[Book review] Kroeker, Joel. (2019). Jungian music psychotherapy: When psyche sings. London: Routledge.

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[Book review] Kroeker, Joel. (2019). Jungian music psychotherapy: When psyche sings. London: Routledge.


Grocke, D. 2020. [book review] Kroeker, Joel. (2019). Jungian music psychotherapy: When psyche sings. Australian Journal of Music Therapy, Advanced Online Publication, 1-2. Retrieved from https://www.austmta.org.au/journal/article/book-review-kroeker-joel-2019-jungian-music-psychotherapy-when-psyche-sings-london

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Date published: March 2020

Kroeker, Joel. (2019). Jungian music psychotherapy: When psyche sings. London: Routledge. AU $62.99, 188 pages (paperback), AU $55.55 (ebook), ISBN 9780429861628

     This volume of 178 pages commences with an overview of Carl Jung’s thoughts on music. Initially Jung was of a similar mind to Freud; both had a resistance to music in that they felt music aroused emotions in a way that could not be controlled or understood. Later in Jung’s life he met the music therapist Margaret Tilley. She engaged Jung in improvisation and this was illuminating for him and lead to the oft quoted statement “from now on music should be an essential part of every analysis” (cited in Kroeker, 2019, p. 8). Across Jung’s myriad writings he mentions the word music less than twenty times (Kroeker, 2019, p. 29), yet he knew the vast music literature of the time. Jung wrote that, “music expresses in sounds, what fantasies and visions express in visual images . . . music represents the movement, development and transformation of motifs of the collective unconscious (cited in Kroeker, 2019, p. 10).

     Kroeker identifies himself as a music-oriented Jungian analyst. He studied a music-centred psychotherapy training (a phrase he prefers over music therapy) and calls his therapy approach Archetypal Music Psychotherapy (AMP). Throughout the book he provides vignettes of his work with children and adults, across a wide diversity of conditions including autism, mental health, stroke and aged care. He refers to the full range of music approaches: improvisation, song writing, song listening and singing that are all discussed within a psychotherapeutic framework. He draws on numerous authors (Bion, Stern, Ogden, Schafer, Klein, Csíkszentmihályi) but primarily adopts a Jungian theoretical framework. There is little reference to the music therapy literature per se, but his writing does include insights for music therapists, for example, that when working in a mental health facility “I found the process of songwriting to be grounding for patients in active florid psychosis, as opposed to improvisation, which could have been yet another boundless space for endless persecutory mental elaborations through sounds” (p. 20).

     Elsewhere in the book Kroeker provides numerous examples of improvisation. He records the improvisations and client and therapist listen to the improvisation after it has taken place. Kroeker comments that listening is a different experience to the playing and provides opportunities for conscious reflection.

     He reflects on transferences and counter-transferences that occur during improvisation as well as musical foreclosure, when the therapist’s attempts at intervention in the improvisation actually foreclose on the patient’s new thoughts and feelings (p. 117).

     Kroeker is also a songwriter and recording artist, and he includes songwriting as one of the approaches in music-centred psychotherapy. There is little information about the process he adopts in writing songs however, in fact this is a draw-back of the book for practising music therapists in that there is little in-depth discussion of how sessions unfold.

     Another approach is song listening, when clients bring significant songs to therapy. Other chapters in the book address the absence of music in analytical psychology, working with musical symbols, the musical field, and musical reverie.

     This book is the first to merge the two fields of music-centred psychotherapy and Jungian psychology. Although the author does not identify himself as a music therapist, his extensive experience of music processes, and his extensive knowledge of the psychotherapy literature come together in this book to provide the reader with a wider lens in which to view music therapy practice.