The Bonny Method of Guided Imagery and Music (GIM) is a receptive music therapy, and one of the five international models of music therapy which requires advanced clinical training. It consists of an in-depth approach to music psychotherapy, a creative process where imagery is evoked during music listening (Bonny, 1990).
The Bonny Method of GIM was devised by Helen Bonny, a humanistic music therapist and researcher who developed this model at Maryland Psychiatric Hospital (USA) in the 1960s. GIM has spead over the world with various clinical applications. Formal training in the method is offered according to the standards of the Association for Music and Imagery (AMI).
GIM belongs to the holistic and psychodynamic traditions of psychotherapy, and was originally conceived for self exploration and actualisation. Through development and research, there is now scientific evidence for effectiveness in various clinical fields, especially with clients with stress related and psychosomatic disorders. The method uses specifically sequenced music programmes, experienced in a relaxed state, to stimulate and sustain a dynamic unfolding of inner experiences, through images, feelings, senses, thoughts or memories elicited by the music. The music interacts with the mind and the imagery evoked may vary from multilayered images to unprocessed sensory, bodily, and affective memories.
The symbolic (multi-layered) images may be considered as the healing agents of GIM, developing in a spontaneous and playful way with the music, which is mostly drawn from the western classical tradition. Images integrate autobiographical, emotional, archetypal, and transpersonal processes of the mind. They represent both problematic and resource aspects of the psyche. Imagery of inner resources is an integral part of GIM, and the process has positive existential outcomes in addition to symptom relief. These various realms of the psyche are opened up and integration becomes possible within the music experience and in the processing that follows afterwards.
The images arise spontaneously, facilitated and safeguarded by the therapist or “guide”, who has a minimal agenda of his own. The guiding method is an example of “Hermeneutics of Appreciation “used in Jungian and Humanistic exploration. The guide helps reflect on the experience afterwards, and may use creative media such as art work and mandala painting. This may then form the subject of a verbal working through, integrating the whole experience in a creative therapeutic process. The encouragement of imagery of inner resources has positive existential outcomes in addition to symptom relief.
In the basic form of GIM, the guide engages in a reflective dialogue with the client, aimed at facilitating a spontaneous unfolding of images. In shorter and group adaptations, a cognitive focus may be introduced and the client images in silence and describes and processes the experience afterwards. In the basic form, longer sequences of complex and challenging classical music is used, while in the shorter forms more predictable and supportive music is choosen. The various ingredients can be flexibly blended and adapted to suit different clinical populations.
GIM has empirical foundations in music psychology and modern developmental theory as well as neuropsychology. The method, which was originally created for self actualization purposes, may be offered in shortened individual forms and group adaptations for different populations. These adaptations use shorter music extracts, and have some cognitive containment, designed to make imagery manageable.
GIM is a flexible tool that can be used in a wide range of psychological or psychiatric disorders and conditions (especially stress-related and psychosomatic disorders). It is also used in allied fields such as psycho-oncology, palliative care, perinatal psychology, family therapy, quality of life, self-growth, team building, etc.