Professional Supervision as Storied Experience: Narrative Analysis Findings for Australian-Based Registered Music Therapists

J Music Ther. 2017 Mar 1;54(1):80-107. doi: 10.1093/jmt/thw019.


Background: Limited research exists to inform a music therapist's supervision story from their pre-professional training to their practice as a professional. Evidence is needed to understand the complex nature of supervision experiences and their impact on professional practice.

Objective: This qualitative study explored the supervisory experiences of Australian-based Registered Music Therapists, according to the: 1) themes that characterize their experiences, 2) influences of the supervisor's professional background, 3) outcomes of supervision, and 4) roles of the employer, the professional music therapy association, and the university in supervision standards and practice.

Methods: Seven professionals were interviewed for this study. Five stages of narrative analysis were used to create their supervision stories: a life course graph, narrative psychological analysis, component story framework and narrative analysis, analysis of narratives, and final integration of the seven narrative summaries.

Results: Findings revealed that supervision practice is influenced by a supervisee's personal and professional needs. A range of supervision models or approaches is recommended, including the access of supervisors from different professional backgrounds to support each stage of learning and development. A quality supervisory experience facilitates shifts in awareness and insight, which results in improved or increased skills, confidence, and accountability of practice. Participants' concern about stakeholders included a limited understanding of the role of the supervisor, a lack of clarity about accountability of supervisory practice, and minimal guidelines, which monitor professional competencies.

Conclusions: The benefits of supervision in music therapy depend on the quality of the supervision provided, and clarity about the roles of those involved. Research and guidelines are recommended to target these areas.

Keywords: music therapy; qualitative research; supervision.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Australia
  • Child
  • Clinical Competence*
  • Disabled Persons
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Mentors*
  • Music Therapy / education*
  • Narration*
  • Qualitative Research
  • Time Factors
  • Workforce