Honors Theses


Joy Willenbrink-Conte, MA, MT-BC



Publication Date


Document Type

Honors Thesis


Interpersonal relationships are key to navigating our understanding of ourselves, others, and the world. However, our ability to form and maintain healthy relationships depends greatly on our experiences as children. Attachment theory suggests that our initial relationships and their characteristics can impact our sense of comfort and safety in later attachments (Bretherton, 1992). Challenges and trauma in attachment at a young age may hinder a child’s development into adulthood where interpersonal relationships are key to navigating our academic, professional, and personal environments. If left unaddressed, these challenges can become exacerbated in adolescence as teenagers form more concrete understandings of themselves and the world (Dubois-Comtois, et al., 2013). Understanding the lasting psychological impact of attachment trauma is necessary to discovering appropriate and effective ways of addressing these struggles. With a focus on equity and accessibility in mental healthcare, this study is centered in music therapy treatment with teenage clients facing attachment trauma and the role of music as a communicative resource and symbolic object for attachment. This study features findings from an undergraduate honors thesis project, supplemented by research at the University of Oxford, and includes a review of attachment theory and relevant music therapy literature and reflexive content analysis of interviews with credentialed music therapists working with this client group in orders to gain insight to the modern practices of music therapists working with adolescents with attachment trauma to better understand a) how music therapists describe their lived experience of facilitating treatment with adolescents with attachment trauma, and b) what music therapists’ identified, salient considerations towards practice are when providing music therapy services for teens with attachment trauma. Findings indicate that music therapy treatment facilitation for adolescents with attachment trauma largely depends on the manifestation of cyclical relationships between the client, therapist, music, and their ecologies, the degree of clinician autonomy, and the accessibility to and application of resources and support related to this clinical work.

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This item is protected by copyright law (Title 17, U.S. Code) and may only be used for noncommercial, educational, and scholarly purposes.


Undergraduate research