Community Music Therapy in the United States: A Thematic Analysis


  • Kathleen M. Murphy State University of New York at New Paltz, New Paltz, NY, USA
  • Viggo Krüger University of Bergen/NORCE, GAMUT – The Grieg Academy Music Therapy Research Centre, Norway
  • Noah Pomerselig Abilities First School, USA
  • Brynjulf Stige Grieg Academy Music Therapy Research Centre, University of Bergen, Norway
  • Rhé Washington-Guillemet Purple Note Music Therapy, LLC, USA



music therapy; education; preventive work; adolescents; continuing education


Community Music Therapy (CoMT) practices are continuing to develop within the international music therapy community. However, the development and implementation of music therapy through a CoMT lens in the United States has not been widely written about. Only a handful of published studies and clinical reports detail music therapy programs that seemingly fit within a CoMT framework. In comparison to more traditional approaches to music therapy practice, CoMT practices in the United States are underrepresented. This thematic analysis informed by a hermeneutical method was undertaken to begin a dialogue with music therapists who consider their music therapy practice to fall within the boundaries of CoMT, in order to increase awareness of ways in which CoMT principles are being implemented within the US healthcare and educational systems. We interviewed 6 board certified music therapists asking them to 1) define CoMT, 2) explain role relationships (therapist, client, and community), and 3) speculate on how their approach to the work could influence health policy and access to services in the United States. Our findings suggest that participatory, performative, and social action elements of CoMT are evident in the clinical work of the music therapists who were interviewed, and that there is a place for CoMT practices within the United States healthcare system.

Author Biographies

Kathleen M. Murphy, State University of New York at New Paltz, New Paltz, NY, USA

Kathy Murphy, PhD, LCAT, MT-BC, is the Program Director, Music Therapy Graduate Studies at the State University of New York at New Paltz. She is an active clinician, supervisor, and researcher with over 35 years of clinical experience. Kathy completed the Rhythm, Breathe & Lullaby NICU Music Therapy training and is a fellow of the Association for Music and Imagery and has a particular interest in the use of group GIM in addictions treatment. She has authored book chapters and journal articles. Additionally, she has presented nationally and internationally on a variety of topics related to music therapy clinical practice and issues related to education and professional well-being. Kathy’s research interests are focused on music therapy in substance dependence across the lifespan, trauma, and community music therapy. She is a member of the Association for Music and Imagery and serves on the professional development committee. She is also a member of the International Association for Music and Medicine and the American Music Therapy Association where she has served in leadership positions on the state, regional and national levels.

Viggo Krüger, University of Bergen/NORCE, GAMUT – The Grieg Academy Music Therapy Research Centre, Norway

Viggo Krüger, Phd., works as research leader and associate professor at Grieg academy research center, University of Bergen, and NORCE (Norwegian research center). Krüger has published books, book chapters and articles on topics such as child welfare, education and mental health. He is member of the editorial board for “Journal of Applied Arts and Health) and “Norwegian child welfare” (2014-2020). He is member of the sensor team for music and music therapy studies, Aalborg university, Denmark. He was chair of Norwegian Music Therapy Association, Norway (2014-2019). Krüger has more that 20 years of experience with community music therapy work for adolescents, in schools, child welfare and mental health. He is also a full time member of Norwegian Grammy winner band, Pogo pops.

Noah Pomerselig, Abilities First School, USA

Noah Pomerselig is a Board-Certified Music Therapist working at Abilities First School in Poughkeepsie, New York, USA. Noah is passionate about helping individuals participate in musical experiences in an accessible and meaningful way. His work with children with disabilities is grounded in a resource-oriented and person-center approach to music therapy that builds on the strengths of the participants. Noah graduated in 2021 from the State University of New York at New Paltz with a MS in Music Therapy.

Brynjulf Stige, Grieg Academy Music Therapy Research Centre, University of Bergen, Norway

BRYNJULF STIGE, PhD, is Professor of Music Therapy at The Grieg Academy, University of Bergen (UiB), Norway. He was the founding editor of Nordic Journal of Music Therapy from 1992-2006 and founding co-editor of Voices: A World Forum for Music Therapy from 2001-2020. Also, Stige was the founding leader of GAMUT – The Grieg Academy Music Therapy Research Center, UiB/NORCE from 2006-2019 and the co-founding leader of The Grieg Research School in Interdisciplinary Music Studies from 2010-2012. Since 2015 he is the founding leader of POLYFON Knowledge Cluster for Music Therapy, a university-community collaboration that explores knowledge-informed and user-involved ways of developing the discipline and profession of music therapy in Norway. He has published extensively on topics such as culture-centered music therapy, community music therapy, and music therapy theory. Among his current interest is the exploration of if and how processes of professionalization and democratic participation can be combined. 

Rhé Washington-Guillemet, Purple Note Music Therapy, LLC, USA

Rhé Washington-Guillemet is a native of Chicago, IL – with deep New Orleans creole roots. Lifelong musician who began playing the piano at 4 years old – he is an accomplished pianist, vocalist, composer, arranger, and mallet percussionist. Rhé studied music through his formative years and attended NYU and Berklee School of Music. Through the years he has worked on many projects including stage, session work, commercials, corporate and private engagements. Has 2 solo albums to his credit, and is working on a third. Rhé has performed in orchestras, symphonic bands, jazz bands, night clubs and churches across many genres - throughout the United States and abroad. In 2015 he pursued a career in music therapy and received a master’s degree in Music Therapy from the Loyola University of New Orleans in 2018. Currently, he is working as a music therapist in the New Orleans/Baton Rouge area and has a private practice – Purple Note Music Therapy, LLC

Photo of the five authors Kathleen M. Murphy, Viggo Krüger, Noah Pomerselig, Brynjulf Stige and Rhé Washington-Guillemet




How to Cite

Murphy, K. M., Krüger V., Pomerselig, N., Stige, B., & Washington-Guillemet, R. (2023). Community Music Therapy in the United States: A Thematic Analysis. Voices: A World Forum for Music Therapy, 23(1).