What factors shape a music therapist? An investigation of music therapists’ professional identity over time in New Zealand

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Penny Warren
MMusTher, BA (Hons), NZ RMTh
Freelance Music Therapist

Daphne Rickson
PhD, MMusTher, MHealSc(MenH), LTCL, NZ RMTh
Te Kōkī, New Zealand School of Music, Victoria University of Wellington


Keywords: Music therapy, professional identity, social identity, music identity, reflective practice.


This paper outlines factors that have influenced the professional identity of individual New Zealand music therapists over time, and how these factors might have shaped the profession as a whole. While a range of international music therapy literature investigates aspects of music therapists’ professional identity, a New Zealand perspective has not previously been presented. Professional identity is a multi-dimensional process that develops over time, underpinned by concepts of personal and social identity.

For music therapists, this process is also interconnected with the ongoing shaping of the boundaries of the music therapy profession. An interplay of complex multiple influences exist in a music therapist’s professional identity and do not exist in isolation of each other. “Validation” was found to be an overarching factor, while personal perception of competency, adaptation, and reciprocal professional communication are also strong influences. Individuals experience these influences with different levels of salience, and at different times in their professional lives, reinforcing the dynamic nature of the concept.

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