Music Therapy to Treat Depression

images-4Several studies today show that music therapy– an evidence-based approach to therapy drawing on the healing power of creative lyrics and song composition–can be a useful treatment for depression. In one study published in the “British Journal of Psychiatry,” 79 depressed adults were assigned to receive standard care only (psychotherapy and medication) or standard care plus 20 sessions of active music therapy over a three-month time period. After the three months, the individuals who participated in music therapy showed greater improvement in their depression symptoms than those who were treated solely with standard care. Another study reported that persons who listened to modern or classical music for 30 minutes twice daily for five weeks had improved scores on several depression-rating scales.

In music therapy, a therapist uses music to address physical, emotional, and social needs of an individual. Listening and creating music within a therapeutic context allows individuals to express themselves in nonverbal ways. Music can create calmness by slowing down the breath, heart rate, and other biological systems. Combined with talk therapy, music can boosts levels of dopamine, the feel-good hormone. It doesn’t matter which kind of music is used as long as it is effective for the patient. It is common to employ several combinations of music.

There are two general types of therapy: active and passive. In active therapy, the therapist and the patient compose music using an instrument or the voice. The patient shares thoughts and feelings that emerge with the composition. If it’s effective, the individual will be able to see his or her problems with a new lens as a result of the music. In passive therapy, individuals listen to music while meditating, drawing, or doing some kind of reflective activity. The therapist and patient then talk about the emotions evoked by the music.

Originally published on Sanity Break at Everyday Health.

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