Music Therapy for Depression

Depression is a common problem that affects hundreds of millions of people worldwide. “Music therapy has been used in a range of ways to treat depression… approaches can be active or receptive,” (Maratos, A., Gold, C., Wang, X., & Crawford, M., 2008). Music therapy can be provided in an engaging or relaxing manner and can have an effect on mood and spark self expression when it may be difficult to express feelings. In this study, it stated that music can help reduce stress, sooth pain, and energize the body. It can also provide others with insight to one’s relational and emotional problems throughout talking about musical dialogue. 

The objectives within this study were to find studies of music therapy’s effect on depression and compare it to other forms of music therapy as well as psychological or pharmacological therapies. Studies reviewed focused on music therapy for adolescents as well as adults. These authors are looking into what proponents of music therapy will be the most beneficial for those who experience mental distress. There were several scales based on self rating and clinician rating that were used in this research. Other outcomes examined involved social and occupational functioning, self-esteem, quality of life, etc. 

Four out of the five studies included in this report stated that there was great reduction in symptoms of depression among those receiving music therapy services. One reported significant changes in depression symptoms in those receiving music therapy care compared to standard care. Studies found that music therapy and standard care combined in treatment resulted in lower depression scores. 

As discussed in this systematic review, four out of five studies reported significant positive results from music therapy. There were several different approaches to music therapy such as discussions, music making experiences, and music selections by the patient or provider. It also notes that just listening to music as a group was not effective and there needs to be a coherent therapeutic framework when providing music therapy. This study states that the overall reporting of the studies were poor and called for more data to be included in the published study. However, it stated that considering there was a low drop-out rate for those participating in music therapy considering the diagnosis at hand, was a positive sign for music therapy’s incorporation into treatment. 

This study calls for the use of music therapy in treatment for those with depression that provides “improvements in mood that go beyond those found in standard care alone, and … appears to be a well tolerated treatment,” (Maratos, A., Gold, C., Wang, X., & Crawford, M., 2008). 

By Gwen D’Amico, MT-BC

Maratos, A., Gold, C., Wang, X., & Crawford, M. (2008). Music therapy for depression. Cochrane database of systematic reviews, (1).