Music Therapy Can Help Manage Depression in Teens and Children: Study

It is said that music has a universal language which knows no barriers. Music is also divine and has the ability to heal. Listening to music can be soothing and it caresses the bruised soul. Now, a team of researchers from the Bournemouth University, Poole in England and the Queen’s University Belfast, Northern Ireland have found that music therapy also has the power to minimize depression in children and teens with behavioral and emotional problems.

The researchers, in partnership with Every Day Harmony, which is the brand name for Northern Ireland Music Therapy Trust, found that children and teens, aged eight to 16-year-olds, who underwent music therapy showed better self-esteem with a significant dip in depression compared to those who received treatment devoid of music therapy.

The researchers chose 251 children for their study, which took place between March 2011 and May 2014. Two groups were formed, of which 128 received the usual care options and the rest 123 were given therapy sessions, along with the conventional usual care. All the children were being treated for emotional, developmental and behavioral problems.

Music also helped improve communicative and interactive skills

Young people aged 13 and over who received music therapy showed great improvement in their communicative and interactive skills, the study found. Those who didn’t receive any music therapy but only the usual care, didn’t exhibit these improvements. Not only this, music therapy also helped improve social functioning over time in all age groups.

“This study is hugely significant in terms of determining effective treatments for children and young people with behavioral problems and mental health needs,” said lead author of the study Professor Sam Porter of the Department of Social Sciences and Social Work at Bournemouth University.

“The findings contained in our report should be considered by healthcare providers and commissioners when making decisions about the sort of care for young people that they wish to support,” Porter said.

The findings brought forth the importance of music therapy. The researchers emphasized that it should be included as a mainstream treatment option. They also believed that these recent findings score above earlier findings based on anecdotal evidence and small-scale research as to how well it works.

“Now we have robust clinical evidence to show its beneficial effects. I would like to record my gratefulness to the Big Lottery Fund for its vision in providing the resources for this research to be carried out,” said Ciara Reilly, chief executive of Every Day Harmony, the music therapy charity which partnered in the study.

“Music therapy has often been used with children and young people with particular mental health needs, but this is the first time its effectiveness has been shown by a definitive randomized controlled trail in a clinical setting,” said Reilly.

Speaking about the importance of the study, Dr. Valerie Holmes from the Centre for Public Health, School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences, Queen’s University Belfast and co-researcher, said, “This is the largest study ever to be carried out looking at music therapy’s ability to help this very vulnerable group.”

Recovery road map for depression

Depression is often overlooked and is not accorded the importance given to various other serious mental disorders. However, it is a serious psychological disorder and when neglected, symptoms can only get worse. There are some credible treatment centers where depression is treated comprehensively offering long-term recovery to patients.