Graduation Date


Document Type

Master's Thesis

Project Type

Qualitative Study

Degree Name

Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy


Art Therapy

Program Director

Richard Carolan, PhD, ATR-BC

First Reader

Victoria Dobbins, MA MFT, PhD Candidate

Second Reader

Erin Partridge, PhD, ATR-BC


Within the population of older adults, overall well-being corresponds with the ability to self-actualize and seek meaning, but age-related changes combined with ageism and isolation can negatively impact this capacity to maintain a sense of purpose, especially following retirement. It may be that retired musicians are especially vulnerable to this experience later in life due to a loss of the primary method of creative engagement and community that is facilitated by musical performance in a group setting. Integrating phenomenological and ethnographic approaches, this study utilized a qualitative design to understand how music-guided art-making incorporating the scribble technique could support a sense of purpose among older adult retiree musicians. In an art-based intervention that collected art and interview data, participants responded to self-selected music with a variety of fluid and resistive drawing materials categorized as Media Dimension Variables (MDV). Data analysis was executed in conjunction with theories of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) and the Expressive Therapies Continuum (ETC). Results obtained via thematic analysis suggested that the intervention facilitated access to creative intentionality in support of a sense of purpose. The process of self-selecting music that was rich with personal significance provided an optimal frame of reference in a novel art experiential that engaged individual strengths, values, and expertise. Responding to music in real-time with a kinesthetically-focused drawing technique presented a non-threatening approach to visual composition; the spontaneity in this process also offered opportunities for self-discovery and contact with the present moment.

IRB Number