Building Bridges through Drumming Therapy

Newton, Kan. (July 17, 2017) –In music, the bridge is a section of a song used to help reach the resolution. It’s a journey and a very important part of a song. Bridges make it possible to cross over and reach a certain destination.

In drumming therapy, letting loose, pounding to a solid beat and creating booming noises on a drum allows people to rid emotional, mental and physical stressors affecting their lives.

Everett Bradley, director of Prairie View’s Adventure and Recreational Therapy team, plans to demonstrate drumming therapy at Harvey County HopeFest on Saturday, July 29, from 9 a.m. to noon at the Newton Recreation Center.

HopeFest is a free, fun festival for all ages where people can discover the available resources in Harvey County. Health screenings, door prizes, book exchanges, bouncy houses and other entertainment will also be provided.

“People who are willing to participate in drumming experience benefits such as stress reduction and self-expression. They also receive great exercise,” Bradley said. “Drumming can be nurturing, it can provide support, enhance spirituality, and not to mention, it is simply fun.”

Last year at HopeFest, he witnessed a family familiarizing themselves with drumming. A man and his two children stood by the drum set and watched, while the son jumped for the drums and his dad tried to stop him. However, the son was too quick and began playing joyfully.

The daughter resisted hiding behind her dad, not eager to play. Passively, the man tapped the drum with one hand and held his daughter’s hand in the other. After he played with both hands, he was hooked and encouraged his daughter to give it a try, and she soon began playing on the large drum. As the kids’ mom casually walked by, her son insisted that she stay and play.

“All I did was bring the drums and invite them to play,” Bradley said. “They stayed for 10 minutes and discovered the enjoyment in drumming.”

How It Began
Before transferring to Recreation, Bradley served as a mental health worker, and it was during that time when he found an old, dusty box of drums that a previous staff member had purchased in the 1980s.

“I researched what to do with them and found an application for a scholarship for Health Rhythms Drum Facilitating, and off I went,” Bradley said.

The Eric and Deb Stuer Memorial Scholarship from Remo Corp. was used for Bradley’s Health Rhythms training, and the Justina D. Neufeld Scholarship Fund was used to pay for lodging and transportation. The Justina D. Neufeld Scholarship Fund provides scholarship funds to Prairie View staff for academic and/or professional goals.

Health Rhythms is a drumming program used in hospitals, schools, support groups, community outreach and more. Bradley has offered Health Rhythms for six years, while two other Prairie View staff members offered drumming and rhythm groups in years past.

Bradley said the program focuses on stress reduction, “where we ‘play’ drums, so it is fun and relaxing for clients at Prairie View.” While in a controlled, safe venue, they also learn teamwork and how to listen carefully.

He also said patients begin to feel a sense of belonging and feel comfortable expressing their emotions they were previously hiding.

On a weekly basis, he offers a group for Addictions Treatment Center, Turning Point, and Inpatient Services. He also demonstrates drumming circles for the community upon request.

“At first I found drumming relaxing and the youth responded well; it is a perfect fit,” Bradley said. “I like how drumming is low-tech, where anyone can be a part of a successful atmosphere. Everyone can drum!”

More Experiences and Benefits
Bradley said older women, hipsters, men (if only men are participating), kids, and teenagers with hidden anger prefer this stress-relieving technique over others.

“I am always surprised at the older women that ask when we are doing drumming again,” he said. “I notice their body language – how shoulders and faces relax with a pleasant, content expression after drumming.”

Prior to entering a session of drumming therapy, multiple patients had previously lost their connection with music.

“They used to play guitar or once played the violin,” Bradley said. “As they begin playing, they remember that positive experience of creating music, fall in love with it all over again and return to feelings of simplicity, enjoyment and creativity.”

Bradley believes drumming is at the top of the list of stress-relieving techniques.

“Adults feel they do not have permission to play, and feel drumming is not for adults, but I give everyone permission to play,” he said.

For clients experiencing addictions, Bradley also introduces and applies drumming to aid in recovery.

“Drumming releases natural pain killers that are not addictive,” he said. “What I see most in my groups is that it helps the clients get to know each other, build community and share an experience unrelated to the substance they used in the past.”

Clients will then share positive, common ground, Bradley added.

Because of the positive effects on one’s mental health, additional Prairie View staff are also examining how drumming can help those with eating disorders and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Drawing People Together
Bradley is a facilitator and simply draws people together to experience the music, while the patients teach themselves the methods, skills, and techniques of drumming specifically, he said.

“Like all good experimental programming, I offer an experience, encourage a conversation, and finally, inspire the participant to take the next step,” Bradley said. “I like to close my eyes and listen as the various voices and sounds come together for a full village voice.”

To schedule a drumming experience at Prairie View, or to learn more about either drumming therapy or the Justina D. Neufeld Scholarship, phone 800-992-6292. For more information, visit www.prairieview.org.