Drumming Therapy helps Children with Autism, ADHD, and ADD with Focus and Initiation of Action.
Drumming Therapy helps Children with Autism, ADHD, and ADD with Focus and Initiation of Action.

Last week on June 11, 2013, I held a drum circle at a group home for persons with schizophrenia. This was my first time conducting a therapeutic drum circle for this specific population and disorder, though I’ve put on drum circles in senior living homes and homeless shelters where some were schizophrenic. In my nuclear medicine work (17 years), I encountered this in some of my procedures and clinical workups. And in coaching of some 20 youth sports teams, I encountered a variety of behavioral issues.

This music and the brain illustration depicts the areas of the brain involved in listening and playing music
This music and the brain illustration depicts the areas of the brain involved in listening and playing music

I undertook some pre-event research of published works on the use of drumming and music therapy in schizophrenic populations. Mostly what I found via the Internet was with using music therapy, and most of this focused on supporting happiness and self-worth, where the latter was widely used towards sustaining employment.

With little published on the use of drumming here, I mostly relied on my broad experiences in drumming and in the neurosciences. I felt if today’s group were made happier by the drumming, then I would have achieved most of my goal. But there are also going to be family present. And I knew family would have questions, and attendees may well have questions too. There was also some pre-event discussion on how this mighty become an ongoing workshop. Still, I was undecided on which methods I would use today. I felt I should just go with the flow, and see what jumps out at me. And it did.

A schematic showing how brain wave entrainment occurs.
A schematic showing how brain wave entrainment occurs.


As I arrived, I was welcomed by my own heightened intuitive senses, and I picked up on many of the thoughts, energies, and emotions of the attendees and family. This may have been precipitated by a recent hectic schedule and limited sleep, but it could well have been due in part to a long talk I had the day before on traumatic brain injury. I relied upon my “intuitive direction” on how to facilitate this event, some of which I discuss in my blog below

Mind-Body Healing and the Prospects thru Drumming

Nonetheless, I was feeling highly insightful, and it led to some really warm discussions on earlier rock music and drummers, and this paved the way for my use of an “informative” approach with the drum circle, where I spoke and discussed the instruments, something I normally don’t do a lot of. It was a “busy” drum circle as we were in a fairly cluttered room with lots of furniture, some 15 people anxious and curious to play, and a lunch in waiting upon our finish. Below is a photo of me putting on another drumming workshop at a private home – that I share so readers can see what a “drum circle” is about. Privacy laws would prohibit me from sharing photos of patients/clients at a group home.

Stephen Dolle facilitates a drumming for wellness workshop at a private home in Orange County
Stephen Dolle facilitates a drumming for wellness workshop at a private home in Orange County

We got started on a simple rhythm. But, just as it was starting to gel, one of the attendees (John) jumped on the tan tans (bass) I had moved aside, and said I didn’t feel they’d fit without a skilled drummer to lead, as I would facilitate from djembe. As you might imagine, the bass killed the rhythm. I regrouped, and this time assigned John to play a simple bass pattern. But that didn’t work either, so I had to emphatically put the tans aside.

Drumming helps seniors engage and raise spirits for better health
Drumming helps seniors engage and raise spirits for better health

Over the next 45 minutes, we played a number of rhythms, and I think all were pleased. Then we enjoyed a nice pot luck lunch and social, followed by the group’s scheduled support session that I did not participate in. I was told after that the drumming seemed to cause a lot more participation and dialogue that usual. And the parent who arranged for my drum circle shared he felt the drumming really benefited them today.

I’m not able to provide photos of this event to due privacy reasons, but I have written other blogs that discuss the scientific challenges and integrative medicine mechanisms that are similar to that see in schizophrenia. The science of movement in basketball is very applicable to this disorder, as movement helps quiet the mind. Drumming for addiction is similarly applicable. As is drumming for autism. My related blogs include:

Drumming Case Experience in a Child with Autism & Cerebral Palsy

The Brain Science of Drumming in the Workplace

The Brain Science of Basketball

Complimentary Medicine and Drumming in Addiction

New Insights in Sensory Processing Disorder


Knowledge is Power
Knowledge is Power

As I reflected back on my drum circle and session, it occurred to me that what this group really wanted and needed from me – was acceptance and HEALING! Drumming turned out to be the activity that brought everybody, and it was the service they paid me for. As a drum session facilitator, I felt rewarded to be able to work with this group.

Contact me for more information on my services.

Stephen Dolle

Contact Stephen Dolle



  1. Wow, as someone who also carries this diagnosis, I can agree with what I instinctually feel would have been a perfect “music therapy” i.e. drumming! I do not know what a drumming circle is, nor its usual purpose, but I vicariously feel how healing it would have been to these participants. Only one hospital i have ever been in ever had proper music therapy, and the one session I attended used percussion instruments. It was just wonderful, do not understand why, but it was. My only other comment is to say that for perhaps a similar reason, I feel elated and out of body, floating, when I experience an MRI of the brain…Weird, perhaps, but there you have it. Thank you for posting this.


    • Pamela, I think “drumming” if used in the right way, can provide you with a lot of peace, social connections, and means to express yourself when words often cannot. I’ve enclosed a link to a web site that lists drum circles around the country by state. I think this is a great start. They also have a page on Facebook you can search. You might find some particular benefit in music therapy and drumming therapy, the latter I often provide to groups with neurological and/or health challenges. The Remo drum co. and remo.com is a great resource for health info on drumming. And you can obtain instruments and related info at area music stores. Drumming has helped me personally thru difficulties with cognition, balance, and stress.




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