Victoria Buckley, MS, OTR/L, CCAP, demonstrates the instruments she brings to her percussion group
On 2 South, Brigham and Women’s Faulkner Hospital’s inpatient psychiatry unit, a multidisciplinary team of care givers provides evaluation and short-term treatment for patients with a range of acute psychiatric illnesses. Part of the treatment process includes group therapy sessions with an occupational therapist. Led by Victoria Buckley, MS, OTR/L, CCAP, the percussion group is one of the more unique offerings that elegantly combines the philosophy of psychosocial group programming with sensory modulation.
Music therapy is a common practice, but Buckley’s group takes a slightly non-traditional approach. “Traditional music therapy often involves listening to music. Usually the person playing the music is a musician,” says Buckley. “This group is different because anyone can do it. I have a variety of different percussion instruments, including drums from Asia and Africa, and people can feel comfortable trying them all. It’s about participation and encourages them to get in touch with their body.”
The optional group, which typically meets on weekends, begins with participants choosing their instrument. Buckley then teaches them two types of beats: a bass and a tone. After they have learned the bass and the tone, she might ask if they have their own beat that they want to try or she will teach them a traditional African beat that brings together the bass and the tone. “Everyone has their own beat,” she says. “For some it’s their heart beat. For others it’s very fast. I encourage people to get in touch with what’s going on with their body.”
At the end of the session, Buckley asks participants to put their hands to their faces and feel the warmth they have generated. Then she asks if they found the experience to be relaxing or energizing. “If it’s energizing, that can be wonderful for someone who is depressed,” she says. And likewise, if it’s relaxing, that can be very beneficial to someone who is anxious. In fact, Buckley says some of her patients even find it helps them sleep.
“We’re very interested in sensory modulation for our patients on 2 South. Sensory modulation using drumming includes hearing, tactile, kinesthetic and visual. If you can integrate all of those things in a way that is soothing, then you can work beyond your symptoms,” says Buckley. “This activity is a good way to get people out of their depression. They pay attention to their own body and their own heartbeat and imitate that on the drum. It helps to ground people and reduce psychotic issues.”
The best part of the group is that anyone can participate. “You don’t need to be a trained musician to do this,” says Buckley.
Click here to watch Buckley and Psychiatric Occupational Therapy Supervisor Rosa Colorado, MSOT, OTR/L, demonstrate how the group works.
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