Finding Empathy Through Music Therapy Techniques in the Mist of Family Trauma

An Autoethnography


  • Andeline dos Santos University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa



empathy, self-care, autoethnography


Autoethnography involves rigorously describing personal experience and situating this by standing back, engaging in critique, and suggesting how the insights reached could be helpful to others. The author of this autoethnography (a music therapist and empathy researcher) sought to explore her own personal empathy struggles. A challenge in her family context that evoked experiences related to past trauma invited her into a process using music therapy techniques as she asked: How can the tools developed in her research on empathy help her make sense of this experience? How can these tools awaken more empathic responses to her child? How can going through this process give her greater insight into its potential use within music therapy sessions? By designing a series of experiences using receptive and active techniques, she explored how two empathy pathways (insightful empathy and relational empathy) could assist her in processing her thoughts and feelings as well as engaging in more other-centred empathy towards her child within the family situation of concern. The implications for drawing on such a process within a music therapy context are explored.

Author Biography

Andeline dos Santos, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa

Andeline dos Santos is a registered music therapist in South Africa. She holds a DMus in Music Therapy, an MMus (Music Therapy), and an MA (Psychology). She is a senior lecturer and the research coordinator for the School of the Arts at the University of Pretoria. Her clinical work focuses on adolescents and youth. Her research interests lie in investigating empathy from within varying theoretical paradigms and the implications of this for music therapy practice, the relationships between empathy and violence, empathy and spirituality, and using creative and participatory research methods to explore these matters. She is the author of Empathy Pathways: A View from Music Therapy, published by Palgrave Macmillan.

Author photo, dos Santos




How to Cite

dos Santos, A. (2024). Finding Empathy Through Music Therapy Techniques in the Mist of Family Trauma: An Autoethnography. Voices: A World Forum for Music Therapy, 24(2).