music therapyIn my experience, many addicted individuals in treatment or early recovery have no idea where to begin with new activities that are not related to their drug/alcohol use. Drum therapy, and other activities designed to open up new creative possibilities, help those in recovery to discover their own preferences for a drug-free lifestyle.

Michael Winkelman, Department of Anthropology at Arizona State University, published a study in 2011 where he concluded that drumming “enhances recovery through inducing relaxation and enhancing theta-wave production and brain-wave synchronization”. He interviewed counselors, internet mailing list participants, started a pilot program, reviewed literature on the effects of drumming, in addition to observing drum circles for substance abuse as a participant.

A quick internet search will reveal that “Drumming out Drugs” programs play a part in major rehabilitation programs, community centers, conference workshops, training programs, and prison systems. There are absolutely no skill requirements to participate in a drum circle. Everyone has their own part to play.

Therapists have been administering drumming therapy to improve recovering addicts’ abilities to change their behavior and become emotionally healthier. Drumming therapy gives this in recovery a form of recreation that reinforces their efforts to quit drugs and alcohol. Here are some of the ways in which drumming practitioners benefit:

"All patients benefit, but those who benefit the most are the ones who have difficulty in expressing themselves with words. They come alive! They find they can express themselves and become comfortable with others."

Phil Grant, Specialist in Drumming Therapy

  • Activates parts of brain’s frontal lobes, the area most responsible for decision-making and impulse control. As a result, drumming may help recovering alcoholics and drug addicts quit when they are at high risk of relapse.
  • In combination with conventional therapies, such as counseling and community programs, facilitated drum circles help clients to express themselves in a healthy way, paving the way for productive decision making when stressful situations arise.
  • Drumming calms the psyche by stimulating the brain to produce more theta waves and become more synchronized.
  • This activity can be a welcomed outlet for recreation, which many addicted individuals are missing after quitting drugs and alcohol. Over time, this helps clients to avoid boredom, a risk factor for users to become distracted by cravings.
  • Drumming helps practitioners connect to themselves and stay in the moment while expressing their feelings in a positive way.
  • When drumming in groups, recovering individuals can create and maintain friendships for support and companionship.
  • Friendships and companionship may extend long after treatment since drum centers in many communities now sponsor drum circles across the nation, which are open to the public.
  • Drumming has been shown to help boost numerous aspects of health, including concentration, peaceful feelings, and immunity to disease.
  • Drum Circle Facilitators now have a wealth of information and training available to them. To get patients started in this type of therapy, researchers often have them start drumming to their own beat or to a recorded background drum beat music to get warmed up. Next, drumming exercises can begin as group members are encouraged to express themselves through the beat.

Participants may be asked to visualize their feelings, such as guilt about addiction, and let the emotions subside on their own as they continue drumming. With repeated sessions, recovering addicts commonly report feelings of connectedness with others, along with relaxation and an improved mood.

Recovering individuals are able to improve their confidence and learn a healthy new emotional outlet through drumming. By calming and healing participants, drumming can also help people leave alcohol and drugs behind.