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Die Sozialmusiktherapie (SMT)

Schwabe, Christoph and Haase, Ulrike (1998). Die Sozialmusiktherapie (SMT). Crossener Schriften zur Musiktherapie Band VII, Inc. 307 pages, ISBN 3-933358-06-X

Reviewed by Thomas Wosch, Dr., Lecturer, University of Applied Sciences Magdeburg-Stendal

The latest music therapy method of Christoph Schwabe and Ulrike Haase, the “social music therapy” (SMT), is a quite new book and it is also not a new one. The SMT is the final point of the very important 40-year-development of German music therapy connected with the name of Schwabe. The book has been devided into three main parts: The first one gives a historical overview of the 40-year-history of developing SMT. It defines “social illness” and “social competence” as subjects of SMT and also the position of SMT in relation to psychotherapy. The second part describes the theoretical principles of SMT and is called “didactics”. In the third and last part, 23 co-authors and the two main authors give examples of the use of SMT in a really wide field: SMT-work with the elderly, with mentally-handicapped children, with psychiatric in-patients, with people, “who think to be healthy”, with rehabilitation-patients, with music-school- and other pupils etc. etc. This wide use seems to verify a very general meaning of the music therapy principles of SMT.

Br2002_10FSIn the preface Schwabe emphasises the nature of SMT as a trade or craft with rules in spite of the fixed understanding of music therapy as an art. This understanding is a essential part and speciality of Schwabe’s music therapy methods, like regulative music therapy (RMT), active group music therapy (AGMT) and elementary music education (EME), which all form the basis for SMT. Music is first of all a medium in the therapeutic relationship. The understanding of this relationship from the patient to himself, to others and to music, is the central point for the elementary use of music. Less “artistic” thinking is to be found in the books before SMT, and in SMT there is more a psychological, a sociological and elementary musical one. The central meaning of the relationship in SMT is the “social existence” of everybody as a conditio sine qua non of human being. This social existence was prevalent in Schwabe’s AGMT and EME, a basic element including its very important individual dimension, which he can now very clearly emphasise without taking care of state control. The individual unfolding within the social existence was also the quintessence of the two other mentioned methods, but was realized only in group music therapy. Now SMT is also described in its use in the music therapy dyad. So the circle was completed: the first work of Schwabe in the 60-ies started with music therapy dyad and group therapy. These were highly differentiated system of lots of “methods”. Instead, SMT follows one principle. The social existence is of course based on a more Marxist thinking. But today, Schwabe continues this general sociological thinking with his statement that he sees a loss of the unique difference of every individual person in a consumer-orientated conformism. So SMT in its basis of social illness has a very wide dimension, which goes over the limits of clinical understanding of diseases and gives a general horizon of society. The “social diseases” in self-perception, self-expression and social interaction can find their individual ways and resources of everybody in the three possible principles of SMT: in self-perception-orientation and/or social-interaction-orientation and/or individual-creative-orientation of music, acting, moving or perception “of” or “with” or “for” the patient.

Developing individual acting, feeling and thinking through and in communication is SMT’s path to social health. However: to be “open” for the patient, its wishes, and resources was not written about so clearly in the books of Schwabe before SMT. That music therapy can also work alone without the context of other clinical methods, is also quite a new thought for Schwabe. But both seem to integral parts of other music therapy approahces. But the unique fact of a highly specialized use of music therapy in the context of other clinical methods working in the field of psyche is lost in SMT, which was postulated in the methodology before SMT. There was e.g. the idea of a “causal principle”, with which different kinds of psychotherapy could be highly specialised, combined or selected depending on the symptoms of the psychosomatic patient. This “causal principle” is new in SMT and only described for music therapy. So SMT has its own diseases, own working fields, own language for its application. On the one hand, this exists so lecturers and music therapists of SMT can communicate clearly. This clear language in the very complex field of music therapy is typical of Schwabe’s books, his very strong tendency for objectivism in music therapy. But on the other hand SMT is a new language under the hundreds of methods in the field of psyche. So the communication with other professions in that field could be again complicated, especially in the clinical context. Most of the references of the theoretical parts of the books are from the main authors so SMT could also read as a result of the development of music therapy connected with the name of Schwabe since his first publication in 1964. Last but not least, words like “social competence” are not related to their use for example in behavioural psychotherapy, this word being newly defined in SMT (in an interesting deep psychological context). It may be that the individualisation and autonomy of the method is also a part of its therapeutic way? To think generally on a way to its own science of music therapy for example in a psychotherapy-context without limits of given contexts of different schools, is a characteristic of Schwabe. But to touch them only in discourse, is that the quintessence?

However, despite that, the ideas are also some examples of SMT-use and are very impressive. Some of them are based on the existing scientific context of their working field. SMT is written in the usually objective-focused language far from any general or metaphoric music symbolisms. The individual and cultural symbolism can, in that view, only be communicated through the individual experience of the patient. On that point, SMT seems to meet with other approaches of music therapy keeping SMT’s special socio-psychological and music therapy thinking.

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