Date of Graduation

Fall 2017


Master of Science in Counseling


Counseling, Leadership, and Special Education

Committee Chair

Jeffrey Cornelius-White


therapy, rap, inmates, group, improvisation, drumming

Subject Categories

Mental and Social Health | Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy | Psychology


This study aims to explore the lived experiences of inmates who participate in group psychotherapy incorporating elements of rap music. Rap music includes elements such as emotional expression, songwriting, community building, freestyling, and beat, which can be beneficial for individuals experiencing typical symptoms of incarceration such as anxiety, self-discovery, and difficulties regulating emotion. Ten inmates of a Missouri county justice center (50% male) were recruited on a volunteer basis to participate in a five-week psychotherapy group. The study involves psychoeducation, group-drumming, self-expression, and improvisation. Qualitative data were collected through an interview process with participants, including inmates, facilitators and supervisors. Results were analyzed to find evidence of three main themes among the participants: 1) Affirmation and reflection of identity, including sub-themes of freedom of expression, sense of identity and humanness, and use of beat and rhythm in self-identity; 2) connection to others and building relationships which included sub-themes of sense of connection to others, use of beat and rhythm in communication, and use of writing in communication; and 3) Escape from the present, including sub-themes of mental relief, safe place, and new methods of coping.


© Abigail V. Richards

Open Access