Music therapists use psychological and healing properties of music, in treating patients of all ages for a wide range of ailments. Drum therapy is a specific type of music therapy, derived from the ancient traditions of shamanic drumming. Far from the new-age fad that might be suggested by that description, drum therapy has stood up to modern scientific scrutiny, and has been proven by researchers to have numerous significant benefits for physical health and emotional well-being.
Drumming is embraced as a ritual in many cultures, and is used in healing by Mongolian shamans and West African healers. Some Native American groups have made their traditional drumming a part of alcoholism recovery programs. The drum is valued for its seemingly magical ability to unite people, and to bring about a trance-like state. Modern music therapists take advantage of this uniting power, and find drumming helpful to patients who find it difficult or impossible to otherwise express themselves.
Modern researchers have turned their attention to drum therapy. Scientific studies have proven its effectiveness, and have verified that it boosts the immune system and provides exercise. Drumming can activate the body's natural pain-killing endorphins. The teamwork of a drum circle provides the kind of emotional support associated with lengthened lifespan. Using the aspects of drumming proven to give health benefits, researchers have developed the HealthRHYTHMS Drumming Protocol. Remo, the drum head manufacturer, supports the HealthRHYTHMS Drumming Protocol in partnering with music therapists.
The rhythmic activity of drumming has effects of synchronizing the brain's hemispheres and cortices, and so enhances thought processes. Because drumming activates so many different parts of the brain, it can help to overcome nerve damage, such as that suffered in a stroke. Drumming also lessens the damaging effects of stress. A study of nursing home employees who participated in weekly drumming sessions found a stress reduction of up to 62%, and a dramatic decrease in employee turnover over the following year. Another study saw a reduction in student dropout rates, while yet another found discipline improvements among troubled youths.
Practitioners of drum therapy are skilled at making their patients comfortable with the instruments. Drum circles can contain participants of varying levels of musical experience, so the less experienced are brought along gradually. The layering of simple patterns creates a beautiful and complex tapestry, in which each individual plays an essential part. While the parts give each participant an opportunity to participate in teamwork, improvisation allows them to express themselves freely and openly. Just as drumming synchronizes the parts of the brain, it brings together the drummers in the circle.