Roots and Branches of the European Network of Guided Imagery and Music (ENGIM)

By Margareta Wärja

During the last decade the GIM community of Europe has grown considerably. I undertook my own training in the early 90s at The Bonny Foundation of Music-Centered Therapies in Kansas with Helen Bonny, Lisa Summer and Fran Goldberg as inspiring teachers. I was the first Swedish GIM Fellow and in 1998 I became the first European Primary Trainer. In twelve years we have grown to now include eleven Primary GIM Trainers working around Europe. With more trainers come more students and more Fellows! In this time period there has been a movement towards developing a European organization of GIM.

I will describe the gradual growth of the European community into the European Network of GIM (ENGIM) and the efforts of the appointed ENGIM steering committee, while taking into account the support garnered from the Association for Music and Imagery (AMI, the American GIM organization) and Helen Bonny, herself.

Perspectives on the Development in Europe

The first European GIM conference was held in Findhorn in September 1996 with the title Roots and Branches. Helen Bonny was present at this festive event and expressed her strong support, joy and confidence in building a European GIM Community. The AMI president at the time, Roseanne Kasayka, spoke to this occasion and presented the gift of a cup, a Grail as a symbol to be passed on to the next conference organizer. Since that memorable start many different countries have welcomed and hosted the European conferences.

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Findhorn Conference, 1996.
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Bulgaria Conference, 2004.

In 2004, eight years after the start, it was time to go to Bulgaria. We had all traveled a distance from the main airport cities out into the splendid countryside to arrive at a beautiful old Monastery built on a mountain. The event was colored by a special occasion - the celebration and graduation of the first Bulgarian Fellows. At this time it was clearly stated that a strategy was needed around how GIM practitioners in Europe would find our own organizational format and begin to separate from AMI.

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England Conference, 2006.

The following conference in 2006 took place in the mythic Graal landscape of Glastonbury in England. The president of AMI at that time, Therese West, was invited to address the relationship to AMI and gave a thorough and transparent description of its organizational structure and made it clear that there was plenty of support and joy around the development of organizing a GIM body in Europe. At the last day in England the community made a conscious decision to appoint a steering committee consisting of four Primary Trainers, Leslie Bunt (England), Dag Körlin (Sweden), Torben Moe (Denmark), and myself, Margareta Wärja (Sweden), the task of starting to work on developing a structure that would be presented at the next conference.

The four of us first met in Copenhagen and began brainstorming around what would serve the community the best. We came up with the idea of a network. There are Fellows and students from many different nations with diverse laws, educational and juridical systems. A network seemed to be a more flexible and inclusive structure as a start, rather than trying to build a professional organization with membership fees and an administrative office. We decided to dwell on the ideas and seek advice and comments from GIM colleagues outside Europe. We met again, this time in Stockholm, and finalized the proposal and suggested a name for the network ENGIM.

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Norway Conference, 2008.

In September 2008 the GIM conference was held at the lovely Strand Hotel in Fevik located at the shores of a southern Norwegian fjord. The whole community gave a clear and cheering voice in favor of the proposal from the committee. ENGIM was born! At this event quite a few non-Europeans were present, among them President Louise Dimiceli-Mitran who extended support from AMI. The steering committee was given continued trust to work on the development of ENGIM and the separation from AMI. Three new members were welcomed on board: Anthony Hall and Ian Leslie to work on a website and Lena Uggla to serve as a student representative.

After the Norwegian conference our steering committee set to work with enthusiasm and a sense of pioneering spirit. One task dealt with issues of future training and standards of practice. In order to present the views of all the European trainers at the next conference we sent out a survey asking trainers to review the AMI Standards and comment upon those in regards to their own program and on the core elements. Other questions dealt with competencies for practice and training and entry requirements for advanced training. The steering committee will use the results of the survey to deal with the central questions regarding training, ethics, standards of practice and relationship to AMI. Today the position taken by ENGIM is that trainings must be endorsed by AMI until a new structure is in place. Step by step we foresee and trust that ENGIM will become an organization that is standing on its own feet. We face many challenges in the European community. One is the cultural and language diversity and vast differences in educational and juridical systems in each country concerning the practice and trainings of therapy. I also see that the field will be helped by a professional discussion around adaptations of the Bonny Method in order to define and present various models, techniques and methods for different needs and clinical applications. This can become an educative and necessary contribution to the GIM field large.

A Memorable Experience Teaching with Helen Bonny in Europe

From my experiences of spending time with Helen Bonny, in trainings and doing some actual traveling with her in the early 90s, I know that Europe had a special place in her heart and that the connection to Sweden held a particular personal meaning since her father was born there and the family on his side came from Sweden. As I reflect upon my times with Helen Bonny the trip to Lithuania in 1993 stands out the most due to experiencing the oppression of the country and the terrible circumstances and conditions for people working in the helping professions at this time. After fall of the iron curtain, psychologists and educators of psychotherapy from the West were invited to bring up do date knowledge and methods to countries where development in these fields had been forbidden for many years. Helen was invited by a Russian-American organization to go to Lithuania and train in GIM. She invited me to come along. We started off in Riga in Estonia and drove with an old Russian car with barely no brakes to Lithuania where Louise Cadrin from the USA joined us some days later. We spent 10 days in a traditional spa resort in the countryside outside the capital Villnius attempting to conduct a Level I training for nurses, doctors, psychologists and social workers. The experience was hugely challenging mainly due to fact that all the 15 participants were severely traumatized. There was such deep longing and hunger for music, beauty and transcendence. The participants just went right into the music, surrendering wholeheartedly. It was a tremendous humbling experience of gratitude and awe. Helens devotion and her clear unbending knowing that music would take care of pain, hold suffering and bring grace was crystal clear. We were there to provide a sacred musical space for transformation and to stand grounded on our feet and meet the pain. I experienced Helen as a musical surgeon as we chose and tailored music to meet the particular needs of the participants. It was a like a first-aid emergency GIM training that, although extremely difficult, I treasure and revere deeply. This experience has shaped me as a practitioner and trainer in the field of GIM and it strongly motivated me to further develop GIM practice throughout Europe.

GIM in Sweden

In 1990 Frances Goldberg started conducting GIM training in Sweden assisted by me. Trainers from the USA were invited as guest teachers. Linda Keiser Mardis, Lisa Summer, Madeleine Ventre and Stephanie Merritt all came and shared their skills, enthusiasm and knowledge. In the spring of 1992 Helen Bonny arrived to Sweden to visit and teach the story of GIM. There was a tremendous interest! Bonny lectured at the Royal College of Music, she gave well-attended public speeches, she spoke to an interested psychotherapeutic community, she was interviewed on the radio, articles were published in professional journals and news papers about her pioneering work in music therapy. The advanced level at that time had seven Swedish students, most continue to be active in the field. Among those we find: Bjørn Wrangsjø, Dag Körlin and Ingrid Hogan. In the next decade Frances Goldberg and I continued to train together in Europe with groups of mixed nationalities. In 2009 the first all Swedish advanced level training was started conducted by me together with a Swedish team of teachers: Katarina Mårtensson- Blom, Bjørn Wrangsjø and Ingrid Hogan.

The roots of the Lindqvist family derive from historic area around Vadstena. This small city is located in stergtland county and has about 6000 inhabitants. Despite its small population, Vadstena is, for historic reasons, still referred to as a city, it received its city privileges in 1400. Above all the city of Vadstena is noted for two important artefacts of Swedish history: it was here in 1350 that Saint Bridget of Sweden founded the first monastery if her Bridgettine Order and Vadstena Castle is one of Swedens best preserved castles from the era of the first Swedish king Gustav Vasa in the 16th century. During the visit to Sweden Helen Bonny and Fran Goldberg traveled down to Vadstena, which is about a three hour trip from Stockholm, where they were escorted by Birgitta Andersson, a music therapist from the area. She had been helpful in doing research to find the actual place and home where Bonny's father was born and had lived. They managed to find the site. The old house had been torn down and a newer house was built in the same place. From old photographs Bonny could see that the trees and the landscape was still the same. The people living there invited them in for a cup of coffee. This whole journey became a treasured experience for Bonny connecting her to her family of origins.

Current Perspective on ENGIM

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Spain Conference, 2010.

Lets now return to the present state of ENGIM. The first conference in the name of the European Network of Guided Imagery and Music was held in September 2010 in Laguardia, Spain in the beautiful Rioja district and was the 9th European GIM conference. The theme was Music, Imagery and Psychotherapy. The medieval town Laguardia is from the 13th century and sits high up on a rock foundation surrounded by majestic mountains and wineries. During the Middle Ages residents dug deep into the rock below their homes to create places for food, storage and refuge during siege. This picturesque setting with strong historic roots and rich fertile soil provided a supportive container for the GIM conference. The occasion was attended by around 80 participants from the following 18 countries: Australia, Austria, Bulgaria, China, Denmark, England, Germany, Ireland, Finland, Hungary, Italy, Korea, Mexico, Spain, Norway, South Africa, Sweden, and the USA. The conference highlighted a series of keynote presentation. My keynote addressed the dialogical relationship of the internal space of images and the necessity of shaping images in the outer world. The relationship with the therapist is potent playground for that shaping. The movement from inner to the manifest outer allows the presence of the third to be born. It becomes alive and tangible in the play space. I also spoke of Helen Bonny's contribution of GIM as psychotherapeutic path in its own right, but that it is not limited to that domain. Bonny provided us with a legacy that music takes us beyond the personal relational world and on a journey of immediacy. Music provides avenues of becoming and expanding infinitely. The keyword to this unfolding is surrendering to the music. Reflecting upon what was the essential teaching and gift I found that it is simple and direct: open to the music and let it take you wherever you need to go.

Another keynote presentation by Denise Grocke took us on an exciting ride through 38 research publications in GIM. There are well over 300 publications in the field including articles and research. Isabelle Frohne-Hagemann continued the next day speaking of applications of theory and practice in GIM. She gave many poignant vignettes about the power of this work and the creative process of images as a healing force in its own right. In addition, there were presentations about clinical adaptations, theory, case studies, research projects and experiential workshops.

Postlude: Death-Rebirth

The ENGIM conference was indeed a celebratory event that also was colored by Helen Bonny's death in May 2010. Erich Bonny attended the conference and brought photos, clippings and articles that painted the story of Bonny's work in consciousness and music. My own perspective is that her passing added both depth and immense joy to the conference. The greatest gift one generation can give to another is the wisdom. I sensed that wisdom spread grace and promise over this conference. It was as if a strong tree with a thick trunk and deep roots was there to hold all the different branches in light, beauty, love and the power of sound. One evening we went into one of the old cathedrals of the medieval Laguardia and attended a splendid organ and saxophone concert in honor of Bonny. In the final keynote Lisa Summer told her story about Helen Bonny with depth, breadth and humor of the many years working, growing and playing with Bonny. At the end we all shared a profound listening experience to Bach's Come Sweet Death.

That evening there was a kind of birth. The Fellow Ceremony was held in the beautiful garden of the conference hotel and 22 new Fellows were born and welcomed into the GIM community!

Life moves in circles. The next ENGIM conference takes us back to the historic soil in Sweden. The 10th European conferences will take place on September 19 - 22 , 2012. We hope and plan for that it can take place in the city of Vadstena. The theme will be fitted to the setting and the legacy of Helen Lindqvist Bonny: Spirituality and Psychotherapy in the practice of GIM.