Music as Co-Therapist: Towards a Taxonomy of Music in Therapeutic Music and Imagery Work


  • Margareta Wärja
  • Lars Ole Bonde



In receptive music therapy, music listening is used as a therapeutic medium in many different ways. The Bonny Method of Guided Imagery and Music (GIM) is a specific receptive music therapy model where the client or patient listens to selected classical music in an expanded state of consciousness in an ongoing dialogue with the therapist, facilitating symbolic and metaphorical imagery in many modalities. In this model, music is often considered a “co-therapist”, and more than 100 music programs are used to address specific issues and problems. However, no classification of the music used in GIM exists. This article presents a matrix with 3 major categories: 1) Supportive music – 2) Mixed supportive and challenging music – 3) Challenging music, with three subcategories within each category. Based on a review of literature related to music listening in music and medicine the taxonomy is introduced and its relevance for the Bonny Method discussed, with special focus on two adaptations: KMR-Brief Music Journeys and Group Music and Imagery (GrpMI). Vignettes from KMR with one individual cancer patient and from GrpMI sessions with psychiatric patients are presented and related to the taxonomy.