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Tiefenpsychologisch orientierte Musiktherapie: Bausteine für eine Lehre

br2005_049Timmermann, Tonius (2004). Tiefenpsychologisch orientierte Musiktherapie: Bausteine für eine Lehre [Psychoanalytically Oriented Music Therapy: Elements for Education]. Wiesbaden: Dr. Ludwig Reichert Verlag.

Psychoanalytically Oriented Music Therapy

This book by Tonius Timmermann, published in 2004 in the series “Zeitpunkt Musik”, sounded promising: Is this really a successful attempt of connecting the worlds of psychoanalysis and music therapy, underpinning music therapy with psychoanalytic thinking, describing the much-cited preverbal within music therapy in psychoanalytic terms, formulating a theory of music therapy which not only uses psychoanalytic concepts, but understands to use them consciously within the music therapeutic work?

To say it right away: No, it isn’t so.

Timmermann begins with an attempt of outlining the history of depth psychology/psychoanalysis (German term “Tiefenpsychologie”). In this introduction he leaves Bleuler unmentioned (who was the first to use the term in 1910) and mentions Freud only peripherally. The meaning of the unconscious (Freud is not mentioned here either) is explained only briefly and with little differentiation.

In the following sections, Timmermann continues by explaining many other models of psychotherapy that do not work or only a little with the unconscious. He uses much more space for these than for psychoanalysis itself. And later, without having clarified the basic concepts, he argues for a “pragmatic eclecticism” which a “modern music therapist” should use.

He tries to base this opinion on scientific findings from psychotherapy research. For example, a study finding by Grawe (1994), stating that eclectic therapy will almost always lead to a significant improvement of the main symptoms (cited by Timmermann on p. 12), is cited out of context, which is of little worth for the reader. He also refers to Wöller and Kruse (2001), whom he apparently misunderstands: While the authors of the original source (p. 12) state that educative, suggestive and disorder-specific techniques may be used under certain circumstances in psychoanalytically oriented psychotherapy, Timmermann (p. 10) cites them as saying that such elements are “explicitly approved”. In this statement, Timmerman believes to see “a great chance for methodological flexibility” (p. 10), drawing the conclusion that the future of music therapy lies in “not unnecessarily delimiting oneself too much” (p. 10). However, Wöller and Kruse also write that “psychoanalytically oriented psychotherapy today comprises a range of forms of therapy which all are derived from the psychoanalytic standard procedure” (ibid., p. 7f., italics by D.K.), which again means to delimit and define oneself quite clearly methodologically. The author seems to have overlooked that.

Timmermann also cites another source claiming that an eclectic approach used to be the “normal standard” in psychotherapy before psychoanalysis was developed (Sponsel, 1995, cit. in Timmermann, p. 12), which he sees as a confirmation of his ideas. He does not mention that psychoanalytic thinking and many of its terms which are in common usage today were introduced by Freud and did not exist at that time.

It becomes more and more apparent to the reader that the author has a very negative opinion of psychoanalysis. His derogation of this approach becomes most visible at the point where he discusses classical psychoanalysis. It is therefore not surprising that after reading this book one does not feel to have learnt anything new, but to have gained a more confused rather than a clearer view of the theory of music therapy. The author defends precisely the role model music therapists have to struggle with: Being a “jack of all trades”, half knowing terms of various schools, using them half-understood in therapy, and time and again not having an identity as music therapists.

The present book fails to approach the unconscious and psychoanalysis in an appropriate way. This cannot be helpful for music therapy. As Freud wrote: “The statements of psychoanalysis are based on an abundance of observations and experiences, and only someone who repeats these observations on oneself and on others is on the way towards an own judgement” (Freud 1941/2002, p. 41).

References:

Freud, Sigmund (1941/2002). Abriss der Psychoanalyse [Overview of psychoanalysis]. Frankfurt: Fischer Taschenbuch Verlag.

Wöller, Wolfgang & Kruse, Johannes (2001). Tiefenpsychologisch fundierte Psychotherapie. [Psychoanalytically oriented psychotherapy]. Stuttgart: Schattauer.

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