Giving voice to an embodied self: a heuristic inquiry into experiences of healing through vocal creativity
Quinley, Sarah Jaye
How is the voice healing? Over the past few decades, research has begun to uncover the therapeutic benefits of vocal practices. Research results have evidenced that different forms of vocal expression positively influence the quality of life of an adult emotionally, mentally, physically, psychologically, and spiritually. However, different theoretical approaches, different methods, and different samples have left a heterogeneous picture of the reported benefits. It remains unclear how individuals experience healing through vocal practices, nor do we know much about the qualities that characterise each practice. This research aims to explore how individuals experience healing and transformation through different vocal practices, including therapeutic voicework, creative singing, and performance singing. In this study, these vocal practices are grouped under the term ‘vocal creativity’. The research problem was formulated with the following question: What is the nature and meaning of experiences of vocal creativity, and what can these experiences tell us about the human voice’s potential for healing? To reveal the elements of each vocal practice, and the mechanisms behind individuals’ experiences of healing through the voice, this study adopts a heuristic methodology to yield in-depth findings. More specifically, a heuristic comparison study was undertaken to draw out features that characterise each practice and the therapeutic benefits different forms of vocal creativity have in common. As an additional way to gain knowledge and present key findings, I created songs and lyrical poems to access an embodied understanding of individuals’ experiences. To generate data, I engaged my experience of vocal creativity and conducted conversational interviews. Some of my autobiographical contributions were analysed integrating Process-Experiential Theory to produce a richer understanding of how I have healed and transformed through vocal creativity. The ten respondents of the conversational interviews were men and women, aged between 25-67 years old, from the United States, England, and Spain. The present study provides important insights into the significance of the voice for healing that may be useful for practitioners both within, and outwith, the arts therapies. Integration of vocal creativity and Process-Experiential Theory elaborates on Emotion-Focused Therapy and expands the theoretical base for vocal practices, suggesting that using the voice as an embodied and symbolic tool for emotion may assist in the facilitation of emotional processing, and in working with internal multiplicity. The study’s findings illuminate underlying qualities, processes, and mechanisms in experiences of vocal practices, and elucidate contexts and conditions that enabled or inhibited ways of healing through the voice, all of which are seldom addressed in current scholarship.