Making music for mental health: how group drumming mediates recovery

Perkins, R. and Ascenso, S. and Atkins, L. and Fancourt, D. and Williamon, A. (2016) Making music for mental health: how group drumming mediates recovery. Psychology of Well-Being: Theory, Research and Practice, 6 (11). pp. 1-17.

Abstract

Background: While music-making interventions are increasingly recognised as enhancing mental health, little is known of why music may engender such benefit. The objective of this article is to elucidate the features of a programme of group drumming known to enable mental health recovery. Methods: Qualitative research was conducted with 39 mental health patients and carers who had demonstrated recovery following engagement with a programme of group djembe drumming in the UK. Data were collected through semi-structured individual interviews and focus group interviews designed to understand the connection between drumming and recovery and analysed using Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis (IPA). Results: Results revealed three overarching features of the drumming intervention: (i) the specific features of drumming, including drumming as a form of non-verbal communication, as a connection with life through rhythm, and as a grounding experience that both generates and liberates energy; (ii) the specific features of the group, including the group as a space of connection in and through the rhythmic features of the drumming, as well as facilitating feelings of belonging, acceptance, safety and care, and new social interactions; (iii) the specific features of the learning, including learning as an inclusive activity in which the concept of mistakes is dissolved and in which there is musical freedom, supported by an embodied learning process expedited by the musical facilitator. Conclusion: The findings provide support for the conceptual notion of ‘creative practice as mutual recovery’, demonstrating that group drumming provides a creative and mutual learning space in which mental health recovery can take place.

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