Navigating Uncertainty

A Music-Based, Insight-Oriented, Online Group Process for Early Career Researchers During the Global Pandemic




Guided Imagery and Music; online music group; early career researchers; global pandemic; flourishing


This report describes a music-based, insight-oriented, online group program for supporting the wellbeing of early career researchers during the global pandemic. A substantial body of research illuminates the wellbeing challenges faced by university students, notably PhD researchers. This context, coupled with the author’s significant experience and leadership roles within a tertiary research and teaching environment, and with a key responsibility for student wellbeing, led to the opportunity to conceive of a novel online program designed specifically for PhD researchers. Students were invited to engage in an 8 week, online group program, incorporating a range of theoretical perspectives and disciplinary approaches influenced by the author’s specific experiences as a music therapist, Guided Imagery and Music (GIM) therapist, lecturer and transformational coach. The use of self-revealing storytelling, alongside guided, creative, experiential activities, with a strong emphasis on music listening was fundamental to supporting participants in recognising both the shared nature of the external conditions they were grappling with as early career researchers, as well as the internal barriers to personal flourishing that they might benefit from understanding. Evaluation of the group involved narrative feedback through participant self-report in week four of the program, with typical feedback including descriptions of how the group afforded reconnection with their research aspirations, perspective and insight into their current personal challenges and strategies for better supporting oneself. Although this program was created specifically to respond to unexpected conditions, some aspects may be useful for future program design.

Author Biography

Katrina Skewes McFerran , The University of Melbourne, Australia

Professor Katrina Skewes McFerran is an international expert on the topic of music, music therapy and adolescents. She has undertaken a range of studies investigating healthy and unhealthy uses of music with and by young people, preferring participatory approaches with an emphasis on reflexive, qualitative investigations. She is currently co-director of CATRU and Chair of the CATRU Advisory Board and Co-Director of the National Music Therapy Research Unit at The University of Melbourne. 

Photo of author Katrina Skewes McFerran




How to Cite

Skewes McFerran , K. (2023). Navigating Uncertainty: A Music-Based, Insight-Oriented, Online Group Process for Early Career Researchers During the Global Pandemic. Voices: A World Forum for Music Therapy, 23(3).



Reflections on Practice