Monthly Archives: July 2017

Improving Mood with REI Drumming: An excerpt from Different Drummer Book

DD-Front-cover-25This excerpt follows two clients, one teen and one adult. who listened to drumming to help their mood.

You can learn more and order the book here

You can learn more about the REI Custom Program here


“Logan came home the other day from school, ran straight into his room, and turned on his CD. I asked him what he was doing and he said that listening was his reward for getting an A on his math test,” described Kim, his mother.

“That’s great. It’s always a good thing when teens take the initiative to play their REI music on their own,” I said. “That’s a big change from last month when he wouldn’t listen at all.”

“Absolutely. He has taken ownership of the process. I can see his mood lifting. He cares about his schoolwork now and he’s getting involved again in activities at school. Before he started listening to the drumming, he just wanted to come home and stare at the screen.”

Logan was having difficulty in school, socially more than academically, when he began the REI Custom Program. He was slightly shy, though he had a couple of friends. Having recently turned fifteen, he had become moody and withdrawn. 

Teenagers can be hard to reach. Whenever I run into a clients’ resistance to listening to the drums, it’s usually with teens. Logan was initially resistant, saying that he didn’t want “anyone messing with his head”. 

Because Logan was not interested in the drumming – he often told his mother how weird he thought it was that she attended my drumming classes – we decided that I wouldn’t play for him live. Instead, she and I would talk about Logan’s issues and her goals for him. From that, I would make a recording that Logan would listen to before going to bed.

“He doesn’t want to do anything. He used to be so bubbly and energetic, but now he is so lethargic and down. Getting him up in the morning is impossible and he just drags himself through the day. His grades have slipped and he is distancing himself from his friends,” explained Kim during Logan’s intake interview. “Do you think the drumming can help?”

“I don’t know,” I answered. This was fairly early in the process of developing the REI therapy and I hadn’t yet worked with any teens with mood issues. I knew I could help with anxiety or attention and I told her that, but the mood would be something we’d have to evaluate as we went along.

“If you’re okay with feeling our way through this, I’d love to give it a try,” I said.

“I usually feel so good after the drumming class that I can’t imagine it wouldn’t help Logan,” she replied. Kim had been coming to my drumming classes for a few months. This was the reason she approached me about working with her son, even though he didn’t have autism or ADHD, the conditions I would often talk about during class.

This wasn’t an unusual request. Even from my earliest days of exploring how the drumming may work outside of its cultural context, people approached me and asked if what I was doing could help them or their children. This led me to work at Pathways, a center for people with chronic illnesses where I worked with clients with a large variety of chronic conditions, from pain to HIV, CFS (chronic fatigue syndrome) to depression.

One client, Jamie, was recently diagnosed HIV-positive and was feeling pretty hopeless about his life. He was 28 years old, generally healthy and not symptomatic, but he felt that he really had no future. I was worried when I first played for him because the entire time I drummed he sprawled on the couch and cried. These were not quiet tears, rather they were plaintive wails with full-body convulsions.

“Are you okay? Would you like me to stop playing?” I asked, as I stopped, concerned that I was making things worse. 

“No, I’m fine. Please keep playing,” he answered between sobs. “This is the best I’ve felt in a long time.”

I looked at him, not sure what to say or whether to believe him. Jamie, I would learn was a dramatic guy. He did everything in a big way and crying was no exception.

“Really,” he sniffled, “I feel this deep well of grief and sadness purging from my body. Please keep playing.”

“Okay, but tell me if you need me to stop.”

I began playing again, searching for the most uplifting rhythms I could think of, careful not to deepen his mood. I understood catharsis and knew he had a great support system in place so I wasn’t concerned about him in general, but I was a little uncomfortable with such a dramatic show of emotion.

I kept playing until our session time was up. Jamie blew his nose, wiped the streaks from his face, gave me a hug, and left with a smile and a bounce in his step.

I met with him once a week for most of the summer, each session mirroring the others, with Jamie sobbing while I played and then leaving uplifted.

In mid-September he arrived at his last session and handed me an envelope. “This is my new address,” he said. “I’m following my dream and moving to San Francisco. I’m not going to let this disease stop me from living my life. Wish me luck.”

“Good luck,” I said as he bounced out of the room. I never saw him again. I don’t know what impact our drumming sessions had on his overall perspective and life choices, but I learned a lot about how to play for someone who was grieving and how to stay with someone as they moved through their emotions.


 

Case Study: 11 Year Old Male with Autism, Verbal Apraxia, and Sensory Processing Disorder

James was diagnosed with ASD (specifically, PDD NOS) with complicating diagnoses of verbal apraxia and sensory processing disorder. His most significant issues were:

  • Anxiety. Generalized anxiety as well as fear of changes in routine and unfamiliar places.
  • Sleep Problems.
  • Self-stimmulatory behaviors such as vocal noise-making, pinching, hand-flapping.
  • Poor social engagement.
  • Apraxia and lack of verbal communication.

James began listening to his custom REI recording in the evening while he engaged in quiet play. He was initially resistant to listening (sometimes he would say “no music!”) when the music was turned on. This resistance lasted less than two weeks while, during this time, he made significants gains.

During the first two weeks,  James began sleeping through the night, something that he had not been able to do for the previous few years. His anxiety also reduced profoundly, most notably he stopped compulsively asking about the the day’s schedule and worrying about his next activities.

During the third week, his mom related, “For the first time James started asking the ABA therapists to keep playing when the session was done. He also, on his own volition, chose to start playing with his trains and Rescue Heroes. Usually he only wants to draw all day.”

After four weeks on the REI Custom Program, his mom and therapists noted that James’s vocabulary was increasing, as was the length of his sentences.

After 6 weeks James was reported to show the first signs of pretend play. His mother wrote, ”The other day he said ‘elephant’ and used his arm as a trunk and stomped around the room! Also did a similar thing with ‘giant.’ Very exciting!”

At eight weeks, James’s mom reported more behavioral gains. He was doing less drawing and the drawings that he did create were of broader subjects. She noted that he was able, with prompts, to sit through his brother’s baseball game, a first. While the family was out sightseeing they got caught in the pouring rain. “James did not like it, but was okay”. To his family’s surprise he did not have the customary meltdown.

After 16 weeks of listening to his REI recordings, his mother requested a revision to his program that focused more on his issues with inflexibility and difficulty with transition. He started listening to the revised CD in mid October.

After 20 weeks, it was noted that James was continuing to make behavioral gains. His brother was having a bar mitzvah and the whole family was worried about how James would tolerate the very stimulating day. He handled the day surprisingly well, his mother reported, sitting through the entire religious ceremony and staying calm among all the guests. Most surprisingly, James allowed himself to be photographed. Until that day James would get very agitated when a camera was pointed at him and always refused to stand for a photograph. On this day, not only would he allow many photos to be taken, but even smiled on command!

Over the next month, his mother reported that James was using more spontaneous language and appeared “more connected” with his feelings. For instance, she related that when his teacher asked him what was wrong, James replied,  “I feel angy”. When asked why he was upset when he had to go to a mainstream class that he did not like (because the sound of the classroom music hurt his ears,) he replied “because there was music.”  On another occasion, he told his mother that he felt “nervous” when his school bus took another route home one day.

Fifteen months after completing the REI Custom Program, in an interview with his mother, James was reported to be doing well, with continued growth in his ability to verbally communicate his needs and to socialize more appropriately. He has maintained all of the gains he made while on the REI Custom program, including decreased anxiety, especially about his schedule, increased spontaneous play, and use of verbal communication to express his feelings.

Learn more about the REI Custom Program here

Check Out Jeff Strong’s Podcast Interview with Tami Simon of Sounds True

I’ve  been honored to work with Sounds True over the last 10 years – one of my favorite publishers – where I created 8 CDs and 2 audio programs. That honor continues as I talk about drum healing and REI with founder Tami Simon on her podcast, Insights at the Edge.

From Sounds True:

ST-podcastIn this episode of Insights at the Edge, Sounds True founder Tami Simon speaks with Jeff about the concept of brain entrainment through rhythm and how it has deep roots in tribal ceremony. They talk about the therapeutic application of this music for anxiety, ADHD, autism, and mood disorders, and explain the difference between rhythmic entrainment and “neuro beat” recordings. Finally, Jeff offers two excerpts of his music for calming and the exploration of deep meditative states.

Listen to or download the podcast here

Learn more about Sounds True here

Try my music for free here

Learn to play the drum for healing here

Check out the REI Custom Program here

Complex Drumming for Pain Relief? Jeff Strong describes how calming the nervous system reduces pain

Using complex drumming to calm the brain for pain reduction requires more stimulation than simply calming the brain in general. In this video, I show you how this counter-intuitive approach works.

Learn about the REI Custom Program at: https://www.stronginstitute.com/rei-custom-program/

Learn how to play the drum for healing at: http://www.drumhealing.com

Explore more calming music on Brain Shift Radio. Sign up for free at: https://brainshiftradio.com