Freedom from Torture - “My heart beats through the drum” – healing through drumming

“My heart beats through the drum” – healing through drumming

Guest post by Freedom from Torture volunteer Andy

I’ve been running drumming workshops for around 7 years. I became motivated by the spiritual traditions of drumming and its healing power for those who have suffered trauma. The healing benefits of drumming aren’t common knowledge, but they are backed by scientific studies, that show how it can reduce stress and complement therapy.

In the last few months I’ve been volunteering with Freedom from Torture clients in Birmingham who are trying to rebuild their lives after fleeing torture. We sit in a circle, each with a 16-inch Remo Buffalo Hand Drum. The sessions are open to anybody and I never know who might turn up on the day, as people are usually in the UK asylum system and lack control over their schedules.

Typically, there are three or four clients in the group, as well as two or three therapists and interpreters. We might begin with a visualisation exercise for 5 to 10 minutes, where I gently drum in the background. Then I kick off the group drumming with one rhythm and people join in when they’re ready – there’s no structure and it’s free-flowing. This allow people to relax and focus just on the rhythm and noise – a bit like life. The drum leans on the shoulder, with vibrations onto the heart, which some people find brings them comfort. We let the rounds finish naturally, normally after around 20 minutes, with the entire session lasting about an hour and a half.

“I feel my heart beats through the drum and it calms me down”

“The drumming brings peaceful images and I feel like I am dreaming sometimes”

-Freedom from Torture clients

The whole experience can be really absorbing and joyful. Clients say the sessions help take their minds away from the trauma they’re suffering. Whilst they’re in the circle, they’re out of that difficult place. They benefit from the physical contact with the drum, from being part of the circle, and from listening and concentrating. The latter can be really challenging for people because of what they’ve been through.

Everyone who comes to the sessions is also having therapy with Freedom from Torture clinicians – so this drumming really complements this by adding another dimension to their healing. Therapy is verbal and discussion-orientated, and it’s delivering fantastic results for clients, but with these sessions there’s no talking – we focus on the sound and the rhythm. It’s a way for us to express and heal our thoughts and feelings in a non-verbal way.

Andy runs the not-for-profit voluntary organisation Windhand, where he delivers healing drumming workshops with local community groups in the West Midlands, including at Freedom from Torture’s Birmingham centre.

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