Cochrane Summaries

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Music therapy for depression

Maratos A, Gold C, Wang X, Crawford M
Published Online: 
21 January 2009

Music therapy has been used in a range of ways to treat depression. Approaches can be active or receptive: active techniques might be used when participants cannot articulate difficult feelings. Here the therapist uses clinical techniques to connect with the patient in an improvised dialogue, which can then act as a springboard to emotional awareness. Receptive techniques involve the use of pre-composed music for relaxation, reflection, guided reminiscence and change of mood state. We conducted a systematic review to find out whether music therapy is effective in reducing the symptoms of depression. Five studies met the inclusion criteria for the review. Marked variations in the interventions offered, the populations studied and the outcome measures used meant that quantitative data synthesis and meta-analysis were not appropriate. Four studies reported greater reductions in symptoms of depression among those randomised to music therapy. The fifth study reported no change in mental state among those receiving music therapy compared to those randomised to standard care alone. Findings from individual studies suggest that music therapy for people with depression is feasible and indicate a need for further research.