Leaving the Profession

A Grounded Theory Exploration of Music Therapists’ Decisions


  • Jenny L. Branson Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis, USA




music therapists; profession; longevity; grounded theory


Published studies indicate that burnout and job satisfaction impact music therapists’ longevity in the profession in the United States. It is unclear whether these factors are related to clinical or professional factors. No studies have been published exploring the reasons that music therapists in the United States have left the profession. The purpose of this grounded theory study was to develop a theoretical framework that describes the decisions and experiences of board-certified music therapists when leaving the profession. The specific aims were to (1) identify factors that influenced therapists’ decisions to leave the profession, and (2) identify any unmet needs in training and supervision that may contribute to these decisions. Thirteen participants participated in the study. Each participant obtained board certification in the United States, worked in a music therapy job, and remain in the workforce but are no longer working in the music therapy profession. Participants completed semi-structured interviews. Interview transcripts were analyzed to understand the experiences and decisions that led to their departure from the profession. Music therapists from the U.S. who participated in this study left the profession due to: (1) availability of sustainable jobs, (2) access to professional support or supervision, and (3) burden of advocacy. These results did not vary according to individual factors such as age, level of education, or the year the therapist entered the profession. Further exploration of this theory and music therapists’ experiences may point to opportunities for changes in training and development of support programs for new as well as experienced professionals.


Acknowledgement from the Voices team:

We’d like to strengthen the connection between articles recently published by Meadows, Eyre and Gollenberg (2022, Volume 1) and Branson (2023, Volume 1) focused on the work lives of music therapists in the United States. Unfortunately, the timing of the review, revision and publication process for Branson’s article dovetailed with that of the two articles published by Meadows, Eyre and Gollenberg so that connections which could have been made between the three articles did not happen. Because of this, some of the research gaps and contextualization provided by Branson appear out of context given the focus and findings of Meadows, Eyre and Gollenbergs’ research - particularly the assertion Branson makes between "professional and clinical factors" and burnout and job satisfaction. These connections are described in detail in Meadows, Eyre and Gollenberg (2022a, 2022b), particularly their article addressing music therapists’ levels of work satisfaction (2022b). 

Readers are invited to consider the broad framework provided by Meadows, Eyre and Gollenberg in their two articles in 2022 Volume 1, when reading Branson’s article - and taken together, these three articles enrich our understanding of the struggles some music therapists experience professionally, particularly music therapists who experience low work satisfaction.


Meadows, A., Eyre, L., & Gollenberg, A. (2022a). Workforce characteristics, workplace and job satisfaction, stress, burnout, and happiness of music therapists in the United States. Voices: A World Forum for Music Therapy22(1). https://doi.org/10.15845/voices.v22i1.3366

Meadows, A., Eyre, L., & Gollenberg, A. (2022b). Work satisfaction levels of music therapists in the United States: A mixed methods analysis. Voices: A World Forum for Music Therapy22(1). https://doi.org/10.15845/voices.v22i1.3367

Author Biography

Jenny L. Branson, Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis, USA

Jenny Branson, MS, MT-BC, is an experienced clinician, educator, and performer with a passion for advocacy, the potential of every person, and interdisciplinary collaboration.  She worked with other allied health care providers to increase awareness and understanding of music therapy, ensure quality music therapy intervention to improve clinical outcomes, and translate research findings into clinically effective programming in the real world. Jenny was the architect and director for a medical music therapy program that now serves a large hospital system throughout the Louisville Metropolitan area. She later worked in private practice and as an adjunct lecturer for Indiana University Southeast. Jenny worked to provide continuing education opportunities, consultation for programming, clinical and administrative supervision, music and wellness workshops, and clinical music therapy intervention. She lives in Southern Indiana, where she now works as a development professional with a national nonprofit and enjoys percussion performance with a professional chamber ensemble.

Photo of author Jenny Branson




How to Cite

Branson, J. L. (2023). Leaving the Profession: A Grounded Theory Exploration of Music Therapists’ Decisions. Voices: A World Forum for Music Therapy, 23(1). https://doi.org/10.15845/voices.v23i1.3259