Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


College of the Arts


John J. Cali School of Music

Thesis Sponsor/Dissertation Chair/Project Chair

Brian Abrams

Committee Member

Karen Goodman

Committee Member

Irwin Badin


This phenomenological research study examined music therapists’ experiences of working with clients when both are diagnosed with a mental illness. The following research questions were addressed:

What is the experience like for music therapists with psychiatric illnesses to treat clients who have the same or similar diagnoses? What are the specific challenges regarding the therapeutic dynamics in this unique situation?

How is the countertransference defined, experienced and handled by the music therapist, including the specific role of the music and its impact on the therapy process?

In person, phenomenological interviews were conducted with three participants, each self-identified as having been diagnosed with mental illness. Interviews were audio recorded, transcribed verbatim, culled, and divided into 68 meaning units (across all three participants). The meaning units were then grouped into 19 categories, and an essential description of the phenomenon was formulated.

Outcomes of this study include 1) providing a greater understanding about specific dimensions of music therapy work involving therapists diagnosed with mental illness (a topic about which there is minimal information in the music therapy literature), 2) providing music therapists who are diagnosed with mental illness with more knowledge which will inform their work with others with similar diagnoses, 3) help those not diagnosed with mental illness gain insight into the dynamics of work with those who have been diagnosed, 4) to help lessen the sense of stigma for therapists and other professional caregivers with mental illness.

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Music Therapy Commons