Is Music Therapy a Cure for Depression?
09 Aug, 2011 - 01:49am
At least one study in Finland, published in the British Journal of Psychiatry, indicates that music may help people with depression. A small group of 79 people aged 18 to 50 participated in the study, and they all received the standard practice of counseling and appropriate medication. Of the 79 participants, 33 were also given 20 hour-long sessions twice a week with a trained music therapist.
The music therapy involved having patients play percussive instruments or an acoustic West African djembe drum with a mallet. The positive results for the most part were positive. The patients showed statistically lower indicators of depression and anxiety than the group that didn’t receive music therapy.
“Music-making is social, pleasurable and meaningful. It has been argued that music making engages people in ways that words may simply not be able to,” says Dr. Mike Crawford, a specialist in mental health services at Imperial College London.
Those who received music therapy in addition to standard counseling and medication showed a greater improvement in scores related to anxiety and depression for up to three months after the music therapy stopped. Scores on three scales revealed that those individuals who received the music therapy showed a far greater improvement than those receiving only standard care:
- Scores of anxiety relief, on average, improved more with music therapy than standard care alone
- Scores of depression relief improved on average more with music therapy than standard care alone
- Scores of general functioning improved on average more with music therapy than standard care alone
The response of the music therapy group was also higher than that of those in the standard care group. The music therapy group had a response rate of 45 percent (15 out of 33 patients responded) while the standard control group only had a 22 percent response rate (10 out of 46 patients responded). Not only that, but those who were provided with the music therapy sessions attended an average of 18 out of 20 sessions, a very high attendance rate particularly when it comes to therapy.
Though this may seem to be a strong indication that music therapy is a benefit to treating depression, the researchers found that beyond three months after the treatment finished, the difference between the scores of those who had music therapy and those who had only standard care were no longer of statistical significance.
The researchers confirmed other less well-conducted research that music therapy is helpful in treating depression and anxiety. However, given the small trial group (79 participants) and the short amount of time that was given for the music therapy (10 weeks), the researchers acknowledge that longer trials are needed before statistically confirming the effectiveness of music therapy, as well as determining the best length of treatment. In the meanwhile, this one test suggests that music therapy certainly could offer more benefits to those suffering from anxiety and depression than just the usual treatment of talk therapy and medication.