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“Music, as a structured envelope of sound, is probably the most effective and safe opener to the doors of the psyche. It reaches beyond personal defenses to the realities and beauties of the person. Music gives access to the discovery of inner strength, uncovers the potential for creativity, and manifests ways in which life can be lived from a center of inner security.”

– Helen Bonny

The Bonny Method of Guided Imagery and Music (GIM) is a music-assisted transformational therapy. Specifically programmed classical music is used to generate a dynamic unfolding of inner experiences. This method provides experiential access to previously unassimilated facets of emotional material. Reported psychological outcomes of GIM include incorporation of previously unintegrated aspects of self, facilitation of insight and cognitive reorganization, enhanced mood, and increased sense of meaning.

A GIM session begins with verbal dialogue between therapist and client to identify issues and set an intention for the session, followed by an induction to faciliate physical relaxation and mental focus. A specifically chosen program of music is then played, during which clients engage in spontaneous, multi-sensory imagery and share their experience with the therapist. Clients are guided to bring full attention to the music, allowing it to be a vehicle for exploring the many dimensions of imagination and consciousness.

Training in GIM is undertaken through a training program endorsed by the Association for Music and Imagery (AMI). Training is institute-based though some programs are affiliated with a university. GIM trainees must complete graduate work in music therapy, counseling, or a related clinical field prior to completing GIM training. Upon completion of GIM training, the trainee is eligible to become a Fellow of AMI denoting mastery of the method. Almost 400 practitioners around the world have been granted Fellow status. Information about both AMI-endorsed training and contact information for AMI Fellows is available at www.ami-bonnymethod.org.

An interesting research study was conducted in 1996 at the University of Miami. “The Effect of Selected Classical Music and Spontaneous Imagery on Plasma B-Endorphin” explored the efficacy of music and imagery. B-endorphin, one of the endogenous opioids, relates to immunomodulation, pain modulation, and altered mood states. In this research, certain music was found to buffer stress-induced increases in stress hormones, including B-endorphin. In a study of two hundred women in labor, researchers found that those who listened to anxiolytic music over a twenty-four-hour period demonstrated significantly lowered plasma levels of B-endorphin and ACTH, two hormones released during stressful events. Although the effect of imagery on B-endorphin has not been examined, imagery has been shown to affect a wide range of physiological functions, including blood pressure, respiration, peripheral blood flow, muscle tension, white blood cell count, thyroid secretion, blood sugar level, brainwave patterns, and immune function.

What stands out from this study is that when three categories—music, imagery, and music and imagery together—were tested for their effect on B-endorphin, the third category (combined music and imagery) had a far stronger effect than did music or imagery by itself.37

An important distinction is appropriate here. The Bonny Method is different from guided imagery with music. 
According to the official AMI website, the goal with guided imagery with music for relaxation is deep relaxation. In this style of music-assisted relaxation, the guidance is more directive and the specific images and music used in the session are chosen for their ability to promote and support the goal of relaxation. In contrast, with The Bonny Method of Guided Imagery and Music, carefully selected classical music is used to elicit and support a non-directed spontaneous imagery process, with the client reporting their inner experiences, which are followed and supported by the facilitator.38

The Association for Music and Imagery (AMI) was established in 1986 as a non-profit organization to maintain and uphold the integrity of the Bonny Method of Guided Imagery and Music through implementation of training standards, endorsement of training programs, and support of trainees and practitioners. As of 2010, AMI-endorsed training in The Bonny Method is provided internationally through 17 AMI-endorsed training programs based in 8 countries. AMI Fellows currently practice throughout the U.S. and in 25 countries, including Canada, Mexico, Korea, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and throughout Europe.

The Bonny Method of GIM, evolving out of the human potential movement of the 1960s, is a profound tool for healthcare practitioners and psychotherapists to consider adding to their existing treatments. For more information, see “Soundwork Resources.”


Association for Music and Imagery

6003 Dawn Vista Oval

Parma, OH 44129 USA

Phone: 440-886-4299

Email: office@ami-bonnymethod.org

Web: http://ami-bonnymethod.org

Resources from The Bonny Institute

From Inspiration to Transformation (Two DVD set)

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