Today and on the 25th of every month of 2012 I have invited 12 of the most influential people in my life to share a blog post with you!  Each has influenced me both professionally and personally. My hope is that the knowledge, kindness, creativity, and compassion they have shared with me will reflect through their post in a way that YOU will be encouraged, entertained, challenged and strengthened to continue to strive for excellence as a professional and as a person.

I am thrilled and honored to be a guest blogger for the month of May.  When Bonnie so graciously asked me to share, I thought, “what better than to recap the enlivening adventure I went on while at the Health Rhythms® training in Danbury, Connecticut.”

With schools entering summer break we often see it as a time away from education.  However, for many teachers, therapists, and parents it may be the time to catch a local workshop, summer training, or webinar.  Professional development is a well needed requirement as I believe it is what continues to make us stronger in addition to of course the day-to-day experience.  I often find that with so many choices I do not know where to put my time and money.  Being that I have an eclectic background as an early childhood administrator, therapist, and entrepreneur I have grown to love finding a great seminar or workshop amongst the several I attend each year.  Today I would like to recommend and tell you about a training that is full of empowerment, Health Rhythms®.

I believe I left the training with three huge accomplishments.  Some were intended and some happened naturally as a byproduct of simply showing up.

1. Training on the actual protocol – The protocol is a very thorough and organized process of group empowerment drumming in ten steps as written by Barry Bitman, Christine Stevens (a fellow music therapist, wonderful drum circle facilitator, and personal inspiration… she’s fabulous!), and Karl Bruhn.  First off, this is not a spoiler.  If you want the entire protocol you’ll have to go to the training.  What I will tell you is that I wish I had been taught the basics of this training in school.  There is an emphasis on educating the group you may be working with, making them feel that it is okay to make mistakes (through a humorous instrument activity), a little educating, rapport, and inspiration.  The protocol utilizes drum circle facilitation techniques, basic group processing ideas, wellness exercises, and guided imagery.  All of these items are practiced and there is plenty of time to have your questions answered by one of several instructors.  The training comes with a manual containing a very detailed outline of the protocol and how it may be adapted to meet the needs of different types of groups including early childhood, adolescents, the elderly, and individuals with disabilities.

2. Networking with Professionals – One of my favorite statements and a big relief was the caution tape that read: “please collaborate with professionals, as this training does not make you a music therapist, or qualify you to use the protocol for clinical intervention unless you are licensed or credentialed to work in a particular setting.”  Phew!  With that said there were fellow music therapists, social workers, teachers, drummers (even a Grammy nominated Broadway Percussionist), clinical counselors, and more.  There was even a participant from Australia and one from Ecuador.  It was networking central, and I love to meet people.  Drumming is not just for hippies!  On Sunday we broke out into small groups and I had a chance to receive feedback about my implementation of the protocol and gain a different perspective on how others intended to use their knowledge from the training.

3. Relaxing and Stress Relief How many workshops feel like a day at the spa?  If the thought of everyone drumming at the same time all the time is what you expect, think again.  Yes, there is plenty of drumming.  But equally there is melody, harmony, song, focused breathing, and a time to share (if you choose) what you need to get off your chest.  They suggest in the beginning of the training, and I love this, that if you are there to “show off your skills” it is not the place.  I feel that a drum circle is neither the place, as this makes a very poor facilitator.  It was a time to accept whatever everyone brought to the training, relax, and listen as you added to the community of sound.  If you do attend, pay attention to the wellness exercises and the guided imagery experiences as these can truly lift any stress you may have brought with you.

Finally, I wanted to tell you just a little about the full gamut of support the training provides you with.  Evidence based research is presented throughout the training while more detailed information is given during a session on psychoneurimmoneuology. In addition to a Facilitators Training Manual they spend a session on how to market yourself to hospitals, schools, and more.  They even give you templates to start a website, write a business proposal, create flyers, and several research articles that I have definitely referenced since my training.  They link you to the Health Rhythms® web portal where you can dialogue with current and past Health Rhythms® facilitators and other professionals. It is by far the most complete package of material and resources I have ever received from a training workshop… and not to mention that the guided imagery accompaniment CD tracks that Dr. Bitman created for you to use were performed and recorded by Disney!  Next time you are trying to piece together your next professional development quest, I would consider Health Rhythms®. For more information about the training, click here.

Jeffrey Wolfe is the Community Program’s Manager, Accessible Arts Coordinator, and one of several energetic Music Therapists at the Music Institute of Chicago’s Institute for Therapy through the Arts (ITA) in Chicago, IL.   Additionally, he is a founding member, administrator, and previous director of Kids Town Child Development Center in Brunswick, Ohio.

You can contact Jeff at and follow ITA on Facebook and Twitter.