Edythe (Dee) Dunn, MA, LPC +

When it's time to grow

Bonny Method of Guided Imagery and Music

What is music evoked imagery?

We usually solve problems by thinking them through, analyzing information, and making a “reasonable” decision that may or may not actually work for us.

In Music Evoked Imagery, a person learns how to tap into the other side of the brain – the nonverbal, creative and intuitive side by using deep relaxation combined with specially selected music.

Using this process a person can redefine the problem in creative ways and find insights and solutions not as readily available to the analytical, verbal, already-overloaded-with problems-to-solve, conscious mind.

When facilitated by a trained professional, MEI is extremely effective as a therapeutic tool. The process builds strengths on strengths, so the outcomes are solid, useful and fit with the person you really are deep down inside.

Telling somebody to imagine themselves on a desert island...
Planting suggestions in the mind of a hypnotized subject so they will be more likely to do, be or act in a certain way later.
For everyone (although it has been used by people with Autism, Alzheimers, Brain-Injuries, substance abuse issues, high risk pregnancy, chronic pain, terminal illness, and a wide range of emotional concerns as well as non-clinical, growth-oriented individuals).

Brief history:
Grew out of research in the 70s on the conscious mind.
Initially the research employed the use of drugs (hallucinogens) to evoke an altered state of consciousness.
Control problems - not in the control of the subject, once the drugs were given, the experience was not under the control of the researcher, -
could not be regulated to provide specific types of stimuli with a therapeutic ambiance, and the drugs appeared to contribute to the experience in very negative ways.
It was found that music and deep relaxation could produce the same deep exploration of consciousness, without the uncontrollable features.

General description:

MEI is a therapeutic tool to be used in getting to the inner-world of the client. The inner-world holds that information which:

has not before been available to the conscious mind,
may be nonverbal or preverbal (prior to adequate language)
would be interpreted, analyzed or rationalized by the conscious mind to the point that it is no longer reflective of the emotional truth of the event.

Knowledge comes in many forms –
pictures or visual imagery (remember the color of your favorite t-shirt or toy)
body sensations or kinesthetic imagery (remember a time you were cold)
a sense of gut-level understanding or intuitive imagery (that “aha” that comes out of the blue)

You may experience some or all of these in a session. Take what you get. It is your inner self talking to you. If it seems “strange” you may be discovering a new side to yourself, or a new level of yourself.

In a 1:1 session - there are two critical parts to Music Evoked Imagery.

The music as the co-therapist

Music is unlike any other art form in that it is dynamic and each moment leads into another, different moment. Art and poetry, although capable of expressing deep emotion, express it in a static way. They are moments in time, not leading to or resolving of any prior moment.

Because of the dynamic, flowing movement, music acts as a carrier to the “traveler”, moving the person into, through and out of experiential events. The movement of the music prevents the traveler from becoming stuck or mired in events, unlike conventional talk therapies which can either leave a person in muck or to which the person can respond with the usual repertoire of defenses, with the business-as-usual outcome, remaining stuck.

The features of the music serve to shape the traveler’s experience with regard to movement and resolution. Music creates a container which provides a safe and structured environment in which to experience the full expression of the inner world.

Interestingly though, the interpretation of the music is decidedly individual - it is a projective screen for the traveler. Just like the Rorschach (Ink Blot Test), each image is personalized, however, the movement of the music evokes not only scenes but dynamic, relational interactions, emotive expressions, and a story line with a beginning, middle, and end.

The therapist as guide and witness

In a 1:1 session, the therapist in MEI is essentially a witness and scribe, a companion for sense of security and safety, and a lens to help focus the traveler in as an event unfolds. The term “guide” is not literal, in that the therapist does not strive to shape the journey, but rather invites the traveler to explore, deepen the experience, assess and at times, physically confront the experience. MEI is about as nondirective and "noninvasive" as a therapy process can get, yet the forces and movement of the music prevents the traveler from just “lolling around”.  The emotional work accomplished within a session by the traveler can be quite profound and life changing.

Because the traveler is experiencing this journey in an altered state of consciousness, it is frequent that the traveler does not readily:
recall all the information they have shared
recall the order in which events unfolded
retain all the significant awareness (memory is not strong at all in this state)

Therefore, the therapist as the scribe, writes down the information shared by the traveler verbatim and logs the points in the music program when it occurred, so that the entire journey can be recreated for the conscious mind in post-session processing.

What to expect in the Process:

Pre-session : traveler focuses his intention, so as to narrow the focus of the search as he enters the altered state of consciousness. Because of the vastness of the unconscious (oh! them wide open spaces...) it is far more effective and efficient to clearly define the purpose the journey.

Induction: leads the traveler into an altered state of consciousness using a variety of relaxation techniques.

Music:  In a 1:1 session, the music lasts from 10 – 50 minutes, depending on the purpose and the focus of the session.   (Some people prefer to start with a demonstration session - usually 5-7 minutes of music just to "get a feel" for the process.)

Post- session: In a 1:1 session, the guide and the traveler review the imagery and content of the session and the traveler looks to see how this relates to the intention or the focus of the session. Processing doesn’t end when you walk out the door – depending on the depth of the material, the processing may last hours to weeks. You have opened a door within, and over time, that open door can change your life.

While the material usually needs further processing in the conscious state, the emotional triggers have been released or reduced, and often there is an intuitive understanding and acceptance which immediately changes the intrapersonal status or response on the issue being addressed.


As with any therapeutic technique, we anticipate change and growth.  Sometimes that comes with emotion, sometimes not.   It may be difficult to tell others about your experience simply because much of the material is "nonword" experience - but you will feel the difference within you, and that is where it really counts the most.

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