Melbourne Conservatorium of Music - Theses

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    Musical identities of young people recovering from mental illness
    HENSE, CHERRY ( 2015)
    This thesis details a Participatory project investigating how and why promoting young people’s musical identities can facilitate their recovery from mental illness. Studies describe how young people use music listening for managing aspects of their mental health across community-based (McFerran & Saarikallio, 2014; Saarikallio & Erkkila, 2007) and mental health settings (Cheong-Clinch, 2013). Music therapy is also articulated as a way to facilitate processes of recovery from mental illness (McCaffrey, Edwards, & Fannon, 2011; Solli, Rolvsjord, & Borg, 2013). Despite growing awareness of the potential of music to support recovery from mental illness, little is known about what conditions actually facilitate growth of musical identity in ways that foster recovery processes. This project aimed to address this gap by investigating what is needed in order to promote young people’s musical identities in ways that facilitate their recovery from mental illness. The intention was to understand both the processes involved and the resources required to facilitate recovery. A Participatory orientation (Minkler & Wallerstein, 2008) was chosen to align with the recovery approach (Davidson, Row, Tandora, O'Connell, & Lawless, 2009; Slade, 2009b) of the youth mental health service where this study took place. The Participatory philosophy was also seen as appropriate to the social agenda of the study in seeking to address young people’s access to musical resources to promote their recovery. Eleven young people currently attending the music therapy program at the youth mental health service chose to participate across two emergent cycles of action and reflection. In the first cycle, young people participated in collaborative qualitative interviews exploring how their musical identities changed with experiences of mental illness and recovery. A critical interpretation of Constructivist Grounded Theory was used to gather and analyse the data. The finding from this cycle was a constructed grounded theory that detailed young people’s recovery of musical identity. A second cycle of research emerged from this theory, to explore what community-based resources are needed to further facilitate recovery. This cycle involved mapping young people’s musical needs compared to what was available and possible in the local community. Findings from this study were an identified set of musical needs of young people, and the initiation of the Youth Music Action Group to begin addressing the meeting of these needs through community partnerships and advocacy. Findings from this study indicate that promoting musical identity can facilitate young people’s recovery from mental illness by: contributing to a health-based identity, facilitating meaning-making, and supporting social participation. However, the findings indicate a number of conditions are necessary to facilitate these processes. First, the music therapy theory through which to construct these processes needs to accommodate both the pathology of young people’s expression of musical symptoms as well as acknowledgement of the resource of musical identity for recovery. Second, music therapy needs to be available to support young people’s recovery of musical identity during early stages. Third, community-based music resources need to be available and appropriate to young people immediately following their experience of music therapy. Fourth, modes of research need to expand in order to promote greater democratic participation of young people in ways that promote their equal citizenship. These findings contribute to music therapy and youth mental health knowledge, and can inform future service design.