Home » Library » Music and Imagery

Music and Imagery

Music and imagery are intimately connected and music can be a potent force for stimulating imagery. Some popular imagery tapes have music backgrounds to make it easier to drift into a relaxed state of mind, while others don’t, in order to focus on teaching you how to relax and use imagery wherever you are. Of course, different music tends to evoke different threads of imagery — a war-like march will affect you differently than will a dreamy waltz, and rock and roll will induce different images than jazz does. Many relaxation and imagery tapes use tonal, non-melodic music to induce relaxation and may also include natural sounds like the ocean or a gentle rain to enhance that effect. Some of the best studies come from Steven Halpern, a pioneer in the use of music for relaxation and healing. Of course, if you don’t like the ocean or the rain, it may have an opposite effect from the one intended — picking background sounds or music that is relaxing, stimulating, healing, or inspiring to you is really the key.

Music therapists use music selectively to evoke emotional states from clients, and there is a very well-developed form of imagery therapy called Guided Imagery and Music, developed by Helen Bonny, which can be quite powerful in therapeutic work. In this form of work, the therapist elects music likely to provoke the kinds of emotions the client needs to work through, and then invites them to close their eyes and go on an imagery journey, watching their own imagery. At the end of the session, the client is invited to draw their images, and to discuss what they experienced or learned. While no verbal suggestions are made by the therapist, the music selected is a powerful suggestion of an emotional direction, and so the therapist must be highly skilled and know the client well.

Music and Imagery

Martin L. Rossman, MD

APA Reference
Rossman, M. (2018). Music and Imagery. Psych Central. Retrieved on April 18, 2019, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Oct 2018
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Oct 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.