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Wilfrid Laurier University Leaf
October 21, 2017
Canadian Excellence

Dr. Carolyn Arnason

Associate Professor, Music Therapy, Graduate Coordinator, Master of Music Therapy program

Contact Information
Phone: 519-884-0710 ext.2154

Office Location: A208

Languages Spoken


Academic Background

Associate in Music (Piano Performer), University of Manitoba, 1972

Bachelor of Music (Piano Performance), University of Manitoba, 1975

Bachelor of Music Therapy (With Distinction), Wilfrid Laurier University, 1988

Master of Social Work (With Distinction), Wilfrid Laurier University, 1992

Doctor of Arts in Music Therapy, New York University, 1998

Fellow of the Association for Music and Imagery, 2013


Dr. Arnason specializes in teaching clinical improvisation and supervising graduate students in arts-based music therapy research. In addition to collaborative improvisation concerts, she performs duet repertoire on modern piano and fortepiano with her husband Professor Boyd McDonald, Professor Emeritus Laurier. She conducts psychotherapy sessions with adults using the music-centred methods of improvisational music therapy and the Helen Bonny Method of Guided Imagery and Music (GIM).

She has conducted research with international music therapists on their listening perspectives in improvisational music therapy sessions. Her current research areas include arts-based performative inquiry, the interconnections between musicianship and improvisation, and levels of consciousness in imaginal psychotherapy. She is developing a theory of improvisation called musical transparency that encompasses music therapy practice and improvisation performance.

Dr. Arnason was a member of the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony Board for six years, serving as Chair of the Education and Community Programs Committee. She has given papers and workshops at conferences in Canada, England, Finland, Hawaii, Italy, Norway, Spain and the USA. Dr. Arnason has published in international journals such as the Nordic Journal of Music Therapy, Voices: A World Forum for Music Therapy, Music Therapy Perspectives and the International Journal of Community Music.

Recent Scholarly Activity


2010 Reflections on change in arts-based research: The experiences of two music therapists, co-authored with Deborah Seabrook. Voices: A World Forum for Music Therapy. Available:

2006 Woman to woman: A music therapistís experience of working with a physically challenged and non-verbal woman. British Journal of Music Therapy, 20(1), 13-21.

2005 Reflections on spiritual dimensions in improvisational music therapy. International Journal of Community Music, Volume B. Available:

2003 Music therapistsí listening perspectives in improvisational music therapy: A qualitative interview study. Nordic Journal of Music Therapy, 12(2), 124-138.

Book Chapters

Naturalistic Inquiry (in press). In Barbara Wheeler (Editor), Music Therapy Research (3rd Edition)


Piano 4-hands with Boyd McDonald, Arts and Letters Club, Toronto, October 2012

Piano duet partner with Boyd McDonald (on Streicher and McCobb fortepianos owned by Laurier), Laurier Association for Life Long Learning (LALL), Wilfrid Laurier University, October-November 2012

Sound Envelop(e)s, two-piano improvisation concert with Nancy Tam, Thursday Noon Hour Series, Wilfrid Laurier University, January 20 2011

Sound Ideas, two-piano improvisation concert with Nancy Tam, Thursday Noon Hour Series, Wilfrid Laurier University, March 16, 2010

Conference Presentations

Exploring Feminine Consciousness in the Helen Bonny Method of Guided Imagery and Music, Canadian Association for Music Therapy, Saskatoon, May 2013

Arts-based Research and the Arts Therapies (panel), Expressive Arts Summit, New York, November 2012

Arts-based research practice: Experimentation or artistic realization? (co-presenter, Amanda Schenstead, MMT), Research Symposium, Canadian Association for Music Therapy Conference, Montreal, May 2012

Music therapy and performance: Clearing the way for musical transparency in improvisation, 3rd International Music Therapy Research Conference, Conrad Institute for Music Therapy Research, Wilfrid Laurier University, May 2011