Highlights from “Many Voices: Guided Imagery and Music in the World”

July 31, 2015
Amy Clements-Cortes PhD MT-BC MT FAMI

Amy Clements-Cortes, PhD, RP, MT-BC, MTA, FAMI is an Assistant Professor at the Music and Health Research Collaboratory, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada

I recently had the honor to present and attend the 23rd International Association for Music and Imagery Conference, “Many Voices: Guided Imagery and Music in the World”, held July 15–18, 2015, in Elizabeth, NJ. This was my second time attending and presenting at the dynamic conference, and an opportunity to learn from an International group of delegates working in various health care professions with adults having a wide range of diagnoses. The conference offered several keynote presentations, and a number of concurrent paper sessions alongside experientials and time to meet and collaborate.

One of the outstanding keynotes I attended was given by Selene Kumin Vega, PhD, a licensed psychotherapist who is also faculty in the PhD program and Director of the MS program for Mind-Body Medicine at Saybrook University (Oakland, CA). Dr. Vega presented “Inner Ethics,” a presentation focusing on the Ethics of Caring model, which promotes psychological and spiritual inquiry based on self-compassion, peer supervision, and attention to having the right relationship with clients. Being able to participate in this interactive experience helped attendees to reflect on their practices while reinforcing the importance of keeping ethics at the forefront of our daily work. As a therapist who works in long-term and palliative care, I was able to reflect on some of my challenging cases and hear the perspectives of others in their work.

I was pleased to present an oral paper on “Freeing A Silenced Voice: BMGIM with a Child Survivor of the Holocaust”. In this talk, I discussed the case of Rivka, a female child survivor of the Holocaust who suffered trauma, abuse, grief and loss in her youth and who subsequently engaged in the Bonny Method of Guided Imagery and Music (BMGIM) to process and explore those issues to facilitate resolution and healing at end-of-life. The Bonny Method of Guided Imagery and Music (BMGIM) is the “use of specially sequenced western classical music designed to stimulate and sustain a dynamic unfolding of imagery experiences”.1 Practitioners of this method believe: imagery and music are therapeutic agents; transpersonal and psychodynamic aspects are part of therapeutic process; and expanded awareness results in major therapeutic benefits.2 BMGIM is based upon humanistic and transpersonal theories that emphasize the attentiveness of the individual and the influence of music on ego development. The classical music programs in the BMGIM provide structure and direction for the experience.3 In this process, music is the impetus that releases unconscious material such as feelings, images, and memories for use in therapy, and music is prescribed to enable the imagery process.

Rivka hid and suppressed many important and serious issues until the end of her life, when she sought a music therapist, along with her other healthcare practitioners, to provide end-of-life care. Rivka took part in nine BMGIM sessions that focused on helping her work through feelings about death caused by the recent passing of her husband, the death and trauma suffered during the Holocaust, and her fear surrounding her own eventual death. The BMGIM was particularly effective for helping Rivka express her feelings, free her silenced voice and discuss memories in order to move forward, bring healing to her issues, and achieve closure concerning the Holocaust and other losses in her life.

Child survivors of the Holocaust suffer long-term psychological and emotional effects of trauma that often remain unaddressed. In order to have a “good death”, it is important for many survivors to process their experiences at the end of life. This is important for long-term care professionals to understand when they are working with Holocaust survivors. Childhood survivors endured brutal carnage, were forced into hiding, and lived with disguised identities while facing fear and danger on a daily basis. They often continue to live much of their adult lives in the shadows and with their voices remaining silenced for fear of discussing their experiences. The BMGIM offers treatment options to help survivors speak about these issues and move forward in their healing processes. To learn more about the BMGIM I encourage you to visit http://ami-bonnymethod.org/the-bonny-method-2/. My paper on the work with Rivka has been published in the Kavod journal and can be accessed for free at this link: http://kavod.claimscon.org/2013/02/healing-water-guided-imagery-and-music-therapy/.

I encourage long-term care practitioners to learn more about the BMGIM as a potential therapy to recommend to patients seeking inner work and exploration of unresolved issues.



1. Mardis L, Clark M. The Bonny Method. Association for Music & Imagery; 2008. http://ami-bonnymethod.org/the-bonny-method-2/.   

2. Burns D, Woolrich, JW. The Bonny method of guided imagery and music. In Darrow (ed.) Introduction to approaches in music therapy. Silver Springs: American Music Therapy Association Inc.; 2004.

3. Bonny H, Pahnke W. The use of music in psychedelic (LSD) psychotherapy. Journal of Music Therapy. 1972;9:62-87.