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Hope for Preventing Violence 

HealthRHYTHMS May Help Reduce "The Columbine Effect"

by Alyssa Janney, MBA 


I feel hopeful that skilled professionals, armed with compassion and powerful tools like this program, can help reduce violence.  

According to a study published in the June (2009) issue of the medical journal, Advances in Mind-Body Medicine, there is a highly cost-effective strategy for empowering success with at-risk youth. Instrumental anger is the the clinical term used to describe a delayed expression of emotion, including revenge or retaliation, such as what is believed to have precipitated the massacre at Columbine High School, often referred to as the Columbine Effect. According to principal researcher Barry Bittman, MD this groundbreaking study demonstrated statistically significant improvements in the level of instrumental anger in addition to improvements in school/work performance and behavior toward others, with less depression, reactive anger and interpersonal problems than a control group who did not participate in the music making activities. 

"This is an accessible, affordable and sustainable strategy that can positively impact juvenile rehabilitation." Barry Bittman, MD

The HealthRHYTHMS Adolescent protocol is suitable for the majority of adolescents including many facing emotional, cognitive or learning challenges, because the protocol creates an opportunity to participate at one’s own level. With all the billions of dollars spent each year to isolate juvenile delinquents from society, this program offers hope that more troubled youths can be rehabilitated and learn to discover their own unique worth and share that gift with society in constructive ways, reducing recidivism and its fiscal ripple effect. "In addition to generating positive societal impact, this unique intervention could save our nation billions of dollars." Barry Bittman, MD

The study was conducted at the Bethesda Children's Home in Meadville, Pa., a court-referred residential treatment facility. And 52 adolescents participated in a structured recreational music making (RMM) protocol as part of their rehabilitation process. This 6 or 12 week curriculum is a derivative or the HealthRHYTHMS Group Empowerment Drumming protocol, designed specifically for use with at-risk populations. Study participants were comprehensively evaluated in the research study, which spanned more than a year. After a group from the study concluded, a young man referred to as “Lionel” (to protect his identity) was discharged from the program at Bethesda. HealthRHYTHMS Endorsed Facilitator Margaret Sowry recalls that mid-way through the fall semester, the facility received a telephone call from the principal of the school that Lionel attends. “I don't know what happened there at your facility, but Lionel is a changed young man. He attends school every day, he studies hard, plays basketball and is planning a future. Whatever took place there transformed him and gave him hope.” Read Lionel's Story

“Music-making has always been a catalyst for addressing social issues.” Alyssa Janney, MBA

This research demonstrates the incredible transformational power of HealthRHYTHMS.  In my opinion Bittman’s study both spotlights the effectiveness of the HealthRHYTHMS adolescent protocol and for those who are listening closely, speaks to the potential of therapeutic music strategies, to help address the serious social issues we face today. I feel hopeful that skilled professionals, armed with compassion and powerful tools like this program, can help reduce violence. 

Recreational music-making strategies such as the research-based HealthRHYTHMS program which do not require prior musical experience are not a substitute for traditional music therapy or music education. Yet this program is embraced by many musicians and music-therapists because it is an evidence-based tool which is versatile, user-friendly and can be life-changing. HealthRHYTHMS uses the drum, not as a performance medium, but as a tool for communication and personal expression. The study concludes that this innovative protocol for adolescents can also be readily utilized by behavioral health professionals without prior musical experience.

There are more significant findings in this tremendous research than can be easily addressed in a short article. So be sure toread the research paper to gain a more complete understanding of all the powerful implications for success with at-risk youth demonstrated by this study.

Read the Research Abstract

For more information about HealthRHYTHMS

Obtain a copy of the published research study:



Bittman, B., Dickson, L., Coddington, K. (2009) Creative Musical Expression as a Catalyst for Quality-of-life Improvement in Inner-city Adolescents Placed in a Court-referred Residential Treatment Program. Advances in Mind-Body Medicine. 

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