Common steps and sub-activities

GIM - Guided Imagery in Music

GIM is a form of music therapy developed by Helen Bonny.   It combines listening to music, with relaxation and various forms of visualisation.  In some cases it also involves the use of beauty, art and music.  It is used mostly for people with psychological problems – stress, trauma etc.

Helen Bonny studied with E. Thayer Gaston at the University of Kansas in the early 1960s, where she received her bachelor's degree in music education, with a major in music therapy. She continued on to receive a master's degree in music education with an emphasis in research.  Although Guided Imagery and Music draws from various schools of psychology, Helen Bonny has cited as its main influences the humanistic and the transpersonal psychology of Carl Rogers, and Abraham Maslow. Bonny was also profoundly influenced by the work of Carl Jung.

Catherine O’Leary - From Music Therapy – Intimate Notes

It was Helen Bonny who, in the late 1960s in the United States, began to develop a specific music therapy method called GIM. It is now officially known as the Bonny Method of Guided Imagery and Music. She'd been involved as a music therapist in pioneering work with Dr Walter Pahnke, Stanislov Grof, Hans Karl Leuner and Joan Kellogg - these are all famous names now - and they looked at the effects of hallucinogenic drugs on consciousness and on altered states. Helen Bonny realized that working with music without the drugs was even more effective in gaining insight, and you didn't have to worry about the side effects of the drugs. In CIM, clients image while they are in a relaxed state.

As we work now in GIM sessions, there are four sections: a period of time spent talking, moving into relaxation time. The relaxed state is very important, moving from normal consciousness into a relaxed state which facilitates the flow of imagery. As the client, you recline, your feet up, covered with a nice blanket and I relax you either with a visual imagery relaxation, a physical relaxation or whatever suits you. Then you move into the listening to the music, and this is when the imaging takes place. The imaging is induced by the music. The music is mainly classical, and it is chosen as for any music therapy session, to match how you are that day: your mood, feeling state, energy level, and where you are in the therapy. We choose from a range of especially selected, mainly Western classical music. This is because it has been shown that people seem to access the widest range of imagery with classical music...

Helen Bonny found that when people chose folk music or popular music from their past, the imagery was more limited to memory and association. There is ongoing research into imaging with different kinds of music, but the selection that Helen Bonny chose works very well indeed.

As you listen to the music, you begin to image and you speak out the imagery. The imagery is not directed by me, as the therapist, but I am there so that you are not lost in this world. I might respond with 'hmmm, aha...', and I might ask things like 'can you tell me a bit more about that, how does that feel, what else do you see?' The point of asking questions is to intensify the experience for the traveller - that is the client, and the therapist is known as the guide. I work together with the music: the music and the guide are co-workers. I am in tune with both you and the music, listening to where you are going, to where the music is going - and staying very much in tune with what is happening, while at the same time writing the transcript of what you are saying. The music facilitates the process: it is a container, a companion, it is dynamic, it moves, it is allowing the experience. We are all used to transformation and transpersonal states in our relationship with music - even if we have never thought about it - and conscious imagery is very much part of our musical nature.

People come in and out of the image. The music will evoke an image, then they get totally caught up in that image and are unaware of the music. Sometimes people come out of the imagery world completely and then they go back into the music. It is not as simple as the imagery fitting the music: it can be like that but everyone images differently.

At the end of the music listening period, which is usually for thirty to forty minutes, it is time for you to come back, so there is a period of adjusting back, sitting up, and then a period of talking again. This has a dual role. The talking brings you back to a normal state of consciousness, so that you are ready to walk out the door, and it allows the imagery to begin to resonate for you. It is not a time where we take the session apart... because the images are easily reduced to a small part of what they can mean. There is a danger of fixing on one idea and missing a lot of what else has happened. So we review the session, note what images are standing out in particular for you, and encourage you to think about the imagery over the next week, or until the next session.

I may invite you to do a mandala as another means of helping to access the self. I would offer you a sheet of paper on which a circle of about ten or eleven inches in diameter is outlined. The idea is to focus on the circle and when you feel ready, choose a colour that attracts you and allow yourself to draw. There are no rules. The circle is an archetypal symbol of wholeness and the mandala that is drawn can be understood as a reflection of the self. In GIM the therapeutic work with mandalas has its roots in the work of Jung and that of Joan Kellogg, an American art therapist who has specialized in working with mandalas for the past twenty years or so. The idea is to allow the imagery to begin to resonate in your life, and for you to get to know these inner spaces rather than adapting these spaces to your habitual ways of thinking. You take away a copy of the transcript.

The main focus of the work with clients is on the content of the images. Nothing in an image is unnecessary, and there is nothing that is without meaning. I am fascinated by things like right and left –people say there is a stream on my right and a field on my left, it could never be the other way round to them... it just doesn't happen to be on the right... or on the left. Every single thing is significant. Anybody can image sitting in a field, but the texture, the colour, the surroundings, the feelings, are entirely different for each person. Every single thing about the image contains information. The image is like a cross-section of what is going on for that person.

We image in different ways. We have images that are based on reality on memory mythical images, spiritual images and kinaesthetic ones. I don't know if there is a hierarchy of images - I think rather that there is a mixture of images from different dimensions of our lives, that merge into one another. They merge in a way that would never happen consciously. For example, Parents or relatives who have died and who come back into the present situation: into what looks like your home setting right now, which, of course, they would never have known while they were alive. Or experiencing yourself as a bird somewhere.

Time and space and reality and myth combine in images to give us quite a different - and much richer - experience of our lives.

 

Observations

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