Experiences and Perspectives of Music Therapists Providing Services to Families Experiencing Poverty: A Qualitative Investigation


  • Jessica June Nagel University of Minnesota
  • Michael Joseph Silverman University of Minnesota




poverty, homelessness, music therapy, interviews, thematic analysis


While music therapists have worked with families experiencing poverty, little literature exists concerning music therapy with this population. The purpose of this study was to gain an understanding of the experiences and perspectives of board-certified music therapists who work with families experiencing poverty. Five board-certified music therapists who are currently or have previously worked in settings that primarily served families experiencing poverty participated in semi-structured interviews. Participants reviewed interview transcripts for member checking purposes and later provided feedback on emerging themes. Interviews were analyzed for emerging themes using the six phases of thematic analysis (Braun & Clark, 2006). Trustworthiness was obtained via the second author who independently reviewed transcripts and created codes and themes. Four themes regarding the use of music therapy interventions with families experiencing poverty emerged: (a) music therapy facilitates the development of parenting skills via education and interaction, (b) children and adults generalize skills from music therapy sessions to daily life, (c) awareness of the factors and unique stressors associated with poverty positively impacts the therapeutic process, and (d) music therapy compliments the broader continuum of support services to meet individual needs. Overall, participants perceived music therapy interventions to be uniquely beneficial in supporting the therapeutic needs of families experiencing poverty. Music therapists can use emerging themes to expediently develop working alliance and potentially create new positions to serve this marginalized population. Implications for practice, limitations, and suggestions for future research are provided.

Author Biographies

Jessica June Nagel, University of Minnesota

Jessica Nagel (MA, MT-BC) is a music therapist at The Family Partnership and St. Anne’s Place in Minneapolis, MN where she works with early childhood and parent education programs and serves families living in a homeless shelter.

Michael Joseph Silverman, University of Minnesota

Michael J. Silverman (Ph.D., MT-BC) is director of Music Therapy and a Distinguished Teaching Professor at the University of Minnesota.  The author of Music therapy in mental health for illness management and recovery (published by Oxford University Press), he specializes in music therapy for adults with mental illnesses and substance abuse disorders.



How to Cite

Nagel, J. J., & Silverman, M. J. (2017). Experiences and Perspectives of Music Therapists Providing Services to Families Experiencing Poverty: A Qualitative Investigation. Voices: A World Forum for Music Therapy, 17(2). https://doi.org/10.15845/voices.v17i2.914