Songwriting has emerged as a frequently used method in psychodynamic-informed music therapy practice. Psychodynamic concepts of the unconscious, preconscious, and conscious as well as concepts of object relations, resistance, free association, interpretation, and transference are all considered relevant to therapeutic songwriting and are briefly discussed before describing their influence on songwriting practice. While the mental structures of the id, ego, and superego are also relevant to psychoanalytical thinking, interviewees did not describe these ideas as an influence, which is perhaps a reflection of the decreasing use of Freud's metapsychology in music therapy practice and therefore not referred to in this chapter.
Unconscious, preconscious, conscious mind, and defense mechanisms
Freud proposed that the interaction of conflicts operating at the unconscious, preconscious, and conscious levels of the mind is what shapes behavior and personality (Frosh, 2012; Gabbard, 2010). Consciousness comprises of the mental processes that people are aware of in the present moment. The preconscious mind represents people's ordinary memories, memories that are easily retrieved and brought to conscious awareness on demand. The unconscious mind, however, stores the feelings, urges, memories, thoughts, and repressed material that are outside our conscious awareness and typically represent unacceptable, painful, or anxiety-provoking feelings or behaviors. Importantly, the unconscious is understood as a 'space of dynamic activity' (Frosh, 2012, p. 42) where ideas and thoughts, despite being hidden from awareness, create tension and are continuously searching for ways to be released.
Psychodynamic treatment aims to resolve unconscious conflicts, to uncover and understand the meaning behind neurotic symptoms, the cause of the behavior, and the repressed material. However, insight alone is insufficient for change, as people have a tendency to repeat learned patterns of behavior which are a product of activated defense mechanisms.
Defense mechanisms are the unconscious psychological strategies people engage in to manage their unconscious impulses and thereby manage anxiety (Corey, 2013). In short, their function is to prevent unconscious ideas from reaching consciousness (Frosh, 2012). While they can serve as a protective mechanism, they can also cause significant psychological problems. There are a number of defense mechanisms that have been defined and described by psychodynamic theorists, the most common being denial, repression, regression, projection, reaction formation, displacement, intellectualization, and rationalization (Corey, 2013; Frosh, 2012). These defense mechanisms have a tendency to become active as people respond to situations that evoke similar feelings as earlier experiences. Such events present an opportunity to identify unhealthy patterns and explore their origins.