)


Included in

Music Therapy Commons