Hanging out and buying in: Rethinking relationship building to avoid tokenism when striving for collaboration in music therapy

Hanging out and buying in: Rethinking relationship building to avoid tokenism when striving for... Abstract The therapeutic relationship is central to music therapy practice. In this article, the authors describe an important thread of learning about relationship building that emerged in an action research project with three communities supporting marginalized young people in Melbourne, Australia. Specifically, this article articulates critical considerations about relationship building for music therapists striving for collaboration in their practice. Collaboration and participatory practice are increasingly described in the music therapy literature, reflecting contemporary notions of inclusion and consumer participation worldwide. As music therapy practices continue to evolve in an increasingly diverse range of contexts, it is important that foundational concepts that underpin music therapy are re-examined to avoid tokenism and ensure best practice. In this article, we propose two aspects of relationship building—“hanging out’ and ‘buying in”—that emerged in this study as essential to music therapy projects with a collaborative orientation. collaboration, relationship building, community music therapy, adolescents, tokenism The term “collaboration” appears frequently in the music therapy literature. However, the concept of collaboration as a process remains underarticulated and relatively unexplored. Collaboration is referred to—directly and indirectly—in a wide array of descriptions of cooperative work: with other professionals (Kildea, 2007; Leung, 2008; Rickson, 2009a, 2012; Turry & Marcus, 2005; Twyford, 2007, 2012; Twyford & Watson, 2008), students (Baker, 2007; Vaillancourt, 2010), engagement with families and carers (Baker, Grocke, & Pachana, 2012; Shoemark, 1996; Shoemark & Dearn, 2008; Thompson, 2012; Thompson, McFerran, & Gold, 2013), whole systems (Rickson & McFerran, 2014; Ragland & Apprey,1974) and, increasingly, when describing work with music therapy participants themselves (Bolger, 2015; Elefant, 2010a; Hense, McFerran, & McGorry, 2014; Hunt 2005; Tuastad, 2014; Warner, 2005). This appears to reflect the growing global understanding that it is empowering for people to be actively engaged in decisions about their health and healthcare (WHO, 1986, 2008), an understanding that is an underlying premise of the research project outlined in this paper. Client participation in decision-making through the “therapeutic alliance” has long been a cornerstone of psychodynamic music therapy practice (Hadley, 2003), and collaboration could be considered a defining feature of culture-centered music therapy practices (Stige, 2002) and feminist orientations to music therapy (Hadley, 2006). As music therapists engage in contemporary practices outside the closed therapy room, this idea has been well documented in the “participatory practices” described by Community Music Therapy (CoMT) scholars (Pavlicevic & Ansdell, 2004; Stige, Ansdell, Elefant, & Pavlicevic, 2010; Stige & Aarø, 2012). Participatory practice is used to describe music therapy processes with an ethos of democracy and equal partnership by Stige and Aarø (2012), who articulate six interconnected participatory processes that they describe as fundamental to participatory practice. These six processes are: “Creating critical awareness, appraising affordances, bonding and bridging, dealing with predicaments, evaluating and adjusting, and communicating and celebrating” (Stige & Aarø, 2012, p. 208). In this paper, we propose that these interconnected participatory processes happen through collaboration, actioned within the interpersonal process in which music therapists engage and negotiate with participants. Thus, we suggest that participatory practice and collaboration in music therapy are related, but not the same thing.1 Rolvsjord (2010) offers an important attempt to define the characteristics of collaboration in music therapy. She proposes that collaboration in music therapy is a shared, dialogic process of negotiation between music therapist and participants that is characterized by equality, mutuality, and active participation in decision-making. This understanding suggests that collaboration is more than active, engaged participation in music therapy activities, common to many music therapy processes. Collaboration also includes the shared negotiation of and responsibility for the purpose and direction of the music therapy process. This understanding of collaboration has been adopted in this study. Barring some notable exceptions, the often broad and general use of the term “collaboration” in the music therapy literature reveals a critical assumption that potentially misrepresents the complexity and the value of collaboration in music therapy. Fundamentally, there often does not appear to be a clear distinction between the intent to collaborate on the part of the therapist and actual, engaged collaboration with participants. This suggests an underlying premise that if a music therapist takes a participatory orientation to practice and attempts to collaborate, participants either automatically become collaborators or inherently benefit. However, this premise is not reasonable. Music therapy researchers using collaborative approaches describe navigating complex negotiations with participants. These include working to establish a shared vision for the research project, both between participants and with the music therapist (Bolger, 2013; Hunt, 2005; Rickson, 2009b); developing effective links and understandings between participants with different roles (Hense, 2015; Rickson, 2012; Warner, 2005; Elefant, 2010a, 2010b); understanding and accurately representing participants’ interest in the wider implications of their project (McFerran & Hunt, 2008); and navigating power dynamics and authentically representing participants’ voices (Bolger, 2013; Hense, 2015; Tuastad, 2014; Warner, 2005), to name a few. These negotiations are not barriers to collaboration. Rather, they are part of the collaborative process itself, and it is in the act of engaging in these negotiations that the potential value of collaboration in music therapy lies. The studies above offer important descriptions of music therapy research collaborations with different community populations, from disability (Rickson, 2012; Warner, 2005; Elefant, 2010a, 2010b) to mental health care (Hense, 2015), from ex-prison inmates (Tuastad, 2014) to marginalized youth (Bolger, 2013, 2015; Hunt, 2005, 2006). They describe complex and contextual processes that are neither straightforward nor inevitably successful—processes that are intentionally and thoughtfully facilitated, supported, and engaged with. Currently, the music therapy discourse reflects a broad understanding that participating in decision-making is a good thing for music therapy participants. In addition, specific, located examples of music therapy collaboration with participants exist, such as those cited above. Further, the wide use of the term “collaborate” in the literature suggests recognition that collaboration is a concept relevant to some music therapy practices. However, further practical understanding and articulation is needed in order that collaboration may continue to develop as a useful practice in music therapy, and not become a generalized buzzword. Or worse, that unexamined assumptions about collaboration lead to tokenistic practices that do not adequately empower music therapy participants to be mutual, engaged collaborators. Ocloo and Matthews (2016) define tokenism as “asking for involvement but not taking it seriously or enabling it to be effective” (p. 3). Tokenism is still common in the participatory practices of health and community programs (Head, 2007; Tritter, 2009) and research (Brett et al., 2012) in Western nations, in spite of supportive social policy (Ocloo & Matthews, 2016; Head, 2007). Authors suggest that this may be due to both the practical and ideological complexity of a participatory approach to practice. Underrepresented and marginalized groups—such as children, persons with disabilities and/or health challenges, and ethnic minorities—are identified as particularly vulnerable to tokenistic attempts at collaboration, as group leaders may inadvertently prioritize accommodating or straightforward participants who are easiest to engage (Beresford, 2013; Hart, 2008; Ocloo and Matthews, 2016). Greater consideration and understanding of collaboration in music therapy is required to avoid tokenism and promote empowerment. This is particularly relevant for music therapists who work with underrepresented or marginalized groups. Hadley (2013) powerfully articulates how tokenism such as this in the creative arts therapies perpetuates subjugating narratives that exclude minority voices. Music therapists striving for collaboration must be vigilant regarding tokenism to ensure that not just the “easy” voices are represented; that all players are empowered to buy in if they so choose. Studies suggest that the most successful participant involvement occurs when people are adequately prepared. Head (2007) cites the need to build effective capacity in people in order to foster community sector engagement. A review of participant involvement in health and social research (Brett et al., 2012) found that investment in preparation, planning, and training of participants allowed participant input to have the most impact. The scope of participant involvement examined in these studies was wider than collaboration alone, but the notion of preparing participants to engage as collaborators resonates with the concepts explored here. Method In this paper, we outline an important thread of learning from a recent study of collaborative process in music therapy. The study was an action research project that explored the process and meaning of collaboration in participatory music projects with three communities supporting marginalized young people. The overall learning from this study is reported elsewhere (Bolger, 2015). However, a particularly interesting thread of the project emerged as deeply relevant to music therapy practice, and provides new insight into collaborative practice in community settings. We feel that this warrants specific, targeted articulation, and this will be the focus of this article. This thread elaborates a particular theme—building relationships—that emerged from the analysis of collaborative process in this study. In the current paper, we focus specifically on this “relationship building” thread of learning. We expand significantly on the information provided in the previous foundational publication from this study (Bolger, 2015) and look more deeply at the real-world implications of this important thread of learning for music therapy practice. We choose to highlight this learning in this publication, as we believe it offers new and important considerations that may support music therapists striving for collaboration in their practice. Overall Project Summary In order to contextualize the learning reported in this paper, we first provide a brief summary of the broader action research project from which this thread of knowledge emerged. The researchers took a participatory approach to the research project (Stige & McFerran, 2016). Two key theorists informed this approach. Lewin (1946) proposed that people should be involved in research that is about them, and that society as a whole benefits if minority perspectives are heard and acknowledged. Freire (1972) proposed that oppression is a phenomenon that occurs through mutual acceptance between the oppressor and the oppressed, and that liberation comes through knowledge and the opportunity to critically assess one’s own life. Drawing on these theories, the underlying participatory stance informing the design and method of this research project was that: 1. Knowledge is power 2. People should be involved in research that is about them 3. Knowledge generated in research should be relevant and accessible to the people being “studied,” to the extent that they are interested in receiving it. An action research design was selected for this study. This was a logical choice given the participatory orientation outlined above and the collaborative focus of the study. Action research has been described as an emergent, iterative research process that unfolds in cycles of action and reflection (Kemmis & McTaggart, 2005; McIntyre, 2008). In action research, observations and reflections from each action cycle inform the planning and action of the subsequent research cycle (McIntyre, 2008). This study emerged over nine action cycles. They spanned all phases of the project, from design to implementation to analysis and reporting. The project received university ethics board approval. Ethics amendments were submitted and approved throughout the project whenever study design changes emerged out of the ongoing process of action and reflection with participants. Participants as Players In action research, participants are engaged as co-researchers in their research project, and participate collaboratively in research planning, implementation, analysis, and reporting. In this study, we appropriated the term “players” when referring to the co-researchers. We found it to be a naturally musical term, often used with reference to players in a band or orchestra. It was also a lighthearted way to challenge typical power structures, since players are thought to be engaged actors, not passive subjects. This reflected our commitment to ensuring that the young people’s voices were justly represented in this research. It also felt more relevant than the term “co-researcher,” which we experienced as alienating for adolescents in the study. This term emerged out of the research process and in collaboration with other colleagues,2 and will be used in this paper forthwith. Another term that emerged in this study was “music worker,” used to describe the music therapist—another player in this study. In this community environment, the term “therapist” was uncommon and inaccessible. Players were all told that the music worker was a qualified music therapist; however, we adopted the term “music worker” to contextualize and clearly communicate the music therapist’s role as both a musical and a support professional for young people. The term “worker” was commonly used to describe support professionals, and young people regularly relied upon social workers, caseworkers, and youth workers. The term “worker” appeared to represent a person whom the young people could rely upon for help and support, whom they may have expectations of, and who may have expectations of them. Members of three different community organizations supporting three separate groups of marginalized young people in urban Melbourne agreed to be players in this study. Music projects were conducted with each community, and both young people and key staff members engaged as players. By way of introduction to community players, each community project is briefly summarized below. More detailed accounts of these projects are available (Bolger, 2015). The drop-in group was a weekly music project that ran as part of a youth drop-in program at a local neighborhood house. The young people involved were aged between 13 and 18 years, and were from a local public housing community. This is a multicultural, high-density community with a rich and diverse culture, but very limited financial resources and pervasive challenges with drug dealing and gang violence. This music project attracted a revolving group of players on different weeks; however, a core group of four young people engaged fairly consistently on the project. These four players chose to set up a band and rehearsed weekly over a nine-month period, joined periodically by other interested young people. As a band, the players performed a popular song at a local community performance, and later wrote and professionally recorded an original song. The therapeutic camp group involved young people between the ages of 13 and 18 and was part of a program that ran weekend and weeklong therapeutic camps. They were at risk of, or currently living in, “out-of-home care,” a system of group homes for young people who have not thrived in foster care. These young people lived in complex and unstable home environments, and their lives often lacked a sense of personal safety and security, compounded for some by mental health challenges and disability. The music project evolved over six months during intensive bursts at weekend and weeklong camps. The players were twelve young people, and their music project revolved around a group songwriting process. The music project also included song sharing and recording, and culminated in a group performance for their wider community. The music project in the share home group was run in the living room of a house that provides a supportive, home-like environment for homeless youth. The players were between 18 and 22 years of age and had experienced extended periods of homelessness. Many had experienced violence, neglect, abandonment, and interrupted schooling, and had been forced to leave home due to physical, verbal, or sexual abuse. Four young people engaged in the project, which involved fortnightly evening sessions over three months, with each lasting three to four hours. Their chosen music project was a series of individual and small-group projects, including song sharing, singing, songwriting, and instrument instruction, and, for some players, a home-based performance for their supporting community. There were both similarities and differences in the participatory music projects described above. We did not seek homogeneity in the groups. Collaboration is an inherently contextual, interpersonal process, and we sought to allow this inevitable contextual variation to be reflected in the understanding of collaboration developed in this study. The first author, a qualified music therapist, was a consistent player in each project. As the music worker for each project, she supported and facilitated the collaborative process with community players. This involved ongoing coordination and organization in response to the ideas proposed by the other players. All projects involved songwriting, performance, song singing, instrument playing, and recording, although these emerged differently in each community. These elements of the music projects were common between communities. There was variation in the demographics of the young people in this study: the number of young people involved; their style of attendance (regular, intensive, or drop-in); their personal life challenges. However, all were within the age range of 12–24 that classifies them as “youth” in Australia (Australian Government, 2010). The youth players in this study also shared a lack of access to social and musical opportunities that were available to average Australian young people. We have adopted the term “marginalized” to reflect this, as we feel this term acknowledges the external barriers to access that marginalize players, rather than problematizing the young people themselves (te Riele, 2006). Young people were chosen as the focus for this study for several reasons. We identified the role of music therapy with adolescents as an area of interest and experience in the research milieu in Australia. Additionally, adolescents often have strong, even profound relationships with music (McFerran, 2010; Saarikallio & Erkkila, 2007). We therefore felt confident that there would be young people interested in exploring collaboration through musical experiences. Further, youth participation is a growing priority in public policy both locally (Vromen & Collin, 2010; Wyn, 2009) and globally (UN Assembly, 1989) and we believed music therapy might be uniquely placed to support this agenda. Gathering and Analyzing Data Players were invited and supported to participate not only in their chosen music activities, but also in decision-making about the direction and purpose of each project. This occurred both incidentally throughout the process, and formally in interviews and focus groups at the end of each of the three or four cycles of action and reflection that occurred in each group. Youth-oriented and creative approaches were used to ensure that the decision-making process was meaningful and accessible for the young people. Techniques included using video and photos, making large-group “brainstorm boards,” and conversations combined with meals or snacks. Subsequently, data developed through this process took a variety of formats. These included the therapist’s session notes, group brainstorm notes, video and audio interviews, and focus group recordings, photographs, and songs. The music worker played a connecting role between the three separate community projects. At the end of each action cycle, she synthesized all the data generated by all three communities during the cycle. She then brought the overall conclusions from the cycle back to communities for their input and feedback and plans were then developed together for the subsequent action cycle. In keeping with action research design, we adopted an emergent approach to the analysis of data. The analysis process was informed by hermeneutics (Thistelton, 2009) and grounded theory (Corbin & Strauss, 2008). This emerged as a process of progressive abstraction that occurred in cycles of interpretation. Analysis began with the synthesized data that the music worker had developed and discussed with players at the conclusion of each action cycle. This data was iteratively interrogated in the following stages: - Abstraction of the data: We grouped raw data into concepts that related to different aspects of collaborative process. We then further grouped these concepts into broader categories. When developing the categories, we examined the concepts from different perspectives on collaborative process—such as temporal, causal, contextual—and actively interrogated the data for different and conflicting ways of understanding the process of collaboration. Ultimately, we sought to find out what ways of understanding were most useful, and this informed our decision-making. - Developing a structure of collaborative process: We subsequently organized the concepts and categories into a structure of collaborative process. The structure incorporated aspects of the different perspectives explored in the analysis, and became the basic conceptual understanding of collaborative process that emerged from this analysis. It centered around three “core dialogues” that we identified as emerging in two progressive periods of the collaborative process (see Figure 1). - Elaborating on contextual variation in the structure of collaborative process: We then examined how each of these “core dialogues” had emerged with the three different participating communities in this study. We compared the collaborative process with each community in order to identify and articulate variation in how this occurred across contexts. This was considered critical given the CoMT focus of this study, which emphasizes contextual understandings of practice (Stige et al., 2010). This variation emerged as features of each core dialogue that influenced the way collaboration emerged in different contexts (see Table 1 in the Results section). Figure 1. View largeDownload slide Identifies patterns of collaborative process and three core dialogues that occur between players in collaboration. Figure 1. View largeDownload slide Identifies patterns of collaborative process and three core dialogues that occur between players in collaboration. Table 1 Contextual Factors Impacting the Process of Collaboration The hangout period Core dialogue between players Considerations influencing community players’ input Features of music therapist contribution Variation between communities Relationship Building - How complex is the participating community? - How integrated is the program into the surrounding community? - What is the hangout culture in this community? - The music therapist’s identity E.g.:   - Musical   - Therapeutic   - Gender-based   - Cultural - Self-reflexive boundaries - Context-specific role descriptions • Time required • Format Collaboration period Core dialogue between players Considerations influencing community players’ input Features of music therapist contribution Variation between communities Negotiating Purpose - How much responsibility do target players have in this community? - Why are players engaging in the music project? - Do players have individual or shared goals? - Music skills   - Technical skills   - Knowledge of methods   - Breadth of project ideas - Therapy skills   - Realistic perspective   - Understanding of group dynamics   - Balance of directive vs. supportive role - New perspective on needs • Project type • Approach to collaboration Developing expectations and structure - Is the community coming to the music project or is the music project coming to the community? - Is there an existing sense of group membership and belonging? - Ongoing reflexivity - Flexibility   - In response to changes in dynamics   - In response to players’ energy on the day • Responsibilities of different players • Degree of structure required The hangout period Core dialogue between players Considerations influencing community players’ input Features of music therapist contribution Variation between communities Relationship Building - How complex is the participating community? - How integrated is the program into the surrounding community? - What is the hangout culture in this community? - The music therapist’s identity E.g.:   - Musical   - Therapeutic   - Gender-based   - Cultural - Self-reflexive boundaries - Context-specific role descriptions • Time required • Format Collaboration period Core dialogue between players Considerations influencing community players’ input Features of music therapist contribution Variation between communities Negotiating Purpose - How much responsibility do target players have in this community? - Why are players engaging in the music project? - Do players have individual or shared goals? - Music skills   - Technical skills   - Knowledge of methods   - Breadth of project ideas - Therapy skills   - Realistic perspective   - Understanding of group dynamics   - Balance of directive vs. supportive role - New perspective on needs • Project type • Approach to collaboration Developing expectations and structure - Is the community coming to the music project or is the music project coming to the community? - Is there an existing sense of group membership and belonging? - Ongoing reflexivity - Flexibility   - In response to changes in dynamics   - In response to players’ energy on the day • Responsibilities of different players • Degree of structure required View Large Table 1 Contextual Factors Impacting the Process of Collaboration The hangout period Core dialogue between players Considerations influencing community players’ input Features of music therapist contribution Variation between communities Relationship Building - How complex is the participating community? - How integrated is the program into the surrounding community? - What is the hangout culture in this community? - The music therapist’s identity E.g.:   - Musical   - Therapeutic   - Gender-based   - Cultural - Self-reflexive boundaries - Context-specific role descriptions • Time required • Format Collaboration period Core dialogue between players Considerations influencing community players’ input Features of music therapist contribution Variation between communities Negotiating Purpose - How much responsibility do target players have in this community? - Why are players engaging in the music project? - Do players have individual or shared goals? - Music skills   - Technical skills   - Knowledge of methods   - Breadth of project ideas - Therapy skills   - Realistic perspective   - Understanding of group dynamics   - Balance of directive vs. supportive role - New perspective on needs • Project type • Approach to collaboration Developing expectations and structure - Is the community coming to the music project or is the music project coming to the community? - Is there an existing sense of group membership and belonging? - Ongoing reflexivity - Flexibility   - In response to changes in dynamics   - In response to players’ energy on the day • Responsibilities of different players • Degree of structure required The hangout period Core dialogue between players Considerations influencing community players’ input Features of music therapist contribution Variation between communities Relationship Building - How complex is the participating community? - How integrated is the program into the surrounding community? - What is the hangout culture in this community? - The music therapist’s identity E.g.:   - Musical   - Therapeutic   - Gender-based   - Cultural - Self-reflexive boundaries - Context-specific role descriptions • Time required • Format Collaboration period Core dialogue between players Considerations influencing community players’ input Features of music therapist contribution Variation between communities Negotiating Purpose - How much responsibility do target players have in this community? - Why are players engaging in the music project? - Do players have individual or shared goals? - Music skills   - Technical skills   - Knowledge of methods   - Breadth of project ideas - Therapy skills   - Realistic perspective   - Understanding of group dynamics   - Balance of directive vs. supportive role - New perspective on needs • Project type • Approach to collaboration Developing expectations and structure - Is the community coming to the music project or is the music project coming to the community? - Is there an existing sense of group membership and belonging? - Ongoing reflexivity - Flexibility   - In response to changes in dynamics   - In response to players’ energy on the day • Responsibilities of different players • Degree of structure required View Large Results As summarized in Table 1, the analysis of collaborative process in this study identified two periods of collaborative process: a hangout period and a collaboration period. The key distinction between these two periods is in the nature of players’ involvement. In the hangout period, players are participants, but not yet involved as mutual, engaged decision-makers who share power and responsibility for the CoMT process. We learned that the transition from the hangout period to the collaboration period occurs when players choose to take on this decision-making role, a choice we term “buying in” to collaboration (Bolger, 2015). We identified this buy-in as a critical transition point that is uniquely vital to music projects striving for collaboration. Buy-in reflects a choice by players to share power and responsibility for their music project with the music therapist, creating the mutual dynamic necessary for collaboration. Hanging out and buying in emerged as critical aspects of relationship building in this study. In the remainder of this paper, we elucidate this particular thread of learning and how it emerged. In particular, we propose characteristics of relationship building in CoMT projects with a collaborative orientation. We emphasize this thread of learning particularly as we believe that new insight about relationship building from this study offers critical information for music therapists striving for collaboration in their practice. Specifically: That there is a difference between the intent to collaborate and collaboration in CoMT projects, and That knowledge of particular considerations impacting the relationship building process may maximize the potential for collaborative intent to develop into mutual, shared collaboration. The Difference Between Intent to Collaborate and Collaboration: The Emergence of “the Hangout Period” It was an initial, unsuccessful attempt to engage young people in collaboration that first highlighted the importance of the hangout period. The music worker’s description of this experience with the community that became the drop-in group is outlined below. In action cycle three of this study, I initiated a series of introductory music sessions at a community center with some young women from an inner urban public housing community. This was the first music group with the first community to engage in the project. The purpose of the introductory sessions was to get to know one another before inviting the young women to participate in the research project. Community center staff suggested we start the program with a small group and allow it to grow by word of mouth, as was the community culture. Initially two young women were engaged in the program. They decided on a “singing lesson” focus. We met weekly at the community center, but worked in a portable room located in the adjacent garden, separate to the main building. The introductory sessions ran for four weeks, up until the end of the school term. One young woman was particularly focused, and several others came to try out the program. At the end of term we made a plan to resume after school holidays. I aimed to recruit the committed young woman into the study then, and build the group from there. When I returned after the school holidays, she did not come to the session, in spite of text message reminders. Nor did she come the following week. I did not know why she stopped coming and I was not adequately engaged in the community to find out if she needed additional support to attend. Was she required to babysit for her younger siblings during this time, a reality for many young women in this community? Did she have other conflicting commitments to school or after-school activities? Had she grown tired of the sessions? Even if I had been able to contact the young woman directly, I did not know if she would tell me the real reason, or give me the reason she thought I wanted to hear. We had not yet developed a strong enough rapport for her to necessarily trust me with her opinions or personal challenges. This example illustrated the limits of conventional, in-session rapport building that are the cornerstone of traditional music therapy practice. These processes proved to be inadequate in a community context where the surrounding infrastructure was not designed to bring young people to sessions as part of a predetermined timetable. Learning from this action cycle suggested that traditional rapport building approaches did not translate directly to collaborative, CoMT practice. In this example, the music worker was coming into the community once a week and working in a separate, designated portable space. Traditionally, this would have been a common and generous music therapy setup. However, it did not allow the music worker to be integrated enough into the community to effectively and responsively support an emergent collaborative process. In reflection with community players, we identified a need to spend time “hanging out” in the community before engaging in a collaboration, in order to build relationships with players and develop an identity in the community. In subsequent action cycles we applied this learning to the community above and two others that became the three participatory music projects of this study. The music worker widened the scope of her relationship building to encompass the community surrounding the young people as a whole. This hangout period looked different with each community, and included both musical and non-musical activities. However, with each community we identified a point where there was a shift in the engagement that transitioned the music project from a pre-collaborative to a collaborative dynamic. The music worker describes what this looked like with the drop-in group featured in the previous example: We had completed a small community performance, and we were debriefing as a group the following week. I noticed a tangible shift in some of the young people’s engagement. As well as their reflections, they had opinions and ideas about how things were going and what we should do next. Before then I had been the one making suggestions and directing the process. They had been happy to be involved, but this was different. They were more invested. Variations in Relationship Building When Striving for Collaboration This broader approach to relationship building as a hangout period appeared to effectively support players to buy in to the music projects in this study. However, our comparative analysis of the hangout periods in this study identified significant variations in the way the hangout period played out in different music projects. The first was the format of the hangout period. Both musical and non-musical hanging out occurred with all groups, but evolved uniquely in different contexts. With the drop-in group, hanging out primarily involved preparing for and executing a community-based performance with the young people; with the therapeutic camp group, it involved engaging in the general structured activities of the therapeutic camp, such as horse-riding, cups of tea, and listening to music; with the share home group, it involved having dinner together where we shared discussion and some music. The second significant variation between groups was the time required for relationship building. With the drop-in group, the hangout period took three months of weekly two-hour contact; with the therapeutic camp, the hangout period occurred over one weeklong and one weekend camp of intensive, 24-hour contact; with the share home group, this was completed in four hours, over the course of just one evening. Variations are expected in context-dependent CoMT practice. However, while this thread of learning indicated that time invested in the hangout period would support players to buy in to collaboration, we had also learned that it was challenging to wait and hold this process and not fall back into traditional music therapy processes and dynamics that are incompatible with a collaborative approach to practice. So, we further pursued this thread by examining how the characteristics of different community contexts influenced the length and format of the hangout period. In doing so, we sought to identify any principles that might support music therapists to hold this tension in collaborative practice in the future. The learning from this analysis is presented in Table 2 (below). Table 2 Comparative Analysis of Contextual Variation in the Hangout Period of Music Projects in This Study Drop-in group Therapeutic camp group Share home group Brief description of the hangout periods with each community The hangout period for this music project involved working toward a community performance with the young people, and evolved over 3 months of weekly contact. The hangout period for this music project involved participation in a weeklong and a weekend camp with the young people. This included planned group activities such as horse riding, campfires, and cups of tea, as well a group sing- alongs and incidental conversations about music. The hangout period for this music project involved an introductory conversation over a single 3-hour dinner, including some basic playing and listening to preferred music. Community characteristics impacting the format of the hangout period Drop-in group Therapeutic camp group Share home group Existing hangout culture of community The existing structures and spaces through which the community naturally already spends time together - No regular gathering space for whole community - Event-based hangout culture— periodic community celebrations and festivals - Hangout space was temporary and event-oriented - Hanging out required deliberate planning and coordination - The camp itself was a hangout environment, with a mixture of designated “down time” and structured group activities - There was a central table and couches where the group naturally congregated to “chill out” and spend time together - Hanging out was embedded into the overall structure of the camp schedule - A home environment. Hanging out involved sitting around the table with a cup of tea or a meal and having a chat - Permanent communal hangout space for gathering that was accessed by all - Hanging out was informal and spontaneous, based on who was home Impact on hangout period No permanent hangout space and event-based hangout culture = more structure and facilitation of hangout period required Embedded hangout culture and designated hangout space and pre-structured activities = Less facilitation and structure required (used existing), hangout process spontaneously integrated into existing program Home environment: Permanent communal areas and home-based routines, individual housemate schedules = No facilitation required (structure determined entirely by the housemates), hangout process emerged spontaneously over a house dinner Community characteristics impacting time needed for the hangout period Drop-in group Therapeutic camp group Share home group Complexity of community The number of different people, services, and structures that surrounded and were involved with the young people, comprising their supporting community High complexity The music project was embedded in a community made up of a diverse group of players made up of ethnically diverse residents, and multiple community workers, youth workers, government staff, and case managers Low complexity The music project was embedded in a youth program supporting a single, homogeneous group of players. The direct supporting community for the program was small cohort of staff and volunteers from a single community organization Low complexity The music project was embedded in a residential home supporting a single, homogeneous group of players. The direct supporting community for the household was very small cohort of staff from a single community organization Level of integration The extent to which the program housing the music project was integrated into the wider community High integration A multilayered community with ongoing interaction between individual residents, interest groups, multiple community organizations and government agencies Low integration The organization running the youth program was part of a wider system of support services for the young people, including government agencies and caseworkers, but these external support services were not closely linked to the youth program Very low integration The residential home was part of a statewide network of homes with ongoing access to designated support workers, but the homes were run independently of one another, aside from occasional celebrations or events Impact on hangout period Complex layers, players, and politics in the community = more time required to build relationships effectively Few layers, players, and politics in the community = Less time required to build relationships effectively Very few layers, players, and politics in the community = Less time required to build relationships effectively Drop-in group Therapeutic camp group Share home group Brief description of the hangout periods with each community The hangout period for this music project involved working toward a community performance with the young people, and evolved over 3 months of weekly contact. The hangout period for this music project involved participation in a weeklong and a weekend camp with the young people. This included planned group activities such as horse riding, campfires, and cups of tea, as well a group sing- alongs and incidental conversations about music. The hangout period for this music project involved an introductory conversation over a single 3-hour dinner, including some basic playing and listening to preferred music. Community characteristics impacting the format of the hangout period Drop-in group Therapeutic camp group Share home group Existing hangout culture of community The existing structures and spaces through which the community naturally already spends time together - No regular gathering space for whole community - Event-based hangout culture— periodic community celebrations and festivals - Hangout space was temporary and event-oriented - Hanging out required deliberate planning and coordination - The camp itself was a hangout environment, with a mixture of designated “down time” and structured group activities - There was a central table and couches where the group naturally congregated to “chill out” and spend time together - Hanging out was embedded into the overall structure of the camp schedule - A home environment. Hanging out involved sitting around the table with a cup of tea or a meal and having a chat - Permanent communal hangout space for gathering that was accessed by all - Hanging out was informal and spontaneous, based on who was home Impact on hangout period No permanent hangout space and event-based hangout culture = more structure and facilitation of hangout period required Embedded hangout culture and designated hangout space and pre-structured activities = Less facilitation and structure required (used existing), hangout process spontaneously integrated into existing program Home environment: Permanent communal areas and home-based routines, individual housemate schedules = No facilitation required (structure determined entirely by the housemates), hangout process emerged spontaneously over a house dinner Community characteristics impacting time needed for the hangout period Drop-in group Therapeutic camp group Share home group Complexity of community The number of different people, services, and structures that surrounded and were involved with the young people, comprising their supporting community High complexity The music project was embedded in a community made up of a diverse group of players made up of ethnically diverse residents, and multiple community workers, youth workers, government staff, and case managers Low complexity The music project was embedded in a youth program supporting a single, homogeneous group of players. The direct supporting community for the program was small cohort of staff and volunteers from a single community organization Low complexity The music project was embedded in a residential home supporting a single, homogeneous group of players. The direct supporting community for the household was very small cohort of staff from a single community organization Level of integration The extent to which the program housing the music project was integrated into the wider community High integration A multilayered community with ongoing interaction between individual residents, interest groups, multiple community organizations and government agencies Low integration The organization running the youth program was part of a wider system of support services for the young people, including government agencies and caseworkers, but these external support services were not closely linked to the youth program Very low integration The residential home was part of a statewide network of homes with ongoing access to designated support workers, but the homes were run independently of one another, aside from occasional celebrations or events Impact on hangout period Complex layers, players, and politics in the community = more time required to build relationships effectively Few layers, players, and politics in the community = Less time required to build relationships effectively Very few layers, players, and politics in the community = Less time required to build relationships effectively View Large Table 2 Comparative Analysis of Contextual Variation in the Hangout Period of Music Projects in This Study Drop-in group Therapeutic camp group Share home group Brief description of the hangout periods with each community The hangout period for this music project involved working toward a community performance with the young people, and evolved over 3 months of weekly contact. The hangout period for this music project involved participation in a weeklong and a weekend camp with the young people. This included planned group activities such as horse riding, campfires, and cups of tea, as well a group sing- alongs and incidental conversations about music. The hangout period for this music project involved an introductory conversation over a single 3-hour dinner, including some basic playing and listening to preferred music. Community characteristics impacting the format of the hangout period Drop-in group Therapeutic camp group Share home group Existing hangout culture of community The existing structures and spaces through which the community naturally already spends time together - No regular gathering space for whole community - Event-based hangout culture— periodic community celebrations and festivals - Hangout space was temporary and event-oriented - Hanging out required deliberate planning and coordination - The camp itself was a hangout environment, with a mixture of designated “down time” and structured group activities - There was a central table and couches where the group naturally congregated to “chill out” and spend time together - Hanging out was embedded into the overall structure of the camp schedule - A home environment. Hanging out involved sitting around the table with a cup of tea or a meal and having a chat - Permanent communal hangout space for gathering that was accessed by all - Hanging out was informal and spontaneous, based on who was home Impact on hangout period No permanent hangout space and event-based hangout culture = more structure and facilitation of hangout period required Embedded hangout culture and designated hangout space and pre-structured activities = Less facilitation and structure required (used existing), hangout process spontaneously integrated into existing program Home environment: Permanent communal areas and home-based routines, individual housemate schedules = No facilitation required (structure determined entirely by the housemates), hangout process emerged spontaneously over a house dinner Community characteristics impacting time needed for the hangout period Drop-in group Therapeutic camp group Share home group Complexity of community The number of different people, services, and structures that surrounded and were involved with the young people, comprising their supporting community High complexity The music project was embedded in a community made up of a diverse group of players made up of ethnically diverse residents, and multiple community workers, youth workers, government staff, and case managers Low complexity The music project was embedded in a youth program supporting a single, homogeneous group of players. The direct supporting community for the program was small cohort of staff and volunteers from a single community organization Low complexity The music project was embedded in a residential home supporting a single, homogeneous group of players. The direct supporting community for the household was very small cohort of staff from a single community organization Level of integration The extent to which the program housing the music project was integrated into the wider community High integration A multilayered community with ongoing interaction between individual residents, interest groups, multiple community organizations and government agencies Low integration The organization running the youth program was part of a wider system of support services for the young people, including government agencies and caseworkers, but these external support services were not closely linked to the youth program Very low integration The residential home was part of a statewide network of homes with ongoing access to designated support workers, but the homes were run independently of one another, aside from occasional celebrations or events Impact on hangout period Complex layers, players, and politics in the community = more time required to build relationships effectively Few layers, players, and politics in the community = Less time required to build relationships effectively Very few layers, players, and politics in the community = Less time required to build relationships effectively Drop-in group Therapeutic camp group Share home group Brief description of the hangout periods with each community The hangout period for this music project involved working toward a community performance with the young people, and evolved over 3 months of weekly contact. The hangout period for this music project involved participation in a weeklong and a weekend camp with the young people. This included planned group activities such as horse riding, campfires, and cups of tea, as well a group sing- alongs and incidental conversations about music. The hangout period for this music project involved an introductory conversation over a single 3-hour dinner, including some basic playing and listening to preferred music. Community characteristics impacting the format of the hangout period Drop-in group Therapeutic camp group Share home group Existing hangout culture of community The existing structures and spaces through which the community naturally already spends time together - No regular gathering space for whole community - Event-based hangout culture— periodic community celebrations and festivals - Hangout space was temporary and event-oriented - Hanging out required deliberate planning and coordination - The camp itself was a hangout environment, with a mixture of designated “down time” and structured group activities - There was a central table and couches where the group naturally congregated to “chill out” and spend time together - Hanging out was embedded into the overall structure of the camp schedule - A home environment. Hanging out involved sitting around the table with a cup of tea or a meal and having a chat - Permanent communal hangout space for gathering that was accessed by all - Hanging out was informal and spontaneous, based on who was home Impact on hangout period No permanent hangout space and event-based hangout culture = more structure and facilitation of hangout period required Embedded hangout culture and designated hangout space and pre-structured activities = Less facilitation and structure required (used existing), hangout process spontaneously integrated into existing program Home environment: Permanent communal areas and home-based routines, individual housemate schedules = No facilitation required (structure determined entirely by the housemates), hangout process emerged spontaneously over a house dinner Community characteristics impacting time needed for the hangout period Drop-in group Therapeutic camp group Share home group Complexity of community The number of different people, services, and structures that surrounded and were involved with the young people, comprising their supporting community High complexity The music project was embedded in a community made up of a diverse group of players made up of ethnically diverse residents, and multiple community workers, youth workers, government staff, and case managers Low complexity The music project was embedded in a youth program supporting a single, homogeneous group of players. The direct supporting community for the program was small cohort of staff and volunteers from a single community organization Low complexity The music project was embedded in a residential home supporting a single, homogeneous group of players. The direct supporting community for the household was very small cohort of staff from a single community organization Level of integration The extent to which the program housing the music project was integrated into the wider community High integration A multilayered community with ongoing interaction between individual residents, interest groups, multiple community organizations and government agencies Low integration The organization running the youth program was part of a wider system of support services for the young people, including government agencies and caseworkers, but these external support services were not closely linked to the youth program Very low integration The residential home was part of a statewide network of homes with ongoing access to designated support workers, but the homes were run independently of one another, aside from occasional celebrations or events Impact on hangout period Complex layers, players, and politics in the community = more time required to build relationships effectively Few layers, players, and politics in the community = Less time required to build relationships effectively Very few layers, players, and politics in the community = Less time required to build relationships effectively View Large The comparative reflection presented in Table 2 above indicates three characteristics of the community contexts in this study that impacted the time needed to build relationships and the format of the hangout period. This learning suggests that building relationships with communities is impacted by both the complexity of the community surrounding the program—the layers, players, and politics—and how integrated the program is into the community. A further characteristic impacting on relationship building is the nature of the existing community hangout culture—the structures and spaces the community already uses to gather and connect. This interpretation is reflected in the questions below, which aim to guide music therapists striving for collaboration in the future: How complex is the participating community? Learning from this study suggests that the greater the number of layers, players, and politics of the supporting community, the more time may be needed to build relationships. How integrated is the program into the surrounding community? Learning from this study suggests that the more integrated a program is into the surrounding community, the more time may be needed to negotiate the dynamics of the community and build relationships with players. What is the hangout culture in this community? Is there a space where people hang out together? Learning from this study suggests that the format of the hangout period needs to be informed by the hangout culture of the community and engage with the existing spaces and structures in place. Relationship building is likely to take longer in communities that do not have an existing space to gather and spend time together. In these communities, a more planned approach may be required to target the way in which community is enacted in that context. Discussion In this paper, we have focused specifically on one thread of inquiry—relationship building—because it emerged from this study as a learning that had specific, real-world implications for music therapists striving for collaboration in their practice. It also reflects a broader, critical conversation that the global music therapy community must continue to have as music therapy practice further diversifies in response to changes in the understanding and delivery of healthcare around the world (Ansdell, 2002; Rolvsjord, 2010; Stige, 2016). A number of theoretical texts thoughtfully articulate and interpret the impact this development on the music therapy discipline as a whole (Bruscia, 2014; Bunt & Stige, 2014; Ruud, 2010). However, as the music therapy profession extends into new contexts and cultures and beyond traditional therapy spaces, we must also re-examine and contextualize our understanding of core music therapy principles. This is crucial to safe and effective music therapy work across the spectrum of practice. In this research project, we specifically elaborated on how traditional understandings of relationship building in music therapy have limits that need to be rethought when working outside traditional music therapy contexts. Historically in traditional/expert models of music therapy, music therapists have been advised of the need for a designated, separate music therapy space and consistent session time (Bunt & Hoskyns, 2002), and interaction with players outside the therapeutic interaction has been discouraged as a boundary violation (Dileo, 2000; Wheeler, 2015). These structures are proposed to offer the privacy, consistency, and safety necessary for developing a therapeutic relationship. This approach assumes a vulnerable client group that requires a protective space, which is provided and safeguarded by the therapist. For some people, such a high-level protection and an expert-driven dynamic may be necessary and appropriate in music therapy. However, it is limiting to assume that all music therapy participants require this level of containment and approach to support. Further, in a recent study of boundaries in music therapy, Medcalf (2016) suggests that many music therapists take a more flexible, reflexive approach in contemporary practice. This supports our proposition that core music therapy principles may require re-examination in light of developments in music therapy theory and practice. We propose a different understanding of relationship building in this paper, specifically for collaborative practice. As practices extend beyond a closed therapy room approach, we explored how notions of relationship building also need to expand. It is not necessary only to develop a relationship with players, but also to foster an identity within the wider community supporting those players. This reflects the ecological ethos of CoMT (Ansdell, 2014; Crooke, 2015; Rickson & McFerran, 2014; Stige & Aarø, 2012). Further, as we take relationship building beyond the confines of the music space, we must also be open to fostering that relationship beyond the confines of musical interaction alone. This is referred to explicitly in a handful of literature, particularly in adolescent practice (Cobbett, 2009; Derrington, 2012) and project-based work (Bolger & McFerran, 2013), and likely reflects the real-life practice of many music therapists. In this study, we identified that these non-musical interactions were not an adjunct to music therapy practice, but a fundamental part of the music therapist’s professional role when taking a collaborative orientation. We use the term “hangout period” to conceptualize this expanded understanding of relationship building for collaboratively oriented music therapy work. The variation in time and format of the hangout period between communities in this study is consistent with contextual CoMT practice generally (Stige et al., 2010). We proposed the resulting guiding questions (outlined in the Results section) to support music therapists to navigate this variation in the progression of the hangout period in their unique contexts. Conclusion Sitting with the chaos of collaboration as it unfolds is challenging. It is also possible to inadvertently fixate on a destination of collaboration or assume this as inevitable, and overlook the critical, preparatory work that is necessary for players to buy in as collaborators. This work requires the conscious, appropriate intent of music therapists to support players to buy in. This is necessary if we are to avoid the development of a tokenistic culture of collaboration in music therapy, which would reinforce traditional power imbalances and undermine rather than empower players (Ocloo & Matthews, 2016). Music therapists need a frame and license for thinking about relationship building when striving for collaboration in CoMT projects. We propose the hangout period as this frame, and suggest that it is not a music therapist’s job to make collaboration happen, but to embody and offer a collaborative intent from which a mutual, shared process may emerge. Dr. Lucy Bolger is a music therapy practitioner scholar whose research primarily focuses on music therapy processes with marginalized young people and communities in community and international development settings. Professor Katrina Skewes McFerran is an international expert on the topic of music, music therapy, and adolescents, and has undertaken a range of studies investigating healthy and unhealthy uses of music with and by young people. Professor Brynjulf Stige has published extensively on topics such as culture-centered music therapy, community music therapy, and music therapy theory. 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The changing context of Australian youth and its implications for social inclusion . Youth Studies Australia , 28 ( 1 ), 46 – 50 . © American Music Therapy Association 2018. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail: journals.permissions@oup.com This article is published and distributed under the terms of the Oxford University Press, Standard Journals Publication Model (https://academic.oup.com/journals/pages/open_access/funder_policies/chorus/standard_publication_model) http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Music Therapy Perspectives Oxford University Press

Hanging out and buying in: Rethinking relationship building to avoid tokenism when striving for collaboration in music therapy

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© American Music Therapy Association 2018. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail: journals.permissions@oup.com
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0734-6875
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Abstract

Abstract The therapeutic relationship is central to music therapy practice. In this article, the authors describe an important thread of learning about relationship building that emerged in an action research project with three communities supporting marginalized young people in Melbourne, Australia. Specifically, this article articulates critical considerations about relationship building for music therapists striving for collaboration in their practice. Collaboration and participatory practice are increasingly described in the music therapy literature, reflecting contemporary notions of inclusion and consumer participation worldwide. As music therapy practices continue to evolve in an increasingly diverse range of contexts, it is important that foundational concepts that underpin music therapy are re-examined to avoid tokenism and ensure best practice. In this article, we propose two aspects of relationship building—“hanging out’ and ‘buying in”—that emerged in this study as essential to music therapy projects with a collaborative orientation. collaboration, relationship building, community music therapy, adolescents, tokenism The term “collaboration” appears frequently in the music therapy literature. However, the concept of collaboration as a process remains underarticulated and relatively unexplored. Collaboration is referred to—directly and indirectly—in a wide array of descriptions of cooperative work: with other professionals (Kildea, 2007; Leung, 2008; Rickson, 2009a, 2012; Turry & Marcus, 2005; Twyford, 2007, 2012; Twyford & Watson, 2008), students (Baker, 2007; Vaillancourt, 2010), engagement with families and carers (Baker, Grocke, & Pachana, 2012; Shoemark, 1996; Shoemark & Dearn, 2008; Thompson, 2012; Thompson, McFerran, & Gold, 2013), whole systems (Rickson & McFerran, 2014; Ragland & Apprey,1974) and, increasingly, when describing work with music therapy participants themselves (Bolger, 2015; Elefant, 2010a; Hense, McFerran, & McGorry, 2014; Hunt 2005; Tuastad, 2014; Warner, 2005). This appears to reflect the growing global understanding that it is empowering for people to be actively engaged in decisions about their health and healthcare (WHO, 1986, 2008), an understanding that is an underlying premise of the research project outlined in this paper. Client participation in decision-making through the “therapeutic alliance” has long been a cornerstone of psychodynamic music therapy practice (Hadley, 2003), and collaboration could be considered a defining feature of culture-centered music therapy practices (Stige, 2002) and feminist orientations to music therapy (Hadley, 2006). As music therapists engage in contemporary practices outside the closed therapy room, this idea has been well documented in the “participatory practices” described by Community Music Therapy (CoMT) scholars (Pavlicevic & Ansdell, 2004; Stige, Ansdell, Elefant, & Pavlicevic, 2010; Stige & Aarø, 2012). Participatory practice is used to describe music therapy processes with an ethos of democracy and equal partnership by Stige and Aarø (2012), who articulate six interconnected participatory processes that they describe as fundamental to participatory practice. These six processes are: “Creating critical awareness, appraising affordances, bonding and bridging, dealing with predicaments, evaluating and adjusting, and communicating and celebrating” (Stige & Aarø, 2012, p. 208). In this paper, we propose that these interconnected participatory processes happen through collaboration, actioned within the interpersonal process in which music therapists engage and negotiate with participants. Thus, we suggest that participatory practice and collaboration in music therapy are related, but not the same thing.1 Rolvsjord (2010) offers an important attempt to define the characteristics of collaboration in music therapy. She proposes that collaboration in music therapy is a shared, dialogic process of negotiation between music therapist and participants that is characterized by equality, mutuality, and active participation in decision-making. This understanding suggests that collaboration is more than active, engaged participation in music therapy activities, common to many music therapy processes. Collaboration also includes the shared negotiation of and responsibility for the purpose and direction of the music therapy process. This understanding of collaboration has been adopted in this study. Barring some notable exceptions, the often broad and general use of the term “collaboration” in the music therapy literature reveals a critical assumption that potentially misrepresents the complexity and the value of collaboration in music therapy. Fundamentally, there often does not appear to be a clear distinction between the intent to collaborate on the part of the therapist and actual, engaged collaboration with participants. This suggests an underlying premise that if a music therapist takes a participatory orientation to practice and attempts to collaborate, participants either automatically become collaborators or inherently benefit. However, this premise is not reasonable. Music therapy researchers using collaborative approaches describe navigating complex negotiations with participants. These include working to establish a shared vision for the research project, both between participants and with the music therapist (Bolger, 2013; Hunt, 2005; Rickson, 2009b); developing effective links and understandings between participants with different roles (Hense, 2015; Rickson, 2012; Warner, 2005; Elefant, 2010a, 2010b); understanding and accurately representing participants’ interest in the wider implications of their project (McFerran & Hunt, 2008); and navigating power dynamics and authentically representing participants’ voices (Bolger, 2013; Hense, 2015; Tuastad, 2014; Warner, 2005), to name a few. These negotiations are not barriers to collaboration. Rather, they are part of the collaborative process itself, and it is in the act of engaging in these negotiations that the potential value of collaboration in music therapy lies. The studies above offer important descriptions of music therapy research collaborations with different community populations, from disability (Rickson, 2012; Warner, 2005; Elefant, 2010a, 2010b) to mental health care (Hense, 2015), from ex-prison inmates (Tuastad, 2014) to marginalized youth (Bolger, 2013, 2015; Hunt, 2005, 2006). They describe complex and contextual processes that are neither straightforward nor inevitably successful—processes that are intentionally and thoughtfully facilitated, supported, and engaged with. Currently, the music therapy discourse reflects a broad understanding that participating in decision-making is a good thing for music therapy participants. In addition, specific, located examples of music therapy collaboration with participants exist, such as those cited above. Further, the wide use of the term “collaborate” in the literature suggests recognition that collaboration is a concept relevant to some music therapy practices. However, further practical understanding and articulation is needed in order that collaboration may continue to develop as a useful practice in music therapy, and not become a generalized buzzword. Or worse, that unexamined assumptions about collaboration lead to tokenistic practices that do not adequately empower music therapy participants to be mutual, engaged collaborators. Ocloo and Matthews (2016) define tokenism as “asking for involvement but not taking it seriously or enabling it to be effective” (p. 3). Tokenism is still common in the participatory practices of health and community programs (Head, 2007; Tritter, 2009) and research (Brett et al., 2012) in Western nations, in spite of supportive social policy (Ocloo & Matthews, 2016; Head, 2007). Authors suggest that this may be due to both the practical and ideological complexity of a participatory approach to practice. Underrepresented and marginalized groups—such as children, persons with disabilities and/or health challenges, and ethnic minorities—are identified as particularly vulnerable to tokenistic attempts at collaboration, as group leaders may inadvertently prioritize accommodating or straightforward participants who are easiest to engage (Beresford, 2013; Hart, 2008; Ocloo and Matthews, 2016). Greater consideration and understanding of collaboration in music therapy is required to avoid tokenism and promote empowerment. This is particularly relevant for music therapists who work with underrepresented or marginalized groups. Hadley (2013) powerfully articulates how tokenism such as this in the creative arts therapies perpetuates subjugating narratives that exclude minority voices. Music therapists striving for collaboration must be vigilant regarding tokenism to ensure that not just the “easy” voices are represented; that all players are empowered to buy in if they so choose. Studies suggest that the most successful participant involvement occurs when people are adequately prepared. Head (2007) cites the need to build effective capacity in people in order to foster community sector engagement. A review of participant involvement in health and social research (Brett et al., 2012) found that investment in preparation, planning, and training of participants allowed participant input to have the most impact. The scope of participant involvement examined in these studies was wider than collaboration alone, but the notion of preparing participants to engage as collaborators resonates with the concepts explored here. Method In this paper, we outline an important thread of learning from a recent study of collaborative process in music therapy. The study was an action research project that explored the process and meaning of collaboration in participatory music projects with three communities supporting marginalized young people. The overall learning from this study is reported elsewhere (Bolger, 2015). However, a particularly interesting thread of the project emerged as deeply relevant to music therapy practice, and provides new insight into collaborative practice in community settings. We feel that this warrants specific, targeted articulation, and this will be the focus of this article. This thread elaborates a particular theme—building relationships—that emerged from the analysis of collaborative process in this study. In the current paper, we focus specifically on this “relationship building” thread of learning. We expand significantly on the information provided in the previous foundational publication from this study (Bolger, 2015) and look more deeply at the real-world implications of this important thread of learning for music therapy practice. We choose to highlight this learning in this publication, as we believe it offers new and important considerations that may support music therapists striving for collaboration in their practice. Overall Project Summary In order to contextualize the learning reported in this paper, we first provide a brief summary of the broader action research project from which this thread of knowledge emerged. The researchers took a participatory approach to the research project (Stige & McFerran, 2016). Two key theorists informed this approach. Lewin (1946) proposed that people should be involved in research that is about them, and that society as a whole benefits if minority perspectives are heard and acknowledged. Freire (1972) proposed that oppression is a phenomenon that occurs through mutual acceptance between the oppressor and the oppressed, and that liberation comes through knowledge and the opportunity to critically assess one’s own life. Drawing on these theories, the underlying participatory stance informing the design and method of this research project was that: 1. Knowledge is power 2. People should be involved in research that is about them 3. Knowledge generated in research should be relevant and accessible to the people being “studied,” to the extent that they are interested in receiving it. An action research design was selected for this study. This was a logical choice given the participatory orientation outlined above and the collaborative focus of the study. Action research has been described as an emergent, iterative research process that unfolds in cycles of action and reflection (Kemmis & McTaggart, 2005; McIntyre, 2008). In action research, observations and reflections from each action cycle inform the planning and action of the subsequent research cycle (McIntyre, 2008). This study emerged over nine action cycles. They spanned all phases of the project, from design to implementation to analysis and reporting. The project received university ethics board approval. Ethics amendments were submitted and approved throughout the project whenever study design changes emerged out of the ongoing process of action and reflection with participants. Participants as Players In action research, participants are engaged as co-researchers in their research project, and participate collaboratively in research planning, implementation, analysis, and reporting. In this study, we appropriated the term “players” when referring to the co-researchers. We found it to be a naturally musical term, often used with reference to players in a band or orchestra. It was also a lighthearted way to challenge typical power structures, since players are thought to be engaged actors, not passive subjects. This reflected our commitment to ensuring that the young people’s voices were justly represented in this research. It also felt more relevant than the term “co-researcher,” which we experienced as alienating for adolescents in the study. This term emerged out of the research process and in collaboration with other colleagues,2 and will be used in this paper forthwith. Another term that emerged in this study was “music worker,” used to describe the music therapist—another player in this study. In this community environment, the term “therapist” was uncommon and inaccessible. Players were all told that the music worker was a qualified music therapist; however, we adopted the term “music worker” to contextualize and clearly communicate the music therapist’s role as both a musical and a support professional for young people. The term “worker” was commonly used to describe support professionals, and young people regularly relied upon social workers, caseworkers, and youth workers. The term “worker” appeared to represent a person whom the young people could rely upon for help and support, whom they may have expectations of, and who may have expectations of them. Members of three different community organizations supporting three separate groups of marginalized young people in urban Melbourne agreed to be players in this study. Music projects were conducted with each community, and both young people and key staff members engaged as players. By way of introduction to community players, each community project is briefly summarized below. More detailed accounts of these projects are available (Bolger, 2015). The drop-in group was a weekly music project that ran as part of a youth drop-in program at a local neighborhood house. The young people involved were aged between 13 and 18 years, and were from a local public housing community. This is a multicultural, high-density community with a rich and diverse culture, but very limited financial resources and pervasive challenges with drug dealing and gang violence. This music project attracted a revolving group of players on different weeks; however, a core group of four young people engaged fairly consistently on the project. These four players chose to set up a band and rehearsed weekly over a nine-month period, joined periodically by other interested young people. As a band, the players performed a popular song at a local community performance, and later wrote and professionally recorded an original song. The therapeutic camp group involved young people between the ages of 13 and 18 and was part of a program that ran weekend and weeklong therapeutic camps. They were at risk of, or currently living in, “out-of-home care,” a system of group homes for young people who have not thrived in foster care. These young people lived in complex and unstable home environments, and their lives often lacked a sense of personal safety and security, compounded for some by mental health challenges and disability. The music project evolved over six months during intensive bursts at weekend and weeklong camps. The players were twelve young people, and their music project revolved around a group songwriting process. The music project also included song sharing and recording, and culminated in a group performance for their wider community. The music project in the share home group was run in the living room of a house that provides a supportive, home-like environment for homeless youth. The players were between 18 and 22 years of age and had experienced extended periods of homelessness. Many had experienced violence, neglect, abandonment, and interrupted schooling, and had been forced to leave home due to physical, verbal, or sexual abuse. Four young people engaged in the project, which involved fortnightly evening sessions over three months, with each lasting three to four hours. Their chosen music project was a series of individual and small-group projects, including song sharing, singing, songwriting, and instrument instruction, and, for some players, a home-based performance for their supporting community. There were both similarities and differences in the participatory music projects described above. We did not seek homogeneity in the groups. Collaboration is an inherently contextual, interpersonal process, and we sought to allow this inevitable contextual variation to be reflected in the understanding of collaboration developed in this study. The first author, a qualified music therapist, was a consistent player in each project. As the music worker for each project, she supported and facilitated the collaborative process with community players. This involved ongoing coordination and organization in response to the ideas proposed by the other players. All projects involved songwriting, performance, song singing, instrument playing, and recording, although these emerged differently in each community. These elements of the music projects were common between communities. There was variation in the demographics of the young people in this study: the number of young people involved; their style of attendance (regular, intensive, or drop-in); their personal life challenges. However, all were within the age range of 12–24 that classifies them as “youth” in Australia (Australian Government, 2010). The youth players in this study also shared a lack of access to social and musical opportunities that were available to average Australian young people. We have adopted the term “marginalized” to reflect this, as we feel this term acknowledges the external barriers to access that marginalize players, rather than problematizing the young people themselves (te Riele, 2006). Young people were chosen as the focus for this study for several reasons. We identified the role of music therapy with adolescents as an area of interest and experience in the research milieu in Australia. Additionally, adolescents often have strong, even profound relationships with music (McFerran, 2010; Saarikallio & Erkkila, 2007). We therefore felt confident that there would be young people interested in exploring collaboration through musical experiences. Further, youth participation is a growing priority in public policy both locally (Vromen & Collin, 2010; Wyn, 2009) and globally (UN Assembly, 1989) and we believed music therapy might be uniquely placed to support this agenda. Gathering and Analyzing Data Players were invited and supported to participate not only in their chosen music activities, but also in decision-making about the direction and purpose of each project. This occurred both incidentally throughout the process, and formally in interviews and focus groups at the end of each of the three or four cycles of action and reflection that occurred in each group. Youth-oriented and creative approaches were used to ensure that the decision-making process was meaningful and accessible for the young people. Techniques included using video and photos, making large-group “brainstorm boards,” and conversations combined with meals or snacks. Subsequently, data developed through this process took a variety of formats. These included the therapist’s session notes, group brainstorm notes, video and audio interviews, and focus group recordings, photographs, and songs. The music worker played a connecting role between the three separate community projects. At the end of each action cycle, she synthesized all the data generated by all three communities during the cycle. She then brought the overall conclusions from the cycle back to communities for their input and feedback and plans were then developed together for the subsequent action cycle. In keeping with action research design, we adopted an emergent approach to the analysis of data. The analysis process was informed by hermeneutics (Thistelton, 2009) and grounded theory (Corbin & Strauss, 2008). This emerged as a process of progressive abstraction that occurred in cycles of interpretation. Analysis began with the synthesized data that the music worker had developed and discussed with players at the conclusion of each action cycle. This data was iteratively interrogated in the following stages: - Abstraction of the data: We grouped raw data into concepts that related to different aspects of collaborative process. We then further grouped these concepts into broader categories. When developing the categories, we examined the concepts from different perspectives on collaborative process—such as temporal, causal, contextual—and actively interrogated the data for different and conflicting ways of understanding the process of collaboration. Ultimately, we sought to find out what ways of understanding were most useful, and this informed our decision-making. - Developing a structure of collaborative process: We subsequently organized the concepts and categories into a structure of collaborative process. The structure incorporated aspects of the different perspectives explored in the analysis, and became the basic conceptual understanding of collaborative process that emerged from this analysis. It centered around three “core dialogues” that we identified as emerging in two progressive periods of the collaborative process (see Figure 1). - Elaborating on contextual variation in the structure of collaborative process: We then examined how each of these “core dialogues” had emerged with the three different participating communities in this study. We compared the collaborative process with each community in order to identify and articulate variation in how this occurred across contexts. This was considered critical given the CoMT focus of this study, which emphasizes contextual understandings of practice (Stige et al., 2010). This variation emerged as features of each core dialogue that influenced the way collaboration emerged in different contexts (see Table 1 in the Results section). Figure 1. View largeDownload slide Identifies patterns of collaborative process and three core dialogues that occur between players in collaboration. Figure 1. View largeDownload slide Identifies patterns of collaborative process and three core dialogues that occur between players in collaboration. Table 1 Contextual Factors Impacting the Process of Collaboration The hangout period Core dialogue between players Considerations influencing community players’ input Features of music therapist contribution Variation between communities Relationship Building - How complex is the participating community? - How integrated is the program into the surrounding community? - What is the hangout culture in this community? - The music therapist’s identity E.g.:   - Musical   - Therapeutic   - Gender-based   - Cultural - Self-reflexive boundaries - Context-specific role descriptions • Time required • Format Collaboration period Core dialogue between players Considerations influencing community players’ input Features of music therapist contribution Variation between communities Negotiating Purpose - How much responsibility do target players have in this community? - Why are players engaging in the music project? - Do players have individual or shared goals? - Music skills   - Technical skills   - Knowledge of methods   - Breadth of project ideas - Therapy skills   - Realistic perspective   - Understanding of group dynamics   - Balance of directive vs. supportive role - New perspective on needs • Project type • Approach to collaboration Developing expectations and structure - Is the community coming to the music project or is the music project coming to the community? - Is there an existing sense of group membership and belonging? - Ongoing reflexivity - Flexibility   - In response to changes in dynamics   - In response to players’ energy on the day • Responsibilities of different players • Degree of structure required The hangout period Core dialogue between players Considerations influencing community players’ input Features of music therapist contribution Variation between communities Relationship Building - How complex is the participating community? - How integrated is the program into the surrounding community? - What is the hangout culture in this community? - The music therapist’s identity E.g.:   - Musical   - Therapeutic   - Gender-based   - Cultural - Self-reflexive boundaries - Context-specific role descriptions • Time required • Format Collaboration period Core dialogue between players Considerations influencing community players’ input Features of music therapist contribution Variation between communities Negotiating Purpose - How much responsibility do target players have in this community? - Why are players engaging in the music project? - Do players have individual or shared goals? - Music skills   - Technical skills   - Knowledge of methods   - Breadth of project ideas - Therapy skills   - Realistic perspective   - Understanding of group dynamics   - Balance of directive vs. supportive role - New perspective on needs • Project type • Approach to collaboration Developing expectations and structure - Is the community coming to the music project or is the music project coming to the community? - Is there an existing sense of group membership and belonging? - Ongoing reflexivity - Flexibility   - In response to changes in dynamics   - In response to players’ energy on the day • Responsibilities of different players • Degree of structure required View Large Table 1 Contextual Factors Impacting the Process of Collaboration The hangout period Core dialogue between players Considerations influencing community players’ input Features of music therapist contribution Variation between communities Relationship Building - How complex is the participating community? - How integrated is the program into the surrounding community? - What is the hangout culture in this community? - The music therapist’s identity E.g.:   - Musical   - Therapeutic   - Gender-based   - Cultural - Self-reflexive boundaries - Context-specific role descriptions • Time required • Format Collaboration period Core dialogue between players Considerations influencing community players’ input Features of music therapist contribution Variation between communities Negotiating Purpose - How much responsibility do target players have in this community? - Why are players engaging in the music project? - Do players have individual or shared goals? - Music skills   - Technical skills   - Knowledge of methods   - Breadth of project ideas - Therapy skills   - Realistic perspective   - Understanding of group dynamics   - Balance of directive vs. supportive role - New perspective on needs • Project type • Approach to collaboration Developing expectations and structure - Is the community coming to the music project or is the music project coming to the community? - Is there an existing sense of group membership and belonging? - Ongoing reflexivity - Flexibility   - In response to changes in dynamics   - In response to players’ energy on the day • Responsibilities of different players • Degree of structure required The hangout period Core dialogue between players Considerations influencing community players’ input Features of music therapist contribution Variation between communities Relationship Building - How complex is the participating community? - How integrated is the program into the surrounding community? - What is the hangout culture in this community? - The music therapist’s identity E.g.:   - Musical   - Therapeutic   - Gender-based   - Cultural - Self-reflexive boundaries - Context-specific role descriptions • Time required • Format Collaboration period Core dialogue between players Considerations influencing community players’ input Features of music therapist contribution Variation between communities Negotiating Purpose - How much responsibility do target players have in this community? - Why are players engaging in the music project? - Do players have individual or shared goals? - Music skills   - Technical skills   - Knowledge of methods   - Breadth of project ideas - Therapy skills   - Realistic perspective   - Understanding of group dynamics   - Balance of directive vs. supportive role - New perspective on needs • Project type • Approach to collaboration Developing expectations and structure - Is the community coming to the music project or is the music project coming to the community? - Is there an existing sense of group membership and belonging? - Ongoing reflexivity - Flexibility   - In response to changes in dynamics   - In response to players’ energy on the day • Responsibilities of different players • Degree of structure required View Large Results As summarized in Table 1, the analysis of collaborative process in this study identified two periods of collaborative process: a hangout period and a collaboration period. The key distinction between these two periods is in the nature of players’ involvement. In the hangout period, players are participants, but not yet involved as mutual, engaged decision-makers who share power and responsibility for the CoMT process. We learned that the transition from the hangout period to the collaboration period occurs when players choose to take on this decision-making role, a choice we term “buying in” to collaboration (Bolger, 2015). We identified this buy-in as a critical transition point that is uniquely vital to music projects striving for collaboration. Buy-in reflects a choice by players to share power and responsibility for their music project with the music therapist, creating the mutual dynamic necessary for collaboration. Hanging out and buying in emerged as critical aspects of relationship building in this study. In the remainder of this paper, we elucidate this particular thread of learning and how it emerged. In particular, we propose characteristics of relationship building in CoMT projects with a collaborative orientation. We emphasize this thread of learning particularly as we believe that new insight about relationship building from this study offers critical information for music therapists striving for collaboration in their practice. Specifically: That there is a difference between the intent to collaborate and collaboration in CoMT projects, and That knowledge of particular considerations impacting the relationship building process may maximize the potential for collaborative intent to develop into mutual, shared collaboration. The Difference Between Intent to Collaborate and Collaboration: The Emergence of “the Hangout Period” It was an initial, unsuccessful attempt to engage young people in collaboration that first highlighted the importance of the hangout period. The music worker’s description of this experience with the community that became the drop-in group is outlined below. In action cycle three of this study, I initiated a series of introductory music sessions at a community center with some young women from an inner urban public housing community. This was the first music group with the first community to engage in the project. The purpose of the introductory sessions was to get to know one another before inviting the young women to participate in the research project. Community center staff suggested we start the program with a small group and allow it to grow by word of mouth, as was the community culture. Initially two young women were engaged in the program. They decided on a “singing lesson” focus. We met weekly at the community center, but worked in a portable room located in the adjacent garden, separate to the main building. The introductory sessions ran for four weeks, up until the end of the school term. One young woman was particularly focused, and several others came to try out the program. At the end of term we made a plan to resume after school holidays. I aimed to recruit the committed young woman into the study then, and build the group from there. When I returned after the school holidays, she did not come to the session, in spite of text message reminders. Nor did she come the following week. I did not know why she stopped coming and I was not adequately engaged in the community to find out if she needed additional support to attend. Was she required to babysit for her younger siblings during this time, a reality for many young women in this community? Did she have other conflicting commitments to school or after-school activities? Had she grown tired of the sessions? Even if I had been able to contact the young woman directly, I did not know if she would tell me the real reason, or give me the reason she thought I wanted to hear. We had not yet developed a strong enough rapport for her to necessarily trust me with her opinions or personal challenges. This example illustrated the limits of conventional, in-session rapport building that are the cornerstone of traditional music therapy practice. These processes proved to be inadequate in a community context where the surrounding infrastructure was not designed to bring young people to sessions as part of a predetermined timetable. Learning from this action cycle suggested that traditional rapport building approaches did not translate directly to collaborative, CoMT practice. In this example, the music worker was coming into the community once a week and working in a separate, designated portable space. Traditionally, this would have been a common and generous music therapy setup. However, it did not allow the music worker to be integrated enough into the community to effectively and responsively support an emergent collaborative process. In reflection with community players, we identified a need to spend time “hanging out” in the community before engaging in a collaboration, in order to build relationships with players and develop an identity in the community. In subsequent action cycles we applied this learning to the community above and two others that became the three participatory music projects of this study. The music worker widened the scope of her relationship building to encompass the community surrounding the young people as a whole. This hangout period looked different with each community, and included both musical and non-musical activities. However, with each community we identified a point where there was a shift in the engagement that transitioned the music project from a pre-collaborative to a collaborative dynamic. The music worker describes what this looked like with the drop-in group featured in the previous example: We had completed a small community performance, and we were debriefing as a group the following week. I noticed a tangible shift in some of the young people’s engagement. As well as their reflections, they had opinions and ideas about how things were going and what we should do next. Before then I had been the one making suggestions and directing the process. They had been happy to be involved, but this was different. They were more invested. Variations in Relationship Building When Striving for Collaboration This broader approach to relationship building as a hangout period appeared to effectively support players to buy in to the music projects in this study. However, our comparative analysis of the hangout periods in this study identified significant variations in the way the hangout period played out in different music projects. The first was the format of the hangout period. Both musical and non-musical hanging out occurred with all groups, but evolved uniquely in different contexts. With the drop-in group, hanging out primarily involved preparing for and executing a community-based performance with the young people; with the therapeutic camp group, it involved engaging in the general structured activities of the therapeutic camp, such as horse-riding, cups of tea, and listening to music; with the share home group, it involved having dinner together where we shared discussion and some music. The second significant variation between groups was the time required for relationship building. With the drop-in group, the hangout period took three months of weekly two-hour contact; with the therapeutic camp, the hangout period occurred over one weeklong and one weekend camp of intensive, 24-hour contact; with the share home group, this was completed in four hours, over the course of just one evening. Variations are expected in context-dependent CoMT practice. However, while this thread of learning indicated that time invested in the hangout period would support players to buy in to collaboration, we had also learned that it was challenging to wait and hold this process and not fall back into traditional music therapy processes and dynamics that are incompatible with a collaborative approach to practice. So, we further pursued this thread by examining how the characteristics of different community contexts influenced the length and format of the hangout period. In doing so, we sought to identify any principles that might support music therapists to hold this tension in collaborative practice in the future. The learning from this analysis is presented in Table 2 (below). Table 2 Comparative Analysis of Contextual Variation in the Hangout Period of Music Projects in This Study Drop-in group Therapeutic camp group Share home group Brief description of the hangout periods with each community The hangout period for this music project involved working toward a community performance with the young people, and evolved over 3 months of weekly contact. The hangout period for this music project involved participation in a weeklong and a weekend camp with the young people. This included planned group activities such as horse riding, campfires, and cups of tea, as well a group sing- alongs and incidental conversations about music. The hangout period for this music project involved an introductory conversation over a single 3-hour dinner, including some basic playing and listening to preferred music. Community characteristics impacting the format of the hangout period Drop-in group Therapeutic camp group Share home group Existing hangout culture of community The existing structures and spaces through which the community naturally already spends time together - No regular gathering space for whole community - Event-based hangout culture— periodic community celebrations and festivals - Hangout space was temporary and event-oriented - Hanging out required deliberate planning and coordination - The camp itself was a hangout environment, with a mixture of designated “down time” and structured group activities - There was a central table and couches where the group naturally congregated to “chill out” and spend time together - Hanging out was embedded into the overall structure of the camp schedule - A home environment. Hanging out involved sitting around the table with a cup of tea or a meal and having a chat - Permanent communal hangout space for gathering that was accessed by all - Hanging out was informal and spontaneous, based on who was home Impact on hangout period No permanent hangout space and event-based hangout culture = more structure and facilitation of hangout period required Embedded hangout culture and designated hangout space and pre-structured activities = Less facilitation and structure required (used existing), hangout process spontaneously integrated into existing program Home environment: Permanent communal areas and home-based routines, individual housemate schedules = No facilitation required (structure determined entirely by the housemates), hangout process emerged spontaneously over a house dinner Community characteristics impacting time needed for the hangout period Drop-in group Therapeutic camp group Share home group Complexity of community The number of different people, services, and structures that surrounded and were involved with the young people, comprising their supporting community High complexity The music project was embedded in a community made up of a diverse group of players made up of ethnically diverse residents, and multiple community workers, youth workers, government staff, and case managers Low complexity The music project was embedded in a youth program supporting a single, homogeneous group of players. The direct supporting community for the program was small cohort of staff and volunteers from a single community organization Low complexity The music project was embedded in a residential home supporting a single, homogeneous group of players. The direct supporting community for the household was very small cohort of staff from a single community organization Level of integration The extent to which the program housing the music project was integrated into the wider community High integration A multilayered community with ongoing interaction between individual residents, interest groups, multiple community organizations and government agencies Low integration The organization running the youth program was part of a wider system of support services for the young people, including government agencies and caseworkers, but these external support services were not closely linked to the youth program Very low integration The residential home was part of a statewide network of homes with ongoing access to designated support workers, but the homes were run independently of one another, aside from occasional celebrations or events Impact on hangout period Complex layers, players, and politics in the community = more time required to build relationships effectively Few layers, players, and politics in the community = Less time required to build relationships effectively Very few layers, players, and politics in the community = Less time required to build relationships effectively Drop-in group Therapeutic camp group Share home group Brief description of the hangout periods with each community The hangout period for this music project involved working toward a community performance with the young people, and evolved over 3 months of weekly contact. The hangout period for this music project involved participation in a weeklong and a weekend camp with the young people. This included planned group activities such as horse riding, campfires, and cups of tea, as well a group sing- alongs and incidental conversations about music. The hangout period for this music project involved an introductory conversation over a single 3-hour dinner, including some basic playing and listening to preferred music. Community characteristics impacting the format of the hangout period Drop-in group Therapeutic camp group Share home group Existing hangout culture of community The existing structures and spaces through which the community naturally already spends time together - No regular gathering space for whole community - Event-based hangout culture— periodic community celebrations and festivals - Hangout space was temporary and event-oriented - Hanging out required deliberate planning and coordination - The camp itself was a hangout environment, with a mixture of designated “down time” and structured group activities - There was a central table and couches where the group naturally congregated to “chill out” and spend time together - Hanging out was embedded into the overall structure of the camp schedule - A home environment. Hanging out involved sitting around the table with a cup of tea or a meal and having a chat - Permanent communal hangout space for gathering that was accessed by all - Hanging out was informal and spontaneous, based on who was home Impact on hangout period No permanent hangout space and event-based hangout culture = more structure and facilitation of hangout period required Embedded hangout culture and designated hangout space and pre-structured activities = Less facilitation and structure required (used existing), hangout process spontaneously integrated into existing program Home environment: Permanent communal areas and home-based routines, individual housemate schedules = No facilitation required (structure determined entirely by the housemates), hangout process emerged spontaneously over a house dinner Community characteristics impacting time needed for the hangout period Drop-in group Therapeutic camp group Share home group Complexity of community The number of different people, services, and structures that surrounded and were involved with the young people, comprising their supporting community High complexity The music project was embedded in a community made up of a diverse group of players made up of ethnically diverse residents, and multiple community workers, youth workers, government staff, and case managers Low complexity The music project was embedded in a youth program supporting a single, homogeneous group of players. The direct supporting community for the program was small cohort of staff and volunteers from a single community organization Low complexity The music project was embedded in a residential home supporting a single, homogeneous group of players. The direct supporting community for the household was very small cohort of staff from a single community organization Level of integration The extent to which the program housing the music project was integrated into the wider community High integration A multilayered community with ongoing interaction between individual residents, interest groups, multiple community organizations and government agencies Low integration The organization running the youth program was part of a wider system of support services for the young people, including government agencies and caseworkers, but these external support services were not closely linked to the youth program Very low integration The residential home was part of a statewide network of homes with ongoing access to designated support workers, but the homes were run independently of one another, aside from occasional celebrations or events Impact on hangout period Complex layers, players, and politics in the community = more time required to build relationships effectively Few layers, players, and politics in the community = Less time required to build relationships effectively Very few layers, players, and politics in the community = Less time required to build relationships effectively View Large Table 2 Comparative Analysis of Contextual Variation in the Hangout Period of Music Projects in This Study Drop-in group Therapeutic camp group Share home group Brief description of the hangout periods with each community The hangout period for this music project involved working toward a community performance with the young people, and evolved over 3 months of weekly contact. The hangout period for this music project involved participation in a weeklong and a weekend camp with the young people. This included planned group activities such as horse riding, campfires, and cups of tea, as well a group sing- alongs and incidental conversations about music. The hangout period for this music project involved an introductory conversation over a single 3-hour dinner, including some basic playing and listening to preferred music. Community characteristics impacting the format of the hangout period Drop-in group Therapeutic camp group Share home group Existing hangout culture of community The existing structures and spaces through which the community naturally already spends time together - No regular gathering space for whole community - Event-based hangout culture— periodic community celebrations and festivals - Hangout space was temporary and event-oriented - Hanging out required deliberate planning and coordination - The camp itself was a hangout environment, with a mixture of designated “down time” and structured group activities - There was a central table and couches where the group naturally congregated to “chill out” and spend time together - Hanging out was embedded into the overall structure of the camp schedule - A home environment. Hanging out involved sitting around the table with a cup of tea or a meal and having a chat - Permanent communal hangout space for gathering that was accessed by all - Hanging out was informal and spontaneous, based on who was home Impact on hangout period No permanent hangout space and event-based hangout culture = more structure and facilitation of hangout period required Embedded hangout culture and designated hangout space and pre-structured activities = Less facilitation and structure required (used existing), hangout process spontaneously integrated into existing program Home environment: Permanent communal areas and home-based routines, individual housemate schedules = No facilitation required (structure determined entirely by the housemates), hangout process emerged spontaneously over a house dinner Community characteristics impacting time needed for the hangout period Drop-in group Therapeutic camp group Share home group Complexity of community The number of different people, services, and structures that surrounded and were involved with the young people, comprising their supporting community High complexity The music project was embedded in a community made up of a diverse group of players made up of ethnically diverse residents, and multiple community workers, youth workers, government staff, and case managers Low complexity The music project was embedded in a youth program supporting a single, homogeneous group of players. The direct supporting community for the program was small cohort of staff and volunteers from a single community organization Low complexity The music project was embedded in a residential home supporting a single, homogeneous group of players. The direct supporting community for the household was very small cohort of staff from a single community organization Level of integration The extent to which the program housing the music project was integrated into the wider community High integration A multilayered community with ongoing interaction between individual residents, interest groups, multiple community organizations and government agencies Low integration The organization running the youth program was part of a wider system of support services for the young people, including government agencies and caseworkers, but these external support services were not closely linked to the youth program Very low integration The residential home was part of a statewide network of homes with ongoing access to designated support workers, but the homes were run independently of one another, aside from occasional celebrations or events Impact on hangout period Complex layers, players, and politics in the community = more time required to build relationships effectively Few layers, players, and politics in the community = Less time required to build relationships effectively Very few layers, players, and politics in the community = Less time required to build relationships effectively Drop-in group Therapeutic camp group Share home group Brief description of the hangout periods with each community The hangout period for this music project involved working toward a community performance with the young people, and evolved over 3 months of weekly contact. The hangout period for this music project involved participation in a weeklong and a weekend camp with the young people. This included planned group activities such as horse riding, campfires, and cups of tea, as well a group sing- alongs and incidental conversations about music. The hangout period for this music project involved an introductory conversation over a single 3-hour dinner, including some basic playing and listening to preferred music. Community characteristics impacting the format of the hangout period Drop-in group Therapeutic camp group Share home group Existing hangout culture of community The existing structures and spaces through which the community naturally already spends time together - No regular gathering space for whole community - Event-based hangout culture— periodic community celebrations and festivals - Hangout space was temporary and event-oriented - Hanging out required deliberate planning and coordination - The camp itself was a hangout environment, with a mixture of designated “down time” and structured group activities - There was a central table and couches where the group naturally congregated to “chill out” and spend time together - Hanging out was embedded into the overall structure of the camp schedule - A home environment. Hanging out involved sitting around the table with a cup of tea or a meal and having a chat - Permanent communal hangout space for gathering that was accessed by all - Hanging out was informal and spontaneous, based on who was home Impact on hangout period No permanent hangout space and event-based hangout culture = more structure and facilitation of hangout period required Embedded hangout culture and designated hangout space and pre-structured activities = Less facilitation and structure required (used existing), hangout process spontaneously integrated into existing program Home environment: Permanent communal areas and home-based routines, individual housemate schedules = No facilitation required (structure determined entirely by the housemates), hangout process emerged spontaneously over a house dinner Community characteristics impacting time needed for the hangout period Drop-in group Therapeutic camp group Share home group Complexity of community The number of different people, services, and structures that surrounded and were involved with the young people, comprising their supporting community High complexity The music project was embedded in a community made up of a diverse group of players made up of ethnically diverse residents, and multiple community workers, youth workers, government staff, and case managers Low complexity The music project was embedded in a youth program supporting a single, homogeneous group of players. The direct supporting community for the program was small cohort of staff and volunteers from a single community organization Low complexity The music project was embedded in a residential home supporting a single, homogeneous group of players. The direct supporting community for the household was very small cohort of staff from a single community organization Level of integration The extent to which the program housing the music project was integrated into the wider community High integration A multilayered community with ongoing interaction between individual residents, interest groups, multiple community organizations and government agencies Low integration The organization running the youth program was part of a wider system of support services for the young people, including government agencies and caseworkers, but these external support services were not closely linked to the youth program Very low integration The residential home was part of a statewide network of homes with ongoing access to designated support workers, but the homes were run independently of one another, aside from occasional celebrations or events Impact on hangout period Complex layers, players, and politics in the community = more time required to build relationships effectively Few layers, players, and politics in the community = Less time required to build relationships effectively Very few layers, players, and politics in the community = Less time required to build relationships effectively View Large The comparative reflection presented in Table 2 above indicates three characteristics of the community contexts in this study that impacted the time needed to build relationships and the format of the hangout period. This learning suggests that building relationships with communities is impacted by both the complexity of the community surrounding the program—the layers, players, and politics—and how integrated the program is into the community. A further characteristic impacting on relationship building is the nature of the existing community hangout culture—the structures and spaces the community already uses to gather and connect. This interpretation is reflected in the questions below, which aim to guide music therapists striving for collaboration in the future: How complex is the participating community? Learning from this study suggests that the greater the number of layers, players, and politics of the supporting community, the more time may be needed to build relationships. How integrated is the program into the surrounding community? Learning from this study suggests that the more integrated a program is into the surrounding community, the more time may be needed to negotiate the dynamics of the community and build relationships with players. What is the hangout culture in this community? Is there a space where people hang out together? Learning from this study suggests that the format of the hangout period needs to be informed by the hangout culture of the community and engage with the existing spaces and structures in place. Relationship building is likely to take longer in communities that do not have an existing space to gather and spend time together. In these communities, a more planned approach may be required to target the way in which community is enacted in that context. Discussion In this paper, we have focused specifically on one thread of inquiry—relationship building—because it emerged from this study as a learning that had specific, real-world implications for music therapists striving for collaboration in their practice. It also reflects a broader, critical conversation that the global music therapy community must continue to have as music therapy practice further diversifies in response to changes in the understanding and delivery of healthcare around the world (Ansdell, 2002; Rolvsjord, 2010; Stige, 2016). A number of theoretical texts thoughtfully articulate and interpret the impact this development on the music therapy discipline as a whole (Bruscia, 2014; Bunt & Stige, 2014; Ruud, 2010). However, as the music therapy profession extends into new contexts and cultures and beyond traditional therapy spaces, we must also re-examine and contextualize our understanding of core music therapy principles. This is crucial to safe and effective music therapy work across the spectrum of practice. In this research project, we specifically elaborated on how traditional understandings of relationship building in music therapy have limits that need to be rethought when working outside traditional music therapy contexts. Historically in traditional/expert models of music therapy, music therapists have been advised of the need for a designated, separate music therapy space and consistent session time (Bunt & Hoskyns, 2002), and interaction with players outside the therapeutic interaction has been discouraged as a boundary violation (Dileo, 2000; Wheeler, 2015). These structures are proposed to offer the privacy, consistency, and safety necessary for developing a therapeutic relationship. This approach assumes a vulnerable client group that requires a protective space, which is provided and safeguarded by the therapist. For some people, such a high-level protection and an expert-driven dynamic may be necessary and appropriate in music therapy. However, it is limiting to assume that all music therapy participants require this level of containment and approach to support. Further, in a recent study of boundaries in music therapy, Medcalf (2016) suggests that many music therapists take a more flexible, reflexive approach in contemporary practice. This supports our proposition that core music therapy principles may require re-examination in light of developments in music therapy theory and practice. We propose a different understanding of relationship building in this paper, specifically for collaborative practice. As practices extend beyond a closed therapy room approach, we explored how notions of relationship building also need to expand. It is not necessary only to develop a relationship with players, but also to foster an identity within the wider community supporting those players. This reflects the ecological ethos of CoMT (Ansdell, 2014; Crooke, 2015; Rickson & McFerran, 2014; Stige & Aarø, 2012). Further, as we take relationship building beyond the confines of the music space, we must also be open to fostering that relationship beyond the confines of musical interaction alone. This is referred to explicitly in a handful of literature, particularly in adolescent practice (Cobbett, 2009; Derrington, 2012) and project-based work (Bolger & McFerran, 2013), and likely reflects the real-life practice of many music therapists. In this study, we identified that these non-musical interactions were not an adjunct to music therapy practice, but a fundamental part of the music therapist’s professional role when taking a collaborative orientation. We use the term “hangout period” to conceptualize this expanded understanding of relationship building for collaboratively oriented music therapy work. The variation in time and format of the hangout period between communities in this study is consistent with contextual CoMT practice generally (Stige et al., 2010). We proposed the resulting guiding questions (outlined in the Results section) to support music therapists to navigate this variation in the progression of the hangout period in their unique contexts. Conclusion Sitting with the chaos of collaboration as it unfolds is challenging. It is also possible to inadvertently fixate on a destination of collaboration or assume this as inevitable, and overlook the critical, preparatory work that is necessary for players to buy in as collaborators. This work requires the conscious, appropriate intent of music therapists to support players to buy in. This is necessary if we are to avoid the development of a tokenistic culture of collaboration in music therapy, which would reinforce traditional power imbalances and undermine rather than empower players (Ocloo & Matthews, 2016). Music therapists need a frame and license for thinking about relationship building when striving for collaboration in CoMT projects. We propose the hangout period as this frame, and suggest that it is not a music therapist’s job to make collaboration happen, but to embody and offer a collaborative intent from which a mutual, shared process may emerge. Dr. Lucy Bolger is a music therapy practitioner scholar whose research primarily focuses on music therapy processes with marginalized young people and communities in community and international development settings. Professor Katrina Skewes McFerran is an international expert on the topic of music, music therapy, and adolescents, and has undertaken a range of studies investigating healthy and unhealthy uses of music with and by young people. Professor Brynjulf Stige has published extensively on topics such as culture-centered music therapy, community music therapy, and music therapy theory. 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The changing context of Australian youth and its implications for social inclusion . Youth Studies Australia , 28 ( 1 ), 46 – 50 . © American Music Therapy Association 2018. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail: journals.permissions@oup.com This article is published and distributed under the terms of the Oxford University Press, Standard Journals Publication Model (https://academic.oup.com/journals/pages/open_access/funder_policies/chorus/standard_publication_model)

Journal

Music Therapy PerspectivesOxford University Press

Published: Oct 31, 2018

References

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