As part of my PhD course I recently attended Level 1 training in Guided Imagery in Music, with Professor Leslie Bunt at The University of the West of England, further details available at: http://courses.uwe.ac.uk/USPKJE15M/2016
Guided Imagery in Music is a particular branch of music therapy which focuses on receptive responses accompanied by a therapist.
GIM has a lot to offer the music therapy community. Not only do we need live improvised music making, we also need recorded music. Many of us use recordings in our clinical work, but how aware are we really of the techniques required to use them? GIM should be part of all music therapists training, it seems to be such an intuitive step in the development of the profession of music therapy.
The training involves listening to programmes of classical music. Beginning with a gentle start of listening whilst doing other activities such as drawing Mandalas (Fincher, 1991) or writing a narrative, developing into listening in deep states of relaxation whilst being closely attuned to by a therapist.
This is the first time that a Guided Imagery in Music course has been run at The University of the West of England. Receptive therapy in music is like the missing jigsaw piece in the music therapy spectrum, and it feels absolutely right for GIM to have a higher profile and an increasing number of therapists are starting to recognise its value.
GIM was originated by Bonny (2002) following an epiphany experience in a prayer meeting, playing the violin, Bonny started to research the therapeutic benefits of listening to classical recorded music. Sessions in GIM start with a carefully controlled induction in which the therapist first finds out about the individual’s life, and creates a relaxation activity that facilitates the ‘traveller’ to enter an altered state. This is not strange as it sounds, since ‘altered states’ are a natural part of our everyday lives. The moments between waking and sleeping, or when we day-dream are all ‘altered states’ (Meyer, 2007).
The imagery and amount of direction is carefully considered by the therapist, designed to aid therapeutic process. The traveller is invited to visualise imagery, such as a pathway, a boat or a house.
GIM has two more levels in which the therapists learn to keep the travellers safe, before they can practice. One of the aspects that interests me is the analysis of sessions, looking in close detail at the musical analysis of a piece of classical music and then tracking the journeys it creates. I love this sort of analysis looking at small details in music. Which is part of the reason for doing a PhD.
On a personal note, I had one experience of travelling on the course, I was very surprised at the profundity of the experience, and I am still thinking about it two weeks later…
“Mandala created with sea-glass, pebbles, rocks, shells, toy instruments, lights and drawing”.
Bonny, H.L. (2002) Music and Consciouness: The Evolution of Guided Imagery and Music: Gilsum, NH: Barcelona Publishers
Fincher, S.F. (1991) Creating Mandalas for Insight: Healing and Self-Expression. Boston: Shambhala.
Meyer, E. (2007) Extraordinary Knowing: Science, Skepticism, and the Inexplicable Powers of the Human Mind. London: Bantam Books.