Helen Bonny's Music Therapy

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  • Topic: Timothy Leary, Music therapy, Therapy
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  • Published : March 29, 2011
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Helen Bonny and Guided Imagery and Music
By H.M.

This paper provides a brief description of the work of Helen Linquist Bonny. Bonny developed a technique of "music-imaging" known as GIM (Guided Imagery and Music). Bonny wrote that GIM therapy, "Created specific music programs, which a trained facilitator can use to guide a client." Bonny went on to describe GIM therapy in this way:

". . . the uniqueness of this method lies in the synchronicity of music and imaginative experiences. In this process, music plays the role of a strong co-therapist and active partner. It acts as a mirror and reflects ambivalences and both light and shadow. GIM encourages unresolved issues to surface and helps the traveler to find new levels of problem solving." (Kaestele, n.d.)

In the early 1970's, Bonny was part of the research team at the Maryland Psychiatric Research Center, one of the last settings to provide legally sanctioned therapy with LSD. Bonny herself had had a spontaneous "flow" experience of dissolving time and space while playing the violin, during which she recognized the healing power of music. Working with Walter Pahnke, Bonny developed techniques of using music to shape both the set and the setting of patients' psychedelic sessions. They found that:

"Music complements the therapeutic objectives in five interrelated ways: 1) by helping the patient relinquish usual controls and enter more fully into his inner world of experience; 2) by facilitating the release of intense emotionality; 3) by contributing toward a peak experience; 4) by providing continuity in an experience of timelessness; 5) by directing and structuring the experience." (Bonny & Pahnke, 1972)

In 1972, Bonny and Pahnke published a paper summarizing their technique. The discography in this paper catalogs some of the most useful music for amplifying and stabilizing intense experiences, such as Bach's St. Matthew Passion, Elgar's Enigma Variations, Gounod's St. Cecelia Mass, Faure's...
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