Cross-Cultural Music Therapy: Reflections of Music Therapy Students Undertaking Placements Internationally

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Kate Walker

In an ever-globalising world, it is becoming increasingly more normal to live, study, and work abroad. Music therapists are no exception. Due to the inherent link between music and culture, it is necessary to understand the role in which culture plays in music therapy sessions. Additionally, it is necessary to understand how one’s own culture, as an international music therapist, can impact and influence such sessions. This study aims to fill a gap in the literature by investigating the experiences of three international students, from Australia, South Korea, and Cameroon, who are currently undertaking music therapy internships in France. The results consist of a thematic analysis of two interviews, as well as case studies by the researcher. These results indicate that one’s own culture can cause interruptions in music therapy sessions. These interruptions are associated, notably, with a language barrier, discomfort surrounding cultural differences, and a lack of knowledge about the French culture and their music.

Key Words: Cross-cultural music therapy, culture, international student, French, thematic analysis, interns

Presentation Description:

This research is based upon my dissertation for the first year of my Masters of Music Therapy in France. The presentation proposed will be in the format of a lecture, with discussions and chances to reflect. Relevant literature will be explained in an overview, as well as key concepts relating to music and culture. The study and the results found will be presented, with a discussion focus on what this means for working and studying in intercultural contexts. Limitations and future directions will be included. A powerpoint slide, a handout, and references will be provided to participants.

Learner Objectives:

  • Evaluation and Termination of Treatment: Acknowledge therapist’s bias and limitations in interpreting information (e.g., cultural differences, clinical orientation).
  • Professional Development and Responsibilities: Assess areas for professional growth, prioritize, and establish a plan of action.
  • Professional Development and Responsibilities: Utilize supervision and/or mentoring as needed.
  • Professional Development and Responsibilities: Expand musicianship, leadership skills, and therapeutic effectiveness.
  • Professional Development and Responsibilities : Serve as a representative, spokesperson, ambassador, or advocate for the profession of music therapy.
  • Professional Development and Responsibilities : Examine one’s own assumptions, values, and biases.
  • Professional Development and Responsibilities : Monitor own mental and physical health, and seek support as needed to ensure professional effectiveness and competence.
  • Professional Development and Responsibilities : Supervise staff, volunteers, practicum students, or interns.


Target Audience:

Students, Entry-level professionals, Experienced professionals

Presenter Biography:

Kate Walker is an Australian currently studying a Master of Artistic Creation with a specialty in music therapy at the University of Paris, France. With an academic background in music, psychology, and French, her research interests are the ways music interacts with our brains and the effects of cultural influences.