Shelter From the Storm

October 4, 2011

I love drumming.  I particularly love participating in a drum circle with lots of people in it, but drum circles can’t always happen.  The benefits I experience from drumming end up happening exclusively in my percussion-based groups, and then it’s not for me, but I still love it.

There’s a particularly wonderful drumming exercise I use occasionally (usually on rainy days) in percussion groups, and it has a name.  It’s called “The Storm.”  I have been told that this exercise was created by an influential music therapist named Deforia Lane, though I can’t be sure.  If it was ethical (or legal) to videotape one of my sessions, I would post a video of this exercise.  Unfortunately, you’ll have to use your imagination.  Maybe I can kidnap some friends to recreate it at some point…

This exercise doesn’t need quite as much explanation in some settings as the amount I give in my groups, but I find it’s helpful to give the clients as much information as possible so they dont get confused.

A small set up of my drums before a percussion group on the psych unit

Sometimes, before or after the session, I begin a discussion about “the storm” as a metaphor for difficulties in our lives, and invite clients to speak about their own personal storms for as long as they want.

I start by turning off/down the lights in the group room and I ask participants to chose a percussion instrument.  We talk about the different aspects of a storm, and try to recreate those sounds with our instruments.  I explain that there aren’t any real guidelines, but I almost always have to remind clients that this isn’t a rhythm exercise, and that talking isn’t allowed until we’re finished.

After our initial exploration, I invite the group members to close their eyes and take a deep breath, followed by a loud sigh.  I tell the clients that we’re going to start with wind (as storms tend to do) and we’re going to end with wind, but that anything that happens in between is up to them.  I also explain that if a person wants to stick with one aspect of the storm for the whole exercise, that’s okay, or if they want to try different sounds, that’s fine as well.  With everyone’s eyes closed (except for mine – I peek to make sure nothing goes awry) we create a unique storm of our own.  Sometimes there’s more rain than anything else, sometimes there’s more thunder, and sometimes, it takes a while for people to allow the storm to taper off.  It’s always different, but people always report that they feel relaxed following this exercise.

I learned this activity at a conference a couple of years ago, and I liked it so much I have used it in the psych unit, in a dementia-specific assisted living facility, and with well elders in independent living complexes.

Something to remember: Even if storms are frequent or long, they always eventually end.



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