Drumming Enhances Addiction Treatment at our Drug Rehab Facility


Participating in spiritual activities like drumming help our clients to connect with each other, build self esteem, and most importantly: have fun.

We have been fortunate enough to have Lisa and Jay enhancing our client’s treatment by exposing them to fun Native American activities like drumming.

A very interesting article called Drumming Out Drugs  was recently published in the American Journal of Public Health. This article chronicled one  man’s (Michael Winkelman) experience and study observing and participating in drum circles in recovery.

Michael’s research bears out that drumming enhances relaxation and causes pleasurable experiences.  Drumming also reduces  isolation, alienation, self obsession, and selfishness.  Drumming also assists with the processing of traumatic events.  There are also numerous positive effects on brain activity that Winkelman writes about that use some pretty scientific terminology like “theta wave production, brain waive synchronization, and enhanced awareness of pre-conscious dynamics.”

Sober Living by the Sea is not alone in our use of drumming as part of the recovery process. The research that Michael did was conducted at numerous other recovery centers and communities (most notably Caron Foundation).  He learned about many aspects of the drumming culture and how it relates to recovery.

-    Younger men and women in treatment who can be defiant and confrontational responded well to drumming as an activity.
-    Drumming is new to many participants and gives them a sense of accomplishment when the “problem solve” the learning of new patterns
-    Different members of the drum circle play patterns that synchronize with others’ patterns which leads to a sense of teamwork and group accomplishment
-    Drumming increases motor skills
-    Drumming increases attention span
-    Drummers can report a “change of consciousness” that leads to a greater sense of self awareness
-    Drummers report a spiritual effect of the process that  contributes to a sense of spiritual connectedness

Conflict With Other Modalities?

Also interesting is Winkelman’s documentation of Daniel Smith’s “uneasy acceptance” among traditional psychiatric practitioners.

During close ongoing monitoring of the reception that drumming has received at our facility, it has not been met with a backlash.

Drumming is a voluntary activity (most clients will be exposed to at least one drumming session but active participation is optional) and does not contain any aspects that conflict with the core foundation of treatment at Sober Living by the Sea:

  • Traditional psychological processes
  • 12-step principles
  • The best experiential and alternative therapies

The Value of Empowering Activities

Drumming is but one of many activities that our clients participate in during treatment. The activities our clients take part in play a crucial role in the success of Sober Living by the Sea’s various programs. Outdoor activities under the sun build strength and fellowship.  Some (like the Getty Center Museum and Laguna Beach Sawdust Festival) are culturally enriching as well. Some of the activities are just plain fun (Disneyland, Bowling).  For more information about the activities, visit our activities page.

If you enjoyed this article then you may be interested in such others as:
Journeying – A Shaman’s Meditation Technique
Vision Quest – A Quest for Serenity
Drum Circle Activity at Learning Light Foundation
Pow Wow Trip  – A Fun Activity in Recovery 
Talking Circle Comes to Sober Living by the Sea.

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