Drum circles are groups of people practicing and playing percussion instruments together (drums mostly) while connecting with each other. This therapy might also include bells, shakers, woodlocks, tambourines, and/or other hand percussion instruments. It is considered a form of experiential therapy. Drumming is not a new technique, since the therapy lends from antique cultures and habits. And now, it’s helping people overcome addiction.
Drumming is an art that is common to many different cultures, for multiple purposes. It can be seen as a way to express the self, to externalize one’s feelings. But at the same time, it is also an effective way of not focusing on your own thoughts. The tradition is often used as a rite for emotional and spiritual experiences. When a person is drumming, they focus on the rhythms they produce and hear, dedicating their full attention to it.
Do You Need Experience to Be in a Drum Circle?
You do not have to be an expert or a musician to take part in a drum circle session, or even have previous experience. Anyone can give it a try by just knowing the basics and being guided by the rhythm of the song picked. A drum circle is different from a professional group that aims to practice until everyone’s parts are perfect. The end goal is the journey, the healing, and the connections made among patients in order to reach a common group mind.
Each person will have their own instrument, and they should use it however they prefer. The way the rhythm of a song is perceived is different for each person. Some might follow the beat better, others might be mainly guided by the melody. As each individual has their own perception and expression, the group will slowly harmonize and become one sound.
The Benefits of Drum Circle Leadership
Taking part in drum circle therapy can help in many different ways — not just mentally. The therapeutic effects of drum circles are undeniable, but there are also physical responses triggered by drumming. Addiction is physical, mental, and emotional, so it needs to be addressed accordingly. Drumming can tackle multiple aspects of recovery, making it a great addition to any treatment plan.
Multiple studies have been made on how drum circles affect the recovery process in addiction treatment. Both the musical aspect and the actual exercise of drumming all bring benefits to the patient. There are many different ways for them to do so, some of which are:
- Easing stress by inducing relaxation and improving well-being. The constant, repetitive beat can make the mind untangle confusing thoughts and intense emotions.
- Stimulating the release of endorphins and endogenous opioid peptides, usually released when listening and making music. These hormones and neurotransmitters are directly linked to feelings of pleasure and happiness. They help the body have a better tolerance for pain and feel more relaxed.
- Boosting the immune system in general. Feeling and following a rhythm helps balance the cyclic flow of the body. It can also lessen the impact of stress hormones in the nervous system due to relaxation. Since stress lowers resistance and affects the immune system, drumming can help prevent just that.
- A study done by The Stanford University School of Medicine stated that drumming helped deal with depression. Drummers reported feeling less depressed after they started doing weekly music therapy. This can be attributed to how it relieves anxiety and stress and how it is the perfect opportunity to unleash lots of feel-good creativity.
- Working on social skills and human bonding, which is essential during the recovery process. Bonding with others helps prevent feelings of loneliness and isolation, which can both trigger relapse. The sense of belonging to a community can bring more meaning to one’s life. Social circles change once someone needs to adopt a sober lifestyle, and drum circles are a great opportunity to know people with similar lifestyles.
Tips On Improving Your Drum Circle Experience
Some people might feel like they’re struggling even after going to a few sessions. First of all, know that this is perfectly normal. While some people feel at home in the first try, some might take a while to adjust. Respect your process, and be patient, it might take a few tries before you find your “sweet spot.”
However, there are some ways to help make the experience better and make your adaptation easier. Getting into the right mindset requires understanding the exercise and bringing your guard down.
- Listen before you start playing. You should be guided by the rhythm and what it is. You can initially pay attention to how people more familiar with drum circles do it, and follow their lead.
- Don’t get hung up on messing up or mistakes you think you made. People are not going to hear one individual mistake!
- The focus should be on the group sound in general, so don’t try to play louder than everyone else. And unless you’re facilitating or guiding, don’t try to speed up the pace on your own by playing faster.
- In case you get lost, the main pulse (called the downbeat) can help you find your rhythm again so you can jump back in.
- If you need to stop to listen for a bit, it’s okay to not drum or play for a few beats. Trying to go with the flow should be the first alternative, but stopping a bit might help out more.
- Dancing while playing is not only acceptable, it is encouraged! In fact, if you somehow feel the urge to focus on the dancing for a while, do it. It is a way of feeling the rhythm and letting it work through you, it is as valid as playing.
Emotional and Mental Tips
- Make sure to keep a positive attitude. It might sound strange now, but a person’s attitude can influence the group and the session itself. Even if you are shy or keep to yourself, try to be positive and kind to others.
- Relaxing is important as you start the session. Try doing breathing exercises beforehand, clearing your mind of your worries as much as possible.
- Focus on how you want to express yourself, not on what others might think or expect. Each person feels and expresses themselves differently, there is no standard.
- Accept that each session and each group is different — that is the whole point! Opening your mind to different ideas and styles can be highly beneficial and applies to life in general.
- Think of things you’re thankful for if it helps — including the drum circle session. Being able to soak in that energy, getting to know people, and helping others heal are all things to be thankful for.
- Open up to the energy or vibe of the group. Try to pay attention to feeling rather than overthink all your moves. Feel the beat of the group in order to know what to do.
- Leave some space between you and people next to you. This is important so you can all have room to express yourselves freely (and safely) while playing. Additionally, you don’t know how comfortable they are with closeness.
- If possible, turn off your phone during your session. It can be incredibly disruptive for others as well as for you. Putting it in silent mode might help others, but it might not be enough for you to focus.
- Sticking around after the session can be a great opportunity to socialize. You and others might even try to go somewhere else afterwards to get to know each other better.
- Some people might have their way of warming up and getting ready before a session. If you do want to approach them before a class, make sure it won’t interrupt them.
- Understand that each person has their own of feeling the rhythm and participating, and respect that. They might be battling some symptoms or disability, so their approach might be different from yours — but it does not make them wrong.
- Some classes allow the presence of children and/or teenagers. If you want to bring them, make sure you will watch them. They can help the group grow, but they can also be disruptive, so be aware.
Start Getting Better Today At Footprints To Recovery
Healing and overcoming addiction can be done through many ways and techniques. A basic program comprises detox, substance treatment, and aftercare. Therapies like drum circle leadership and others are meant to make these programs more in-depth and complete. That is why we at Footprints to Recovery offer drum circle leadership and many other forms of alternative therapy.
Our programs explore science-based techniques and therapies designed to fit every need. We constantly update and adapt our methods according to recent findings and studies, aiming to be as precise and inclusive as possible.
If you or a loved one are looking for a program that goes beyond traditional therapy, contact us today. Our team can provide you with any information you might want and answer all of your questions. Choosing the right program is important, and we hope to help you pick the one that helps you achieve a sober, healthier lifestyle.
Questions about treatment options?
Our admissions team is available 24/7 to listen to your story and help you get started with the next steps.