You light up my life: a phenomenological study of interpersonal relationships between music therapists and adults with profound intellectual and multiple disabilities
AffiliationMelbourne Conservatorium of Music
Document TypePhD thesis
Access StatusOpen Access
© 2014 Dr. Juyoung Lee
This research is an investigation of the lived experiences of music therapists who have established meaningful interpersonal relationships with adult clients with Profound Intellectual and Multiple Disabilities (PIMD). Although music therapists in clinical practice observe the benefits of music therapy for this group of clients, there has only been four research studies conducted since 1990 (Agrotou, 1998; Lee & McFerran, 2012; Oldfield & Adams, 1995; Wigram, 1997). This presents a need to conduct an empirical research study that examines and understands the non-verbal interactions and meaningful interpersonal relationships between music therapists and their adult clients who have PIMD. This qualitative study was informed by phenomenology whereby five pairs of music therapists-clients were invited to participate. Each music therapist was interviewed and asked to describe his/her experience of building the interpersonal relationship with the client. The study also included a video recording of a single music therapy session of each pair. In the last part of the interview, the music therapist watched the video footage with the researcher and identified a meaningful moment. To analyse the interviews, a descriptive phenomenological microanalysis method (McFerran & Grocke, 2007) was used. The results of the interview analysis then informed a subsequent analysis of video footage. Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) (Smith, Flowers, & Larkin, 2009) was used for video analysis, which further resulted in the development of a new video microanalysis method, Interpretative Phenomenological Video Analysis (IPVA). The interview analysis resulted in five distilled essences of individual experiences and a final global essence. The process of establishing interpersonal relationships with an adult with PIMD was described as requiring mutual efforts over time with the context impacting on the quality of relationship. The music therapist’s role in improving psychosocial wellbeing of the client was thought to be significant. The video analysis resulted in five thick descriptions of meaningful moments. A further interpretive analysis was conducted to discover the implicit meanings of each moment to the music therapist, the client, and the pair as were seen and perceived by their music therapists. The classification of meaningful moments suggested by Amir (1992) were utilised for this process. The results indicate that three clients experienced moments of joy and ecstasy, and two clients experienced moments of completion and accomplishment. Three music therapists experienced moments of completion and accomplishment, and two music therapists experienced moments of surprise. On the interpersonal levels, three pairs experienced moments of physical closeness, and two pairs experienced moments of musical intimacy. The findings of the current study provide a fresh perspective about the processes of music therapy with adults with PIMD. The types of moments identified also provide insights into the meaningful moments that lead to psychosocial wellbeing in a long term. Moreover, the current study incorporates descriptions of contemporary practice, that challenge some of the assumptions associated with more conventional approaches to practice with adults with PIMD. Based on these findings, the future direction of music therapy with adults with PIMD is discussed. Improving work conditions of music therapists working in community settings is highlighted as important, and Community Music Therapy is proposed as one approach that might actualise the true meaning of social inclusion and meaningful participation in community for adults with PIMD.
Keywordsmusic therapy; adults with profound intellectual and multiple disabilities (PIMD), qualitative study; phenomenology; interviews; Video Ana
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