Music expresses feeling and thought, without language; it was below and before speech, and it is above and beyond all words. --Robert B. Ingersoll
Music, Imagery & Arts Therapies
Therapy beyond words
The arts can reflect a beauty that pierces our heart and unveils the depths of our soul. Noticing and being taken aback by beauty, wherever we find it, can work wonders for everyone and especially the sick, the grieving and those who are out of sorts. Providing us with an expanded and deepened perspective, it can foster comfort, inspiration, hope, and healing. So paying attention to beauty itself, either within the arts or out in nature and the world, can be a gift and an important factor in the therapeutic process.
Dreams, symbols, body language, somatic complaints, as well as numerous expressive and receptive art forms, can provide us with another kind of language to help “ex”-press ourselves, that is, move our suffering out of our selves and into the world where we can acknowledge and work with it. These avenues can serve as our voice when painful experiences have hidden themselves safely outside our awareness, or are remembered but are too frightening, shameful or complex to put into words or speak out loud.
So, together with talk therapy and accessing my special training in expressive arts therapies, I might facilitate arts processes to help patients enable their unconscious impulses become conscious and their soul's desires to become known. As George Bernard Shaw maintained, "You use a glass mirror to see your face; you use the arts to see your soul."
Absolutely no artistic talent is necessary to do this kind of psychological work. In fact, having a natural “beginner’s mind” can be quite advantageous for "In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, in the expert's there are few" (Shunru Suziki).
Music & imagery
Music affects us emotionally, spiritually, physically, and aesthetically; making music and listening to it has been regarded as therapeutic since the beginning of time. Ancient and modern shamans, the Greeks and music therapists of today all have included music in their healing work.
I am a Fellow of the Association of Music and Imagery (FAMI) and use various music listening, imagery and arts processes to hold the person in his or her experience and allow deeply held feelings and memories to gently and safely emerge for therapeutic exploration, personal healing, and growth.
For some, it’s appropriate and helpful to explore the deepest layers of the psyche. In these cases I might suggest using a process called The Bonny Method.* It is a form of active imagination that accesses primarily classical orchestral and choral music to evoke spontaneous waking dreams in the listener. Check here for a short video about this method.
During these music ‘journeys’ the music ‘traveler,’ usually lying down with eyes closed, listens to music in a highly relaxed, receptive state. The therapist selects the music, facilitates the journey and transcribes traveler’s verbal and body responses as they are occurring. The music, combined with the traveler’s own creative process, serves as a catalyst to elicit and sustain a dynamic unfolding of spontaneous personal, psychodynamic, archetypal, and transpersonal material. This might include thoughts, memories and emotions; visual and energetic images; sacred symbols; and a variety of sensory and somatic responses. The unfolding of the psyche in this way informs the course of psychotherapy and provides rich material for personal and psycho-spiritual development. Check here for a short video of a traveler's experience of a music journey.
The music journeys often provide surprising "aha" moments, which may take time to digest fully. Between sessions, some patients may work with their discoveries through contemplation and journaling. Others may have significant sleeping and waking dreams; create mandalas, collages or other forms of artwork; compose music or songs; write poetry, prose, or lyrics; or create dances, movements or gestures. This working through helps bring insight to the work and may be discussed, amplified and revisited in subsequent sessions.
Again, no musical or artistic talent is necessary to participate in music journeying.
Please email me if you'd like to receive notifications for future workshops that I conduct from time to time in therapeutic music, collage and mandala making.
* The Bonny Method was developed in the early 1970s by Helen L. Bonny, PhD, during her tenure as research music therapist at the Maryland Psychiatric Research Center where she was part of a team studying the effects of LSD on consciousness. The process also is known as Guided Imagery and Music (GIM) although this is a slight misnomer, for it is the music combined with the patient’s own creative process that guides the session, rather than the therapist, whose job it is to facilitate this happening.
Try to hold the soul in rational concepts and you will pierce and kill her, but place the soul gently in a painting, poem or sculpture, and she will live for hundreds or even thousands of years, long after the artist has died and turned to dust.