Drum circle promotes physical and spiritual healing

The colourful drums create different sounds based on their shape.

When Donna LaMonthe was admitted to hospital 12 days ago, she didn’t expect to participate in a healing drum circle.

“I’ve never done anything like this before,” says Donna. “I’ve seen it on television, but that’s it.”

A drum circle is a gathering of people in a circle playing drums and percussion instruments, led by a trained facilitator. According to participants, drum circles boost energy, uplift spirits, bring healing and release negativity.

Kayla Kruger, Recreation Therapist, taps out a rhythm for the participants to tap back.

“I liked it. It just makes you feel good and takes your mind off of being sick,” nods Donna.

Kayla Kruger, Recreation Therapist, knew she wanted to start a circle at the Misericordia Community Hospital after participating in one at a conference in Calgary.

“I was in awe of how I felt after and how neat it was that they were doing this in a hospital with patients,” says Kayla.

Deborah Kirkpatrick, Chaplain, holds a drum she designed and painted for the drum circle. She uses touch drawing as a means of contemplation and prayer and was inspired by the poem "Great as You Are" by Susan Griffin for this piece.

Deborah Kirkpatrick, Chaplain, agreed to join Kayla for three days of intensive training to learn how to provide the safe, supportive and nurturing conditions for using the drums in the hospital.

“My feet literally started moving as I began to beat an imaginary drum, the energy began to flow, and my heart opened wide as I imagined the potential for healing and growth in our patient population,” smiles Deborah. “I know that as embodied beings, activities that use all our senses—our whole selves—are powerful experiences for coming alive, no matter what our physical health trajectory is. Drumming is one of those activities!”

The Misericordia hosts drum circles once a month for patients, families, staff and volunteers. More than 30 people have participated to date and say they have been moved by the experience. Participants have the opportunity to make up their own rhythms to express themselves creatively or bang on their drum and scream to release negative energy. The facilitators do a "drum wash" over the participants; the vibrations induce the relaxation response and allow peace and healing to flow through their bodies.

At the end of every session, Kayla and Deborah ask each participant to reflect on the experience and share how it made them feel. Words like peace, calmness, comforted and inspiration are common responses.

(From left) David, patient, and Wendell Gelderman, Chaplain, keep the beat going.

“It was lovely,” says Donna. “My word is hopeful—hopeful that I can get better.”

In the future, Kayla and Deborah want to host a weekly circle for patients, families and staff. They also want to have a circle in the evening for community members.

Read the poem "Great as You Are" by Susan Griffin.

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