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Rebecca Zarate

Associate Professor of Music Therapy

617.349.8927 x.8927
Headshot of Rebecca Zarate

Dr. Rebecca Zarate is a music psychotherapist, musician, researcher, and educator of music therapy and the arts therapies. Her research focuses on social anxiety and improvisation-based music therapy with young adults. Rebecca is interested in the clinical, social, and cultural intersections of anxiety, and writes and presents on this from clinical, critical, and cultural perspectives. 

She is dedicated to translating clinical and educational knowledge of music as a health mechanism into the greater community through the intersections of cross-discipline, interdisciplinary collaborations, and arts technologies. This is reflected in her teaching and pedagogy of art therapies research. Her music and health research lab includes faculty and students in expressive therapies who work together on the inquiry of music and arts, and the global social issues of the rising impact of anxiety and stress. Projects have included addressing manipulation of truth, “Alternative Facts,” and the Me/2 movement. The lab addresses the impact of using a critically conscious lens in aesthetics as a transformative tool for clinical and performance pedagogy. This includes her own concept of “collective anxiety” and music - centered technique of tracking moments of interest, mediators, and mechanisms of change, and transitions within clinical improvisation and critical social aesthetics frame.

She is the recipient of a number of fellowships, grants, and awards, including the 2017 Institute for Arts and Health Fellowship Award, the 2016 Lesley University Junior Faculty Fellowship Award, Dean of Faculty research funding and support (2014, 2015, 2017, 2018, 2019). Her collaborative projects have also succeeded to receive private foundation donations for local community music therapy program development and research, and for program innovation for music therapy at Lesley University.

She has held leadership positions internationally and nationally, including the International Expressive Arts Therapies Association, founding committee member of the Expressive Therapies Summit, executive board member for Project Hip-Hop, Boston, AMTA program approval committee, the editorial board of the Journal of Pedagogy, Pluralism, and Practice, clinical research director of Butterfly Music Trans* Chorus and its Women's Rights Chorus.  Dr. Zarate served as Chair of Lesley University Faculty Assembly from 2017-2018. She serves on the leadership council for Music Therapy Without Borders, and editorial board member for the Journal of Music Therapy. Dr. Zarate is an active musician and plays several instruments. She uses her acoustic – based and technology - based  artistic practices across all domains of scholarship, teaching, wellness, and community engagement in service of creative, responsive and respectful citizenship.




Selected Publications

Sajnani, N., Marxen, E., Zarate, R. (2017). Critical perspectives in the arts therapies: Response/ability across a continuum of practice. The Arts in Psychotherapy54, 28-37.

Zarate, R. (2016).  Critical Social Aesthetics Theory in Music Therapy.  European Music Therapy Conference, Vienna.

Zarate, R. (2016).  The social architecture of anxiety and potential role of music therapy.  Voices: A World Forum for Music Therapy, 16, 1.

Zarate, R. (2016).  Clinical improvisation and its effect on anxiety: A multiple single subject design: The Arts in Psychotherapy, 48, 46-53.

Zarate, R. (2015).  Closing commentary from breakout group representatives.  Engaging in Generating Knowledge from a reflective, reflexive, social justice perspective.  In Else, B.A. & Farbman, A.F. (Eds).  Proceedings from: Improving Quality and Access: Music Therapy Research 2025 (pp. 114-115).  Silver Spring, MD: American Music Therapy Association.

Zarate, R. 2014. The Sounds of Anxiety: A Path to the Pulse of Community. Music Therapy Today Special Issue. Summer 2014, (10), 1. Conference Proceedings. complete_congress_proceedings_mt_10/117?e=3210884/8433225


Zarate, R. (2017). Creative arts therapies and business in the USAPerspectives and perception. In Daniel Thomas and Vicky Abad (Eds.), The economics of therapy: caring for clients, colleagues, competitors and cash-flow. London, UK: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.     

Fleetwood (2010). Boundary perspective music therapy. In Kristen Stewart (Ed.), Music therapy & trauma: Bridging theory and clinical practice (pp. 160- 167). New York, NY: Sachnote Press.

Academic Papers

The Sounds of Anxiety: A Quantitative study of music therapy and anxiety (2012), Ph.D. dissertation. UMI 3509411.


July 2016: Presenter.  Critical social aesthetics theory in music therapy.  European Music Therapy Conference, Vienna.

April 2016: Critical aesthetics in arts based research.  Lesley University, Community of Scholars Day.

September 2015: Conference master class: Teaching Cultural Humility, Responsiveness, and Competency in the Arts Therapies, ECArTE, Palermo, Sicily.  Co-presenters: Dr. Nisha Sajnani, Dr. Nancy Beardall, Dr. Angelica Pinna-Perez, and Dr. Raquel Chapin-Stephenson.

September 2015: Panel presenter: Critical perspectives in the Arts Therapies: Palermo, Sicily.  Co-presenters: Dr. Nisha Sajnani and Dr. Eva Marx.

April 2015: Invited Co-Presenter.  An Interdisciplinary Research Approach to a Social Justice Chorus Rehearsal Workshop for Butterfly Music Inc., Lesley University.  Co-presenter: Dr. Susan Firestone.

January 2015: Invited Panel Presenter: Arts Therapies in Mental Health, Harvard University.  Co-presenters: Dr. Nisha Sajnani, Dr. Nancy Beardall, Dr. Angelica Pinna Perez, Dr. Raquel Chapin-Stephenson.

July 2014: Presenter: The Sounds of Anxiety: A Path to the Pulse of Community, World Congress of Music Therapy: Krems, Austria.

April 2014: Presenter: Examining Single Subject Design in Music Therapy Research, New England Regional American Music Therapy Association Annual Conference: Connecticut, USA.

February 2014: Invited Presenter: Arts Focused Learning in Research and Evaluation, Haifa University, Israel.

January 2014: Invited Panel Presenter: Arts in mental health discussions and dialogue, Harvard University.  Co-presenters: Dr. Nisha Sajnani, Dr. Nancy Beardall, Dr. Angelica Pinna-Perez, and Dr. Raquel Chapin-Stephenson.

November 2013: Presenter: Examining the Effect of Music Psychotherapy on Anxiety: Creative Clinical Improvisation Within a Single Subject Design, Voice from the Sea, American Music Therapy Association National Conference: Jackson, Florida.

April 2014: Invited Panel Presenter: Research Alive: New Research in Music Therapy.  Co-presenter Dr. Micharl Viega.

March 2013: AMTA- Mid Atlantic Regional conference Research Alive! Panelist on new music therapy research, Mid Atlantic Region Conference, PA.

Nov 2010: The ahhh in Anxiety: A pilot study on the effect of music therapy improvisation and anxiety with individuals in the community. Expressive Therapies Summit, NYC.

July 2009: Trauma informed expressive therapies: therapeutic lullaby, attachment, and quality of presence with mothers and children who experienced interpersonal violence. International Expressive Therapies Association, World Conference, MA.

June 2008: Panel Presentation: Boundary Perspective Music Therapy: A theoretical Model of working with the multisensory environment in clinical improvisation. International Music Therapy & Trauma Symposium. Beth Israel Hospital, NYC.

April 2001: Trauma, Boundaries, and Music Therapy with individuals in inpatient psychiatry who were sexually abused as children. International Trauma Conference, Marriott Marquis, NYC. 


Zarate, R. (2017). Arts – Based Research Composition. Alternative Facts.

Zarate, R. (2016). Commissioned composition.  Ambient – 1, Ambient-2, Unsettled, Flowing, Lively. A collection of compositions for Expressive Digital Imagery.

Zarate, R. (2015). Commissioned composition. Un-chartering terrain. Commissioned composition for the Harvard Trauma Refugee Program (HRPT). Podcast launched on October 24th on


Ph.D., Expressive Therapies, Lesley University
M.A., New York University
BMus (honors), Goldsmiths College, University of London.  

Board Certified Music Therapist (MT-BC)
Licensed Creative Arts Therapist (LCAT)
Advanced Vocal Psychotherapist (AVPT)