February 28, 2024

Empowering Change Through Sound: A Journey Inside HMS Guys Marsh Prison

In an innovative leap towards rehabilitation and personal development, Pure Flow Sound Therapy, under the guidance of BAST Alumni and Sound Therapist Carolyn Savage, took on an exciting project within the confines of HMS Guys Marsh Prison in Shaftesbury, Dorset. This Category C men’s prison, known for its focus on training, resettlement, and the development of skills for reintegration into the community, became the stage for an exploration into the relaxing powers of sound therapy specifically for those in a correctional facility.

The journey began with a simple yet profound connection between Carolyn and a dedicated Recovery Coordinator at the prison, a regular participant in Carolyn’s sound baths. Recognising the potential for significant impact on the prison’s community, discussions evolved from mere curiosity to concrete planning, resulting in a series of sound therapy sessions designed to cater to the environment of a correctional facility.

HMS Guys Marsh, with its history of challenges including frequent violent incidents and drug use, presented an environment suitable for the transformative potential of sound therapy. The meticulous planning phase saw Carolyn and the prison’s administration navigating the logistics of introducing such an innovative program within the prison’s walls, ultimately deciding on two group sound bath sessions, each accommodating up to ten men, alongside staff members.

Carolyn’s initial visit to the prison was an eye-opening experience, marked by strict security measures and a palpable sense of the prison’s daily life. Despite these initial barriers, the warmth and politeness of both the prisoners and staff offered a glimpse into the humanity that lies within the prison’s walls. This visit not only allowed Carolyn to acclimate to the unique setting but also to connect with individuals and support their well-being. 

After 25 years teaching Sound Therapy, our research has shown that the BAST method has the ability to calm the nervous system and reduce stress and anxiety. It can kick-start the parasympathetic nervous system, bringing people out of ‘fight–flight’ and into ‘rest-digest’ (the natural, relaxed state of being that humans are meant to exist in unless they are in danger). When this happens, cortisol levels can lower and create greater clarity of mind and an imporoved ability to respond rather than react to what is going on. Research has shown that depression, anxiety and PTSD are fairly prominent within the walls of a prison. People with PTSD have been found to produce high amounts of fight-flight hormones, which can cause numbed emotions and hyperarousal. The hypothesis for using our method in a prison facility in particular explored the potential to use sound therapy as a tool to reduce aggressive tendencies and/or addictive tendencies through relaxation, whilst also relieving anxiety and depression amongst the population. 

The sound baths themselves were a huge success. The sessions unfolded as a journey of relaxation, introspection, and community, with participants engaging actively through questions and shared experiences. Despite initial skepticism from some, particularly those grappling with ADHD, the feedback was overwhelmingly positive. Prisoners expressed feelings of relaxation, mental clarity, and profound personal insights, highlighting the universal appeal and benefit of sound therapy.

Perhaps most telling were the moments of connection and mutual respect that emerged from the sessions. The brief incident of some missing tea lights, quickly resolved by the prisoners themselves, has shown a sense of community and accountability. The diverse feedback, ranging from the enjoyment of quiet sounds to the challenges posed by louder gongs, reflected the individual journeys of the participants, each finding their own path to relaxation and self-discovery.

Some of the feedback included:

“I went on a journey”

“Surprised I could stay in the room for 45 minutes, felt shorter”

“It felt like the beginning of life”

“Brilliant, I really really found that I got really in tune with myself”

“When it finished I didn’t want it to stop as I was in the middle of some strong visuals”

The impact of Carolyn’s sound therapy sessions at HMS Guys Marsh Prison goes beyond the immediate reactions of the participants. It is a demonstration of the potential of Sound Therapy in supporting rehabilitation and personal growth in settings often marked by struggle. Pure Flow Sound Therapy’s initiative is a beacon of hope, showing that through compassion, innovation, and a willingness to reach out, we (as therapists) can support profound transformations, even in the most unexpected of places. 

This initiative enriches the lives of those within the prison walls, but also serves as a compelling example of positive change. As Pure Flow Sound Therapy continues to explore the boundaries of sound therapy, its collaboration with HMS Guys Marsh Prison stands as a powerful reminder of the potential that lies in listening, understanding, and connecting with one another, regardless of circumstances.

We are so proud and excited to hear Carolyn’s story and where she has taken her practice after qualifying with us. Seeing the BAST Method in practice is such a gratifying feeling even after having taught it for 25 years!

If you are a BAST Alumni and want to share an exciting experience or moment of your practice, get in touch with Laura at [email protected] who will be happy to share your story.

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