Understanding and Challenging Music Therapists’ Resistance to Critical Disability Studies Perspectives on Normalcy and Diversity Through Consciousness Raising

Research output: Contribution to specialist publicationSpecial issue


There are many examples throughout music therapy practice, literature and research where deficit-based perspectives on disability are prominent and pervasive. This has been challenged in recent actions and publications which seek to advocate for increasingly asset-oriented interpretations of disability, often framed from social justice or disability studies perspectives (Leza, 2020; Pickard et al., 2020). Despite this, there is a lingering resistance to challenging ableist discourse in the profession, with anecdotal examples of these affirmative positions being contested and challenged. This paper offers a framework for understanding these resistances and seeking to challenge them, through an aspirational, forward looking agenda. Giddens’ (1984) three-levelled theory of subjectivity is utilised as a theoretical lens for understanding music therapists’ potential resistance or ambivalence in confronting issues of ableism in the profession. This theory discusses three levels of consciousness: discursive consciousness, practical consciousness and the level of the basic security system (Giddens, 1984; cited in Young, 1990, 2011). This model provides opportunity to understand therapists’ purported commitment to inclusivity agenda at a discursive level of consciousness, but in reflecting on the deeply ableist practices and stereotypes that are so widespread in culture and society, offers a rationale for continued perpetuation of ableist practices and perspectives at the deeper levels of consciousness and thus in the music therapy profession. A response to these unconscious attitudes, “dwelling in the everyday habits and cultural meanings of which people are, for the most part, unaware” (Young, 1990: 124) is an anti-oppressive pedagogy (Kumashiro, 2000; Beckett, 2015) which facilitates consciousness raising through critical disability studies informed perspectives. A social connection model of responsibility (Young, 2006) is proposed as a forward looking framework for facilitating change and progress in the profession, inviting a shared responsibility for inclusivity and accessibility by stakeholders at all levels and in all roles (Pickard, 2020).
Original languageEnglish
Specialist publicationJournal of Music Therapy
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 1 Feb 2021


  • consciousness raising
  • anti-oppressive practice
  • ableism
  • music therapy
  • disability


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