Psychodynamic Music Therapy: Case Studies

By Nicol, Jennifer A. J. | Canadian Journal of Music Therapy, January 1, 2006 | Go to article overview

Psychodynamic Music Therapy: Case Studies


Nicol, Jennifer A. J., Canadian Journal of Music Therapy


Hadley, S., Ed. (2003). Psychodynamic music therapy: Case studies. Gilsum, NH, Barcelona Publishers.

Whether a music therapy student, seasoned practitioner, music therapy educator or researcher, and whether psychodynamically inclined or just "psychodynamically curious," this book offers something for everyone. Dr. Susan Hadley (MT-BC) has edited a collection of 21 case studies that illuminate the psychodynamic music therapy practices of music therapists working in Australia, Belgium, Denmark, England, France, Germany, Israel, Italy, and the United States. Before starting in with the case studies, there are brief biographies of each contributor. Hadley's preface identifies her pedagogical influences; a personal affinity for psychodynamic understandings, past meaningful experiences as a client in analytical music therapy (Priestley), creative music therapy (Nordoff § Robbins), and Guided Imagery and Music (The Bonny Method), emphasizing her strong desire to see more music therapists excited and keen on pursuing advanced training in music therapy. Hadley does not suggest, however, that psychodynamic music therapy is the only legitimate avenue for pursuing advanced knowledge, nor a blanket solution for each and every client. She writes,

Psychodynamic music therapy consists of useful constructs, not 'absolute truths, ' which are adopted by clinicians and provide a framework within which to analyze and interpret behavior. This framework provides conceptual tools that are used to enhance our understanding of our clients and their experiences. It is very important that we, as music therapists, use these tools in relationship to the distinctive nuances that each client brings to the therapeutic situation. By applying these conceptual tools to the unique needs of each client, our thinking is informed in such a way that we are able to create innovative ways of using music to help each individual client lead a healthier life within the context of his/her particular issues, (p. xx)

Psychodynamic music therapy's history is overviewed in a 14-page introduction that follows the preface. Key influential music therapists are identified (e.g., Tyson, Alvin, Bonny, Priestly, Nordoff and Robbins, Benenzon, Bruscia, and Eschen), five psychodynamic theories are summarized (Drive Psychology, Ego Psychology, Object Relations, Self Psychology, and Jungian Theory), and key constructs are defined (defences, transference, countertransference). Last is a six-page reference list for those who want to know more. These opening chapters are helpful. They give readers a clear map for navigating the upcoming terrain of the 21 rich and varied case studies.

Because psychodynamic music therapy has no singular representation, case studies provide an effective, accessible way in which to convey the range and reach of music therapy practices identified as psychodynamic. The unifying thread through the book's case studies is an exploration of the subconscious/ unconscious as revealed in the music and between the client and music therapist. All psychodynamic theories assume that intrapsychic conflict is at the source of an individual's problems. Improvement requires insight of the conflict. Consequently, psychodynamic music therapists consider early childhood development of conflicts and motives, interpret their manifestations in the music and client-therapist relationship, and use these understandings to facilitate therapeutic change.

The case studies are grouped developmentally (i.e., children, adolescents, adults) and exemplify a range of client problems, music therapy methods, treatment time frames, and work settings. For example, Catherine Sweeney, Helen Tyler, Juliane Kowski, Penny Rogers, and Viola Schonfeld write compassionately and honestly about the trials and tribulations of music therapy with children and adolescents who have been abused and neglected. Jacqueline Robarts articulately describes the power of songs in music therapy, their ability to be both a "container and transformer of feelings" (p. …

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