About Guided Imagery and Music (GIM)
My idea is that there is music in the air,
music all around us;
the world is full of it,
and you simply take as much as you require.
The Bonny Method of Guided Imagery and Music (GIM)
- About Guided Imagery and Music: What is GIM?
- History: Who founded GIM?
- Roots of GIM: What is the theoretical background?
- Music: How is a music program designed?
- Sessions: How do GIM sessions work?
- Benefits: What are the possible outcomes of a GIM session?
The Bonny Method of Guided Imagery and Music (GIM) is a
music-assisted therapy used to explore one's own inner world and
help clients to work on significant life issues, for instance,
disturbing old memories, losses, traumata, bothering health
conditions, and relationship issues. While being guided, strong
emotions are released and the client finds helpful resolutions.
GIM offers an exciting opportunity to see the "big picture" of life
while accessing personal experiences and connecting to the inner
wisdom. Understanding of oneself and the personal life path helps to
live with more conscious awareness.
Helen L. Bonny, the founder of GIM, has created specific music
programs, which a trained facilitator can use to guide a client. The
selected music contains the great masterpieces of composers such as
Beethoven, Brahms, Debussy, Mozart, Rachmaninov, and Vivaldi. The
uniqueness of this method lies in the synchronicity of music and
imaginative experiences. In this process, music plays the role of a
strong co-therapist and active partner. It acts as a mirror and
reflects ambivalences and both light and shadow. GIM encourages
unresolved issues to surface and helps the traveler to find new
levels of problem solving.
GIM is an interactive approach: At the beginning of each session, the
facilitator/guide gathers relevant information and supports the
client finding a question for inner exploration. Before the journey
begins it is helpful for a traveler to formulate an intention. A
clear intention enables the facilitator to choose the music that best
matches the purpose of the journey. After the pre-talk, the client is
asked to lie down and listen to the guide providing relaxation
techniques. This is helpful for the client to quiet the mind and
focus inwardly. As the music is playing, the guide is asking simple
questions, which allows the traveler to move into the inner world and
to deepen the relationship with the emerging material, e.g., images,
memories, body sensations, vivid sensory experiences, strong
feelings, and surprising insights.
As the music comes to an end, the traveler is invited to open the
eyes, come back to the outer world, and move on to the post-session.
Clients who experience GIM have profound changes and, as a result of
one or more sessions, make choices that lead to a more meaningful and
GIM in short terms:
- connects the conscious to the unconscious
- stimulates the intuition and the creative potential
- activates our innate capacity for healing and transformation
- provides encouragement to get through difficult emotions and life
situations and carries the client through the heights and depths of
- helps to reduce fears and anxieties
- reduces stress and enhances a state of well-being
- allows unresolved issues to surface and helps to remove mental
and emotional blocks
Visit the Bonny Foundation website for more information about the
Bonny Method of Guided Imagery and Music: www.ami-bonnymethod.org
GIM has been developed in the 1970s by the musician and
psychotherapist Dr. Helen L. Bonny (USA). At that time, space was
being explored and many technical and social changes took
place. Psychotherapy also embarked on new paths in order to explore
the psyche and open doors to unknown soul spaces.
In the early 1970's, Helen L. Bonny was working at the Maryland
Psychiatric Research Center, where severely disturbed patients were
treated with psychedelic substances. It was hoped that the
clients' traumata could be treated by intensive exposure to
drugs like LSD. When, a short time later, work with drugs was
forbidden, Helen L. Bonny had a unique experience. While playing
"The Swan" from Saint SaŽns on the violin, she and her
instrument became one. The well-known author Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
calls this "flow". During a flow experience, we totally
merge with our current activity, while time and space get dissolved
and we feel enriched and happy.
Through this experience Helen L. Bonny became aware that music is a
healing power itself. Over the following years, she developed the
Bonny Method of Guided Imagery and Music. Since that time, GIM has
spread and evolved for the past 25 years. Nowadays GIM practitioners
are working in the United States, Mexico, the United Kingdom, Sweden,
Denmark, South Korea, Australia, Norway, Italy, Spain, Austria, and
The roots of GIM are Jungian and transpersonal
approaches. C.G. Jung
called images "living truth". He believed that images give
a face to emotions and tend to personalize them. Disturbing imagery
left in the unconscious can lead to emotional and physical
difficulties. The more one is able to bring images to consciousness,
the more healing occurs.
GIM includes Eastern and Western elements, which help the client to
stay within the presence of the moment.
GIM therapy uses mainly classical music. Helen L. Bonny and her team
have designed more than 40 music programs for a particular purpose
and type of exploration. The Music selections are carefully
chosen. The chosen music relates very individually to the emotional
situation of the client. The first piece of music needs to match the
mood and energy of the traveler. The Music is seen as a projective
screen and co-therapist. It gives structure and holds, evokes
sensations and feelings and may become an object for
transference. GIM facilitators receive training how to use the
appropriate music programs. The music selection is an important part
of the process. The programs are designed for all situations of life
Each GIM session consists of five stages and follows a certain
structure. The five stages are as follows:
- diagnostic programs for first time travelers;
- sadness, losses;
- anxiety and fears;
- the hero's journey in life where you are challenged to follow your vision;
- compulsions and addictions;
- trauma and the abandoned child;
- spiritual and transpersonal journeys.
a. Pre-session and music selection:
Each session begins with a discussion about a possible goal for the
session. Both traveler and guide agree upon a focus, intention, or
key image the client wants to work on. The intention is like a
steering wheel: it gives purpose and meaning to the journey as it
engages the traveler to explore the inner landscape. The chosen
intention enables the guide to choose the appropriate music for the
session, matching the energy and the mood level of the client.
The traveler is asked to lie down on a comfortable mat and close his
(her) eyes. With a few words, the guide gives suggestions to quiet
down and breathe slowly. The relaxation puts the traveler in an
altered state of consciousness. Before the music starts, the
intention is formulated. When the music begins, it evokes images,
body sensations, and feelings. The traveler is asked to dialogue with
the guide about the unfolding imagery and to describe the experiences
stimulated by the music.
c. Music and guide are a team:
In GIM, the music is seen as an auditory co-therapist and partner of
the guide. It acts upon the body, mind, and spirit of the
traveler. The guide is cooperating with the music. When the music
becomes louder, the guide becomes silent, and when the music is
giving space, the guide is asking questions. The questions help the
traveler to focus on the emerging imagery. At the beginning of a
session, frequently asked questions are such as:
Aditional interventions can follow, which support the traveler to
deepen the inner experience. A GIM guide is also using music
interventions such as:
- "Where are you right now?"
- "What are you drawn to?"
- "What do you feel?"
- "Allow the music to be with you."
- "Does the music bring you anything?"
- "Let the music help you letting go of ..."
- "What is the music telling you?"
d. Closure and integration:
After about 25-30 minutes the music program comes to a close and the
traveler is prepared to get ready to end the inner journey, to open
the eyes and come back to the here and now.
Processing a session assists the traveler to find out about
messages/insights of the session and how they might relate to the
everyday life. Often the client is asked to draw a Mandala that
reflects the experiences of the session in colors and shapes. This
enables the client to gain closure, have time for integration, and
return to an alert state.
GIM has been successfully used with adults and children. It is
applied as a problem-solving therapy for a wide range of personal
themes. It has been found especially effective for clients seeking
GIM is uncovering strong emotions. This is an important reason why
the GIM work is not recommended in cases of serious mental
- anxieties, grief, and loss;
- relationship and divorce related issues;
- career changes and stages of transition in life;
- health issues;
- stress and burnout situations;
- trauma and sexual abuse;
- creativity blocks and negative thinking;
- old and burdening memories that need to be resolved.