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. Heather Wagner


This study explored the essence of relationship-based music therapy through the lens of an autistic adolescent and their parent. Though previous research examines this phenomenon through a parent’s perspective (Corcoran et al., 2015; Thompson & McFerran, 2015; Sorel, 2010, 2004; Warren & Nugent, 2010), the present study supports the neurodiversity paradigm shift through providing opportunities for an autistic participant to speak on his experience. The data sources included two interviews, adolescent and parent, as well as indexes of the music therapy session. A thematic analysis was conducted through collecting and analyzing all data sets. Themes were developed and musical descriptions were used to construct meaning and comprehensively explore the lived experience of the autistic individual in relationship-based music therapy. Themes were constructed for the adolescent, the parent, and then data was synthesized to create collective themes. The findings yielded themes for the adolescent: a) “I can be me!” b) a range of musical-emotional experiences, and c) significant relationships. Themes for the parent included: a) being himself, b) reciprocity and the relationship, and b) growth. The corroborated themes were a) freedom of self, relating to the themes, “I can be me!” and being himself; b) forging meaningful relationships; and c) pride. Relationship-based music therapy is supported by the findings through determining the significance of relationship-based strategies and philosophies to the autistic’s sense of self and experience.

Related Pillar(s)


Included in

Music Therapy Commons