HealthRHYTHMS: A Non-Traditional Therapy for Addiction

HealthRHYTHMS: A Non-Traditional Therapy for Addiction

The idiom “march to the beat of your own drum” means something different to Don Gauck of the Bethesda Alcohol and Drug Treatment program.

Don, a licensed, independent chemical dependency counselor for the program, helped implement a drumming treatment option, called HealthRHYTHMS, whereby patients use a special collection of percussion instruments to relieve their stress, improve anger management skills, and create a team-oriented environment. The program has enhanced treatment for many patients.

Those who enter Bethesda Alcohol and Drug Treatment programs usually have withdrawal symptoms or side effects from their substance dependency. It takes time for patients to become physically and emotionally stable. HealthRHYTHMS supports patients through that difficult process and allows them to become more receptive to treatment, Gauck says.

What is HealthRHYTHMS?

During a HealthRHYTHMS session, participants are asked to use the drums and percussion instruments to create and follow a beat. Following loose instruction from Don, each person contributes to a series of rhythms (shown in the short video above).

The idea for the HealthRHYTHMS treatment option came from a 2009 workshop Don attended, called “HealthRHYTHMS Group Empowerment Drumming,” which presented a concept developed by neurologist Barry Bittman MD. Afterward, Don took the idea to Mark Davis, manager of Bethesda Alcohol and Drug Treatment. Mark, in turn, obtained a grant from the Bethesda Auxiliary to purchase needed equipment.

HealthRHYTHMS: Participants Share Successes

A feedback survey showed patients appreciated the experience. One patient wrote, “My stress level is zero after the exercise. Don’t need my coffee today. I felt like my blood pressure had gone down. This was very therapeutic.” Another patient wrote, “I learned I don’t need drugs or alcohol to feel at ease,” and still another wrote, “A great tool for lowering inhibitions without mind-altering drugs.”

The program has also met success within TriHealth. Don has worked with groups of nurses, physicians and volunteers. In addition, Don is part of the Cincinnati Music and Wellness Coalition and has worked with other chemical dependency treatment facilities in the region.

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