Nameless: Understanding Learning Disability

Nameless: Understanding Learning Disability

Nameless: Understanding Learning Disability

Nameless: Understanding Learning Disability


Attempts to understand learning disabilities in terms of psychoanalysis and sociopsychology. This study does not distinguish between a primary organic handicap and a secondary psychological one, rather it argues that it is developed from the outset of the process of socialization.


It is more than 13 years since the book presented here was published in Germany for the first time. The book has been reprinted twice, and the experiences from which it draws are clearly bound to their time. Things have greatly changed in the meantime.

The book was written in relative isolation in the 1980s. As a complete novice I suddenly found myself exposed to a working situation as a music therapy trainee in London and as a rather un-experienced music therapist in a big institution for learning disabled children and adults where those I was supposed to work with were living under humiliating and completely inhuman conditions. The shock I received from this has led my steps in theory and practice ever since. It has become an imminent catalyst for writing this book, with the intention to contribute to a change of situation.

When I started learning and working in the field of learning disability, I was personally interested in psychoanalytic reflection but, being too young, was not ready for psychoanalytic training. Therefore I started working as a music therapist. At that time music therapy was taught on a rather basic level. Despite a one-year course in music therapy that I attended at the Guildhall School of Music in London, I found that I had to find my own way if I was to follow a psychoanalytic approach in the field of learning disability.

Whilst I was writing the book I had a discussion with Mary Priestley who was at that time one of the best-known British music therapists, and the first author to publicly claim psychoanalytic understanding for music therapeutic work. When I told her what I was writing about, she was surprised since she could not believe that psychoanalytic understanding could have any place in the field of learning disability. She told me she did not believe any kind of transference work would be possible, and that 'these people' would not be able to grasp psychoanalytic interpretations. Of course, she was unaware—as I was, too—of the fact that at that time Valerie Sinason was already running a workshop on learning disability and psychoanalysis at the Tavistock Clinic. In any case such attitudes were

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