Using Voluntary Musical Imagery as an Intervention for Anxiety

Presenter: Michelle Ulor (London, UK).


Anxiety is a common mental health problem that has been treated using various therapies. Imagery-based interventions involving deliberately imagining music is a method that has not been explored. Voluntary musical imagery’s (VMI) ability to reduce anxiety relates to VMI directing attention away from anxiety stimuli and towards the imagined music, and positively regulating emotions. This research aimed to investigate the effectiveness of a novel VMI intervention on anxiety and mood, addressing the research question of whether VMI is more effective at reducing anxiety and improving mood, compared to a verbal control task. To test this, 65 participants aged between 18 and 69 (Mdn = 23) completed VMI and verbal exercises over six days whilst reporting their anxiety and mood using an experience sampling method. The main findings were that VMI was associated with reductions in immediate anxiety (b = .29, p = .002) and increases in positive mood (b = -.55, p < .001). This study was the first to suggest that VMI can be used as an accessible, self-administered intervention to reduce anxiety and improve mood. This talk will thus focus on this study, including it's rationale and diving deeper into the findings, and provide an opportunity for the audience to contribute to their experience relating to musical imagery experiences, as well as using music for wellbeing.