Date of Award


Document Type


Copyright Status, No Creative Commons License

All Rights Reserved

Degree Name

Master of Science in Music Therapy


Music Therapy


School of Arts & Sciences

First Advisor

Dr. Kate Myers-Coffman


The purpose of this study was to explore music therapists’ subjective experience improvising with nonspeaking clients with intellectual disabilities. The research question addressed was: How do clinicians experience improvisatory music-making with clients who are nonspeaking? In music therapy, the client and the therapist both have significant roles to play within the therapeutic relationship. Three music therapists with at least five years of experience primarily using improvisation when working with nonspeaking clients with intellectual disabilities were chosen via purposeful sampling to participate in this study and were individually interviewed to discuss their subjective experiences. Data were collected through individual semi-structured interviews and was analyzed using thematic analysis. The themes that emerged among the participants from the data collected were: 1) Value-driven approach to practice, 2) Reflexivity through internal dialogue, and 3) Connecting with nonspeaking clients through various types of relational communication. The three themes brought forth by this study offer unique takeaways that may provide insight for therapists who work improvisationally with nonspeaking clients and for therapists who work in other approaches/settings. A more expansive understanding of the therapist’s experience may provide therapists with nuanced insight on the interactions between the therapist, the client, and the music improvised within a session.

Related Pillar(s)


Included in

Music Therapy Commons