Music Therapy for Depression, Anxiety

Music therapy may improve depression, anxiety and relationships in psychiatric patients, a new study reports.

Music is an ancient tool of healing that was recognized in the writings of the Greek philosophers Pythagoras, Aristotle and Plato. The modern discipline of music therapy began early in the 20th Century with community musicians visiting veterans' hospitals around the country to play for those traumatized by war. The positive response prompted many hospitals to hire musicians to play for their patients.

Studies suggest that music may be used to influence physical, emotional, cognitive and social well-being and improve quality of life for healthy people, as well as those who are disabled or ill. It may involve either listening to or performing music, with or without the presence of a music therapist.

Music therapists are professionally trained to design specialized applications of music according to an individual's needs using improvisation, receptive listening, song writing, lyric discussion, imagery, performance or learning through music. They work in psychiatric hospitals, prisons, rehabilitative facilities, medical hospitals, outpatient clinics, day treatment centers, agencies serving developmentally disabled persons, community mental health centers, drug and alcohol programs, senior centers, nursing homes, hospice programs, correctional facilities, halfway houses, schools and private practices.

Infants, children, adolescents, adults, the elderly and even animals can all potentially benefit from music therapy. Research supports all forms of music as having therapeutic effects, although music from one's own culture may be most effective. Types of music differ in the types of neurological stimulation they evoke. For example, classical music has been found to soothe and comfort the listener, while rock music may be unsettling and cause distress.

Researchers from the Graduate School of Art Therapy, Daejeon University, Daejeon, South Korea, tested whether group music therapy effectively improves depression, anxiety and relationships. A total of 26 patients were allocated to either a music intervention group or a routine care group.

The music intervention group received 60 minutes of music intervention for 15 sessions (one or two times weekly).

The study found that after 15 sessions, the music intervention group showed significant improvements in depression, anxiety and relationships compared with the control group.

The authors concluded that despite the positive results, objective and replicable measures are required from a randomized controlled trial with a larger sample size and an active comparable control.

There is evidence that music that reflects the listener's personal preference is more likely to have desired effects. It is possible that music through headphones during medical procedures could interfere with the patient's cooperation with the procedures. Further research is needed in this area.

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