An Arts-Informed Qualitative Research Synthesis Into Clinical Improvisation in Music Therapy: Researcher Reflections


Although clinical improvisation continues to be an important focus of music therapy research and practice, less attention has been given to integrating qualitative research in this area. As a result, this knowledge base is diffuse and contained within specific areas of practice rather than through the broad lens of multiple practices, settings, and approaches.

In this case study, we profile, synthesize, and represent qualitative research regarding the ways music therapists engage in, and make meaning from, clinical improvisation. We share the synthesis process, highlighting how qualitative research synthesis was used to analyze, synthesize, and interpret the findings from robust qualitative studies that address the research theme. Furthermore, as a conduit for broadening dialogues, opening up the landscape more fully, and sharing our response to the analysis and interpretation of the data, we discuss how we conducted an arts-informed representation of the synthesis.

When viewed as a whole, the synthesis revealed three dimensions that were central to the ways in which we explored how music therapists and clients engaged in improvisational practices: professional artistry, the performative act, and meaning-making. Each element is explored and exemplified through the selected papers and discussed within a larger theoretical framework.

We identify how therapists use complex frameworks through which they attempt to make meaning from improvisational experiences. Particular implications for theory and practice are discussed, along with our researcher reflections on data representation and interpretation, explored through the lens of arts-informed inquiry.

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