Important Note: Chirophonetics is not recognised as Anthroposophic Body Therapy by the Medical Section at the Goetheanum.
Status: Summer 2023
Therapy through speech and touch
Chirophonetics works with the hidden powers of the sounds and rhythms of human speech as a therapeutic tool. With his hands, the therapist strokes the sounds and rhythms on the body of the resting patient in the form of gentle massage strokes and sounds the sounds.
Chirophonetics was developed in the 1970s by the speech therapist Dr. Alfred Baur. It was developed as part of his therapeutic work in Linz/Austria with non-speaking children and is based on the ideas of metamorphosis according to the humanities of Rudolf Steiner.
Alfred Baur (1925–2008) worked in a speech therapy practice in Linz since 1953 together with his wife, an anthroposophical physician. Prior to that, he had studied German and history in Graz and obtained his doctorate with a thesis on childhood developmental crises.
In 1972, he first tried to "write" the phonetic formation on the back of a non-speaking child. Based on the idea of metamorphosis in anthroposophical human studies, he crossed with his hands the shapes formed by the flow of air in the mouth when speaking, and at the same time toned the sounds. In this way, the children could hear the sounds not only by hearing, but also by feeling. After a few weeks, the first successes began to emerge.
By 1976, he had developed the new treatment method to such an extent that he was able to teach it to therapeutic and curative pedagogical professionals in further training courses. In the following years, up to the year 2000, Alfred Baur travelled from Austria many times to Germany, Switzerland, England, Holland, Italy, the Czech Republic and Scandinavia. From 1985 to 1991 he also travelled to Brazil, New Zealand and the United States to give a total of 190 courses in chirophonetics.
At first, chirophonetics found its way into curative pedagogy. Over the years and through the work of its pupils, chirophonetics has long since grown beyond the beginnings of speech and the field of pedagogy and curative pedagogy. It has proved to be useful in caring for the elderly, mental and psychosomatic problems and general fatigue, sleeping disorders, as an adjunct therapy for chronic diseases and in support of medical interventions.
The name Chirophonetics derives from the two Greek words for hands (cheir) and the sound (phoné). Alfred Baur initially called his new therapy Therapeutic Speech Massage. The anthroposophical physician Gisbert Husemann suggested calling the therapy Therapeutic Chirophonetics. Alfred Baur abbreviated the name and called his method simply chirophonetics.
Basics of the method
Chirophonetics is based on the hidden powers of the sounds and rhythms of human speech. These are made effective as a therapeutic means by the phonetic forms developed by Alfred Baur, which are transmitted from the therapist to the patient by the sound of the voice and a clear, rhythmic stroke. The patient hears the sound and at the same time feels the gentle pressure, movement and warmth of the therapist's hands on the skin.
Each spoken sound has its own characteristic airflow pattern. This is created during articulation by the plasticising activity of the speech organs (larynx, tongue, palate, teeth, lips and nose). The therapeutic efficacy of the individual sounds, their specific sound quality, can be derived above all from a detailed examination of sound formation, i.e. the types and places of sound formation and the sound gestures expressed therein. In curative eurythmy and therapeutic speech, lutes are used in a similar way as therapeutic means in the context of anthroposophical medicine.
When a sound form is removed, the patient turns his attention to the motion trail. He "reads" the form and hears the sound at the same time. This impression is repeated several times. The senses of touch and speech combine to increase the perception of the sound. The sounds penetrate deep into the soul, because sounds do not mean anything, like words or sentences. Seemingly inactive, the patient surrenders to what is happening to him, yet experiences what is perceived with great attention:
The patient feels the painted shape and hears the sound at the same time. This leads to a sound and body experience that relaxes the patient, but also awakens the patient's attention. Just hearing a sound stimulates the patient to speak with it inwardly. The simultaneous touch enhances the impulse to speak even more.
In general, the sense of touch does not seem so important to us compared to our other senses, but it communicates something that is crucial to a person's sense of being. The sense of touch gives us the assured experience that the world really exists and that we ourselves are present in our own skin.
Based on a medical or therapeutic diagnosis and a medical history of the patient, the therapist compiles the sound medication individually, tailored to the health needs of the patient.
Fields of work
Chirophonetics was first developed by Alfred Baur as a speech therapist as a therapy for language initiation. Over the years, chirophonetics has opened up more and more fields of work as a result of his training courses, which he has been giving since 1976 to people already working in a pedagogical or therapeutic profession. This development is certainly not yet complete.
In general, chirophonetics activates the powers of self-healing in a comprehensive way (salutogenesis) and is applicable and helpful to people of all ages. Tension and relaxation can be balanced with therapy, building up and breaking down processes as well as pulse and breathing are brought into a harmonious rhythm. All this has an integrating effect on the body, soul and spirit of the person.
Chirophonetics is a supplementary training which is usually based on a basic pedagogical, curative pedagogical, nursing or therapeutic profession. Because of this interdisciplinary background of the students, cooperation and exchange with other therapies and professions is already established in the training.
In practice as therapy, chirophonetics is usually practised in the context of the respective professional activity, i.e. in the context of the work of the corresponding institution (school, home, hospital, community practice, etc.), so that exchange and collaboration with other therapies is a daily practice.
Self-employed therapists in their own practice are also usually in contact with other educators, curative educators, therapists or doctors of the patients about their work.
Within the anthroposophical medical profession, chirophonetics is still little known as a new therapy. Only a few doctors have trained as chirophonetics therapists themselves. Collaboration with a doctor is always possible and desirable in chirophonetics.
Forms of organisation
The first professional association for chirophonetics was founded in Germany in 2004 together with a supporting association as sponsor of the German School of Chirophonetics.
the Free Initiative for the Promotion of Chirophonetics e.V. and
the Professional Association Chirophonetics e.V.
At least 11 other countries currently have national chirophonetics associations, most of which are the sponsors of the relevant schools and courses in these countries.
The respective internet addresses can be found on the website of the Worldwide Association for Chirophonetics – WACH: www.wach-chirophonetik.org
The Worldwide Association for Chirophonetics – WACH sees itself as a free association of people who have completed their training in Chirophonetics and are interested in exchanging experiences, studying the basics together and further researching Chirophonetics.
Other organisations within the Chirophonetics movement are:
- the estate of Alfred Baur GbR, publishing the academic theses, safeguarding and administering the licence rights, preserving and arranging the entire estate of Alfred Baur
- the Foundation for Chirophonetics, to support the education and dissemination of chirophonetics worldwide within the framework of its statutes
- Baur A., Phonetic and Logo Works – Fundamentals of Chirophonetics, Stuttgart, Mellinger Verlag, 1996, 2nd edition.
The book has so far been translated into 12 languages, of which translations in English, Italian and Portuguese are available from bookshops.
- Baur A., Chirophonetics – Therapy by Sound and Touch, Bad Liebenzell, Gesundheit aktiv, 2011, 2nd edition.
- Schulz D., Chirophonetics, Frankfurt a.M., Info3-Verlag, 2016
- Abstracts of the lectures and posters of the Annual Meeting of the Medical Section at the Goetheanum, 17–20 September 2015, Dornach, Part 1, Der Merkurstab 2016; 69(1):
- 13/ C. K. O. Sales, et. al: Chirophonetics in the relief of pain on a patient with post-poliomyelitis syndrome-case report.
- 14/ M. E. C. Obniski, et. al.: Chirophonetics: an anthroposophic therapy for the relief of pain in post-poliomyelitis syndrome – report on the care of a group of patients
- 15/ M. E. C. Obniski: Fundamentals of Chirophonetic Therapy – a proposal in integrative care.
- Baur A., Chirophonetics, a Therapy with the Powers of the Sound, Contributions to an Extension of the Art of Healing according to the Knowledge of the Humanities, Der Mercurstab 1983;36(4):127-130.