Conditions

Music Therapy For Depression: An Efficient, Cost-Effective Way To Treat Children And Teens

Music Therapy
Music therapy can be used to treat depression in children. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

Evidence has shown that music therapy can address people’s physical, emotional, cognitive, and social needs by either creating, singing, moving to, and/or listening to music. A recent study conducted at Queen’s University Belfast has revealed that music therapy can effectively treat depression in children and adolescents dealing with emotional, developmental, and behavioral problems.

"This study is hugely significant in terms of determining effective treatments for children and young people with behavioural problems and mental health needs." Professor Sam Porter, lead researcher from the School of Nursing and Midwifery at Queen's University, said in a statement.

Queen’s University researchers in partnership with the Northern Ireland Music Therapy Trust recruited 251 children and young people with emotional, developmental, and behavioral problems to participate in a study that lasted from March 2011 to May 2014. Researchers split the sample into two groups, including 128 who received usual care for depression and 123 who received music therapy as well as usual care.

The group of children and young people who received musical therapy were able to increase their self-esteem, improve their communicative and interactive skills, and reduce depressive symptoms compared to those who only received usual care. Follow-ups conducted after the study concluded found that the positive result of music therapy had long-term effects. Researchers are currently collecting data to determine how cost-effective music therapy is compared to other forms of depression treatment.

"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 trial in a clinical setting,” said Ciara Reilly, chief executive of the Northern Ireland Music Therapy Trust.

According to the National Institutes of Mental Health, around 11 percent of adolescents exhibit symptoms of depressive disorder before the age of 18. Current treatment methods include costly antidepressant medications and psychotherapy. The Food and Drug Administration recently placed a “black box” warning label on all antidepressant medications over an increased risk for suicidal thinking.

“The findings are dramatic and underscore the need for music therapy to be made available as a mainstream treatment option,” Reilly added. “For a long time we have relied on anecdotal evidence and small-scale research findings about how well music therapy works. Now we have robust clinical evidence to show its beneficial effects."

Source: Holmes V, Porter S, et al. Conference in Riddel Hall at Queen's University Belfast. 2014

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