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Depression and Music Therapy

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Music Therapy

Music Therapy uses verbal and non-verbal expression as a key part of the therapeutic process. Sessions may consist of listening to music, singing or moving your body to music. This type of therapy is used with both adults and children.

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Effect of Music Therapy on Depression

Music acts as a non-invasive tool to stimulate and regulate brain systems to help with depression. Music therapy is a psychotherapeutic method where musical interaction and discussion are combined to help people with depression to develop relationship and address issues using non-verbal techniques.

In music therapy, two modes are used: music-listening and music-making. In some cases, the therapist plays live or recorded music for the patient. Other types of sessions consist of active playing of musical instruments and singing.

The relaxation effects of music are considered to be a key contributor to the relief of depression and anxiety symptoms.

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Research Evidence on Music Therapy

In a recent study called "Dose-response relationship in music therapy for people with serious mental disorders", significant effects were found in both psychotic and non-psychotic mental disorders such as depression. It was found that music therapy helped patients' general symptoms, depression and anxiety symptoms and level of functioning.1

A Cochrane Review of music therapy and depression found that music therapy is accepted by patients with depression and had a positive impact on mood. The impact of music was greatest when theory-based therapeutic techniques were used rather than improvisation by the therapist.

How to Use Music Therapy

Your therapist will use music therapy during the treatment session to access emotions and associations that may not have been accessible otherwise. The therapist may also prescribe a period of listening for 20 minutes per day. The patient must note his response to the music, which can elicit different responses and emotions.

Music therapy can be used in conjunction with medications, as a means to reduce the amount of medication taken or even to serve as the primary method for treating depression.1


1 Erkkila J, Gold C., Fachner J, Ala-Ruona Esa, Punkanen M. Vanhala M. Effect of improvisational music therapy on the treatment of depression. BMC Psychiatry. June 28, 2008

2 Maratos A, Gold C, Wang X, Crawford M. Music therapy for depression. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2008, Issue 1. Art. No.: CD004517. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD004517.pub2.

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