Music Therapy is playing an important role for clients in their recovery at Crestwood Center Sacramento. And it all starts with the drumming circle that was started by Linda Gerardy, a Registered Music Therapist and Director of Recreation, at the campus. “On our Psychiatric Health Facility (PHF) program, I use music with exercise and movement groups, guided imagery and art, and occasional lyric analysis, but my favorite is a weekly Creative Expression Drumming Group, utilizing various hand drums and hand percussion instruments,” said Linda. “My mantra to clients is that no musical background is needed to have a successful and enjoyable experience in this group. It is a rarity to have a client answer “No” to “Do you like music?” and the sound alone has a way of drawing in otherwise reticent clients to see what we’re up to. The variety of instruments provided, learning their names, sounds and capabilities are intriguing, and in most cases, a source of instant success that is empowering and sustaining.”
The American Music Therapy Association defines Music Therapy as a clinical and evidence-based use of music interventions to accomplish individualized goals within a therapeutic relationship by a credentialed professional, and can help promote wellness, manage stress, alleviate pain, express feelings, enhance memory, improve communication, and promote physical rehabilitation for clients.
“The sound of a drum helps us to notice our own heartbeat, the part of us that keeps us alive and vital,” explained Linda. Drumming in a drum circle with others can be meditative, but also energizing and invigorating depending on how it is structured. Specific studies conducted by professionals in the fields of music therapy and mental health show us that drumming reduces anxiety, tension and stress, helps control chronic pain, boosts the immune system and releases negative feelings, blockages and emotional trauma.
“Community effects of drumming allow for an opportunity for participants to feel connected with others and gain a sense of interpersonal support. This is especially important at our PHF program, where the tendency to isolate is evident with many clients, and the need to develop quick connections to others, who are in similar situations, is needed in order to make all of our program groups more meaningful and beneficial,” said Linda.
There are also both cultural and spiritual connections to drumming for several Native American clients who have come through the campus’ doors. One client patiently informed Linda and her peers that in her tribe’s culture, the same people don’t both dance and drum, so her contribution to the group was to quietly dance her “shawl dance” in a circle around their drumming. Another client thoroughly enjoyed the drumming, but felt the need to sing as well, teaching them a song in the Chippewa language, after which they were able to provide the rhythmic accompaniment for her singing.
Another positive aspect of a drumming group is the ability for clients to serve in a leadership position, a role which is often difficult to provide in an inpatient setting. They have had clients with extensive musical backgrounds who easily and willingly take on this task, but even those without any formal music experience are usually quite successful in taking a leadership role once Linda has modeled it for them.
At Crestwood Center Sacramento, the drumming group will continue to be a wonderful outlet for clients to express themselves through music and helping them with their recovery and wellness goals. Linda summed it up best by saying, “Music, with a drumming group as one small part, is a medium whereby we can more easily connect with ourselves and others. It truly is a universal language where people can join together, at times free of the need for verbal communication, to be able to experience life more fully.”
Linda Gerardy, RMT
Director of Recreation
Crestwood Center Sacramento