Music: the best therapy
There are many different methods of music therapy; some of them are active, others passive. Active ones make use of musical instruments by the patient or the therapist, as the patient is asked to play and improvise rhythms or different sounds. These are often used for children with special needs and in hospital settings.
Passive methods consist of asking the patient to listen to a piece of music through an audio device. The music is thus "administered" by the therapist, almost like a drug, by way of listening.
In all these years as a psychologist, counsellor, musician and music therapist, I always felt I had something ethereal in my hands: music. Intangible, without boundaries, a tool with potentials higher than those accessed by logic and intellect. I have also been reflecting about how listening affects us deeply. As a therapist it’s part of my job to listen to a voice, a cry, a smile, a pain, a joy and, of course, to music.
Because of my strong connection with music and my interest in the deep effects of listening, I decided to become a Guided Imagery Music (GIM) therapist. The GIM method was developed by Helen Bonny, an American musician and music therapist, in the early 70’s after participating in research projects on the interaction between music, relaxation and imagery. GIM therapy is an in-depth psychotherapy carried out with the help of classical music; it’s a profound exploration of the patient’s inner world through the imaginary and the metaphoric process activated by listening to music programmes under the guidance of a therapist.
The results show strong evidence that music, by its very ambiguity and complexity, when listened in a state of profound relaxation, produces altered states of consciousness. The synergy of music, imagery and altered state of consciousness brings therapeutic changes in the deep structures of the personality and overcomes emotional and psychological pain.
In Helen Bonny’s words: “The value of GIM therapy is in the depth, speed and relative ease of the work. It enables clients to wrestle with deep-seated conflicts more quickly than in any other therapies by bringing them to conscious awareness in a manner that they can tolerate. Many issues are worked through in the context of the session itself. The holding environment created within the music experience lowers anxiety and allows clients to deal with deeply repressed or highly conflicted material”.
What to expect in a GIM session
GIM therapy works both with individuals and groups, and each session lasts for ninety minutes.
It’s not recommended to subjects with problems of disconnection from reality, with lack of boundaries or inadequate intellectual development.
A GIM session starts with a preliminary conversation where the client explores her issues and problematic areas and the therapist, based on the information given, tailors a music programme suitable for her. After the preliminary talk, the client is induced in a deep state of relaxation; this part of the session lasts five to ten minutes, depending on the ability of the client to relax. Once the client is completely relaxed, the music starts. While listening to the music, the client is gently guided by the therapist and asked to share and bring out her imagery while she is connected with her inner self.
The session ends with a post-listening talk; client and therapist explore the meaning of the "music journey". The client is stimulated to connect with her issues, to find solutions, to see things from a different perspective, to develop awareness and to be more positive and energised.
A client for example may suffer from anxiety or depression but not be aware of the reasons behind his condition. In most cases, during the guided music journey, explanations will emerge and soon became evident. This unique feature makes GIM most effective and dramatically reduces the length of a treatment compared to other forms of psychotherapies. Based on my experience, some of my clients, after only six sessions, are successful in developing a better self-awareness, becoming more emotionally balanced and able to manage their own resources.
Whom is this therapy for?
It’s virtually for everybody, and a knowledge of classical music is not required. I work with clients with all sort of needs, though GIM is especially effective with patients with depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, ante and postnatal depression, relationship difficulties, emotional disconnection, low self-esteem, chronic stress and fatigue, or for those looking for self-exploration.
Is this therapy right for children?
A GIM therapy version called music exploration is suitable and very effective for children and adolescents. The format is slightly different, and each session lasts fifty minutes. The aim of the therapy can be, just as an example, to rebalance emotional needs, to deal with bullying problems, anger management and low self-esteem.
What some of my clients say...
[…] I never imagined I felt the need to go to see a therapist, let alone a music therapist. I always thought I was strong enough and I could handle everything in my life; but, apparently, some things are harder to deal with than others. I am so grateful and pleased that I met Letizia: her music therapy changed my life completely. I have never felt better and more self-confident. Starting from my first session I felt re-born: I have never been so open in front of someone without being judged at all. The experience with the music journeys is something that helped me to get out my deepest and most painful memories. When I look at myself now, I see a better, stronger person who trusts people, is no longer frustrated and believes in the future, a person who is not afraid of losses and who learns how to accept the things in life. N.S.
[…] I have been working with Letizia for a few months now and I can honestly say - having seen a few therapists before - that this is the first time I feel I am actually 'getting somewhere'. She doesn't just listen and nod: she interacts. The music sections have helped me to access parts of myself in a more immediate way than if it was just a “talking therapy”. I would definitely recommend Letizia's work as I feel that since working with her, I have made considerable progress in the areas I wanted. S.F.
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About Letizia Orlando
I’m a fully qualified counsellor, BACP member, clinical psychologist, musician and music therapist. My studio is situated in the heart of Highgate Village.
If you want to know more about music pshichotherapy please visit my website www.music-psychotherapy.co.uk or contact me 07531 461666 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org… Read more
Located in London.
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