Jesse Asch

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. Barbara Wheeler


The purpose of this study was to investigate the function of improvised song creation for two individuals with autism spectrum disorder in the formation of self-identity using grounded theory analysis. Data were collected through video recordings of archival clinical sessions. The method included analyses of musical, lyrical, and interpersonal transcriptions of sessions. The transcription process included a combination of holistic listening and Nordoff-Robbins Music Therapy indexing techniques. A grounded theory coding process was employed to identify concepts and categories related to the broader context of identity formation from patterns in the data and to develop theoretical conclusions from these concepts. Findings included concepts presented under domains of (a) musical emergence, (b) lyrical emergence, and (c) interpersonal emergence of identity. These concepts were as follows: (a) musical emergence: finding musical synchronization, expansion of the voice, types of singing (reflection, unison, and harmonization), musical style, song structure; (b) lyrical emergence: lyrical initiation and development, song of self, and use of abstracted or metaphoric language; (c) interpersonal emergence: choosing to create a song, finding roles, nonverbal acknowledgment, and integrating client preferences and tendencies. Additional findings revealed how improvised song creation served to allow the client to be engaged in a collaborative, exploratory performance of the self through an aesthetically and creatively driven process. Conclusions and implications of theory to clinical practice and methods are presented. In addition, the needs of individuals with autism spectrum disorder and relevance of their sense of identity in broader sociocultural contexts are discussed. Key words: improvised song, autism spectrum disorders, music therapy, identity, therapeutic relationship, improvisation, grounded theory.

Related Pillar(s)


Included in

Music Therapy Commons