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Imaging for Wellness: Guided Imagery and Music

musicandcreativetherapyby Dr. Amy Clements-Cortes, PhD, MTA, MT-BC, FAMI


Music therapy is an established profession that offers effective treatment approaches in addressing a range of needs and issues presented by cancer patients and families. In oncology settings worldwide, music therapy is identified as a non-pharmacologic health care treatment offering soothing and expressive benefits to those receiving this care. Specific music therapy strategies are provided by certified or accredited music therapists to facilitate meaningful changes in physiological, psychosocial and spiritual processes. Today’s blog introduces a specialized practice method known as GIM which requires a therapist to complete three distinct levels of study to become a facilitator of the method.


What is BMGIM?

The Bonny Method of Guided Imagery and Music (BMGIM) is a music-centered exploration of consciousness which uses specifically sequenced music programs to “…stimulate and sustain a dynamic unfolding of inner experiences” (AMI, 2012). BMGIM supporters believe that imagery and music are therapeutic agents; transpersonal and psychodynamic aspects are part of therapeutic process; and expanded awareness results in major therapeutic benefits (Burns & Woolrich, 2004). There are over eighteen music programs lasting 30-45 minutes available in the BMGIM, each with different qualities and goals; and an entire session takes between 70-110 minutes.

What happens in a BMGIM Session?

Common experiences of persons in GIM include: visual experiences, memories, emotions and feelings, body sensations and movements, somatic sensations, altered auditory perceptions, pure music transference (the client is fully engaged in the music), associations and transference to the music, abstract imagery, spiritual imagery/experiences, transpersonal experiences, archetypal figures, dialogue, aspects of the shadow part of the self, and symbolic shapes (Grocke, 2005). Experiences are noted by the therapist in order to be brought forth to the client post-session for client interpretation.

The BMGIM session format commonly unfolds through four different phases (Bonny, 1978).

  • Phase  One: Opening conversation, client and therapist find a therapeutic focus for the session.
  • Phase Two: Relaxation induction, where the therapist guides the client through a short relaxation experience. This could include for example a progressive muscle relaxation or breath or colour induction.
  • Phase Three: The music-imagery experience (The therapist plays a specifically designed program of classical music and the client images to the music). During the music listening, the therapist dialogues with the client, supporting and encouraging the client’s spontaneous imaging to the music.
  •  Phase Four: Return and post-talk (The therapist helps the client bring closure to the imagery experience and return to an alert state of consciousness).


BMGIM Goals/Benefits


There are a number of potential BMGIM goals applicable to persons diagnosed with cancer including: improving mood, enhancing quality of life, decreasing emotional stress, reducing anxiety, decreasing sadness and depression, decreasing pain and nausea, facilitating emotional outlets, and providing an avenue for expressing grief and hope (Logan, 1998; Burns, 2001).


The BMGIM has positive effects on the immune and endocrine systems in persons suffering from chronic illness and cancer (Short, 2002) and therefore an important aim of BMGIM work with cancer patients is reducing psychological distress which can decrease a person’s immune function. Guided imagery helps with pain and symptom management, psychological pain and suffering by providing an outlet for addressing emotional issues and emotional relief and catharsis. For example, if a client is experiencing a loss of control or feelings of hopelessness, music and imagery may be implemented as a way for the client to visualize aspects of their disease in order to gain back their sense of control and understanding. In medical settings, there are four ways to use guided imagery: to decrease negative feelings, promote healing, improve problem solving, and prepare for upcoming situations (Clark, 2000).


How to Learn More

If you are interested in having a BMGIM session or learning more about the method I encourage you to visit the Association for Music and Imagery website





Association for Music and Imagery [AMI]. (2012). About. Retrieved from


Bonny, H.  (1978). Facilitating GIM sessions: Monograph #1. Salina, KS: Bonny Foundation.


Burns, D. (2001). The effect of the Bonny method of guided imagery and music on the mood and life quality of cancer patients. Journal of Music Therapy, 38(1), 51–65.


Burns, D. & Woolrich, J.W. (2004). The Bonny method of guided imagery and music. In Darrow, (ed.) Introduction to approaches in music therapy. Silvery Springs: American Music Therapy Association Inc.

Clark, C. C. (2000). Integrating complementary health procedures into practice. New York, NY:  Springer Publishing Company Inc.


Grocke, D. E. (2005). The role of the therapist in the Bonny method of guided imagery and music. Music Therapy Perspectives, 23(1), 45–52.


Logan, H. (1998). Applied music-evoked-imagery for the oncology patient: Results and case studies of a three month music therapy pilot project. Unpublished    manuscript.


Short (2002). Guided imagery and music (GIM) in medical care. In K.E. Bruscia & D.      Grocke, (Eds.), Guided Imagery and Music: The Bonny Method and Beyond.  Gilsum, NH: Barcelona Publishers.



Amy Clements-CortesAmy Clements-Cortes, PhD, MT-BC, MTA, FAMI, is assistant professor University of Toronto, Music and Health Research Collaboratory; music therapy instructor and graduate supervisor at Wilfrid Laurier University; Senior Music Therapist/Practice Advisor, Baycrest, Toronto; Past-President CAMT; and WFMT Clinical Commissioner. She is Co-Chair of IAMM Conference 2014 and Chair CAMT Conference 2014.


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One Response to Imaging for Wellness: Guided Imagery and Music

  1. Joe graham says:

    As a student of Amy’s I experienced first hand BMGIM. The one time your encouraged to drift off during class. Amy has made her mark on many people, fellow educators, students, patients in many settings, and has deeply impacted me in my own work.

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