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Crestwood Behavioral Health


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Making Connections through Music

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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.”

Contributed by:
Linda Gerardy, RMT
Director of Recreation
Crestwood Center Sacramento


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The Healing Power of Drumming

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Drumming has been a tool used in many cultures for many things, from communication, holistic rituals, community gatherings, and healing.  People have had an intimate connection with the drum since discovering that the beat of the drum is analogous to the beat of the human heart.  As a universal, vibrational language, the drumbeat communes with the Earth and all of her creatures.

There have been numerous research studies conducted about the power of drumming and the significant effects it can have on the human spirit and body.  Drumming is now being used to help people with Alzheimer’s, children with autism, and teens with emotional dysregulation.  Large corporations have also used drumming to help employees focus attention and improve spirits.

Research further suggests that drumming can serve as a distraction from pain and grief by enabling communication between the cerebral hemispheres, using the physical transmission of rhythmic energy.  This allows one to connect with their own spirit at a deeper, more intimate level, making it easier to access feelings of insight, understanding, certainty, conviction and truth.

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Drum circles provide an opportunity to connect with groups of like-minded people, including those struggling to find their own personal resonance.  Individuals may make this connection by listening and feeling the pulse of the drum, and working out their own personal rhythm in contribution.

Sound vibrations have been known to resonate through every cell in the body, freeing energy blockages that can form as a result of unexpressed feelings and emotions.  Drumming helps emphasize self-expression, which can aid in an individual’s ability to address emotional health and issues with conflict and even violence.  Participants are given the opportunity to present and receive positive feedback.  It can help us find our center and become more mindful of the present.  Playing in a drum circle can create a magical paradox of moving from the awareness of being out of one’s body to being firmly grounded in the moment.  Group drumming can complement traditional talk therapy, providing a vehicle for personal transformation, as well as community building.

Pam Akins, LMFT, a Clinical Consultant at Crestwood American River Psychiatric Health Facility, said, “Witnessing the responses of our clients to participation in a drum circle has been a personal growth experience for me.  As a clinician, I have had to give up control of the circle and allow the drummers to take what was needed and give as they were able to.  The main attraction is the drum, center of the circle and the heart of healing.  In the PHF setting, some clients are active participants, while others may be observers, but it is evident that some type of shift occurs with everyone involved, even if only momentarily.”

“The most common initial response is that the client does not know how to play a drum or keep a rhythm, but, once an attempt is made, I can see the client respond to the beat that they create, and start to become increasingly more confident.  Instruments are eagerly shared and exchanged.  The circle creates unity and a sense of community among the participants.  Playing along and sharing their hearts, helps the group become centered and calm,” explained Pam.

The experience of conducting a drum circle at a PHF, with clients who are struggling with finding wholeness, has shown Pam and the staff the powerful, amazing and positive effect that beating on a hollowed wooden circle, covered by a tightly stretched membrane, can have.

Contributed by:
Pam Akins, LMFT, Clinical Consultant, Crestwood American River PHF
and
Nancy Soncrant, Campus Administrator, Crestwood American River