About GIM
GIM Trainings
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.
Edward Elgar

The Bonny Method of Guided Imagery and Music (GIM)

  1. About Guided Imagery and Music: What is GIM?
  2. History: Who founded GIM?
  3. Roots of GIM: What is the theoretical background?
  4. Music: How is a music program designed?
  5. Sessions: How do GIM sessions work?
  6. Benefits: What are the possible outcomes of a GIM session?

1. What is GIM?

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 fulfilling life.

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 an experience
  • 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:

2. Who founded GIM?

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 Germany.

3. What is the theoretical background?

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.

4. How is a music program designed?

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 for instance:
  • 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.

5. How do GIM sessions work?

Each GIM session consists of five stages and follows a certain structure. The five stages are as follows:
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.
b. Relaxation:
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:
  • "Where are you right now?"
  • "What are you drawn to?"
  • "What do you feel?"
Aditional interventions can follow, which support the traveler to deepen the inner experience. A GIM guide is also using music interventions such as:
  • "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.
e. Post-session:
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.

6. What are the possible outcomes of a GIM session?

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 help with:
  • 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.
GIM is uncovering strong emotions. This is an important reason why the GIM work is not recommended in cases of serious mental disorders.