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.
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.
Pam Akins, LMFT, Clinical Consultant, Crestwood American River PHF
Nancy Soncrant, Campus Administrator, Crestwood American River