Clients’ experiences of Music and Imagery (MI)sessions: An integrative literature review — Petra Jerling & Liesl van der Merwe

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Clients’ experiences of Music and Imagery (MI)sessions: An integrative literature review

Petra Jerling & Liesl van der Merwe


Music and Imagery (MI), which forms part of the Continuum Model of Guided Imagery and Music (CMGIM), is a receptive music therapy method developed by Lisa Summer (1999) as an adaptation of the Bonny Method of Guided Imagery and Music (BMGIM). Training in MI started around 2005, and it is therefore a relatively new phenomenon in music therapy practice and research. MI includes and favours the use of clients’ preferred music during therapy. An integrative literature review was conducted to investigate how clients experienced MI sessions. Initially, 108 studies were identified through a comprehensive electronic search, including dissertations and presentations as well as personal correspondence with the developer of MI. Nineteen studies met the inclusion criteria with a total of 189 participants, ranging from one to 76 participants per study. Participants’ own descriptions of their experiences and researchers’ interpretations of participants’ feedback were examined in the six-phase thematic analysis process as described by Braun and Clarke (2021). Six themes were identified: Music as a catalyst for transformational experiences; Emotional experiences; Strengths, acceptance and self awareness; Affect regulation; Trust and feeling protected; and Connectedness. Upon reflection, the researchers found that these themes could all be connected. Music generated emotional experiences, which could assist with affect regulation as well as the recognition of personal strengths, acceptance and self-awareness, and feelings of trust and protection ultimately formed part of a sense of connectedness.


music and imagery, therapy, experiences, perspectives, thematic analysis, integrative literature review


Petra Jerling is a certified music psychotherapist in private practice in South Africa. She is a PhD candidate at MASARA (Musical Arts in South Africa: Resources and Applications) at the North-West University. She is a qualified BMGIM and MI therapist and is a member of EAMI (European Association of Music and Imagery) and SA-ACAPAP (South African Association for Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Allied Professions). She has published in the Nordic Journal of Music Therapy and Music Therapy Today. She has presented papers at the WCMT, SA-ACAPAP, PASMAE, OPTENTIA and the 2022 EAMI conference.[]

Liesl van der Merwe is a professor in the School of Music at the North-West University, South Africa. Her research interests lie in music and well-being, Positive Psychology in music education, Dalcroze Eurhythmics, music and spirituality, and lived musical experiences. She supervises postgraduate studies and teaches research methodology, music education and bassoon. She has published articles in high impact journals such as Psychology of Music, Journal of Research in Music Education, International Journal of Research in Music Education, Music Education Research and Frontiers in Psychology. Liesl also performs in chamber music ensembles and is the conductor of the North-West Youth Orchestra. []