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Music Therapy Benefits Children with Depression

Music Therapy and child depression

Music therapy has many benefits including stress management and pain relief. Researchers also find it beneficial for children and adolescents suffering from depression.


It is estimated that as many as 2 to 3% of children ages 6 to 12 have serious depression and an estimated 2.8 million teens aged 12 to 17 have suffered at least one major depressive episode in the US in the past year. Sadly, the Anxiety and Depression Association of America reports that 60% do not get the help they need.

In addition to professional treatment that includes counseling and medication, researchers at Bournemouth University and Queen’s University Belfast have found that music therapy can be a great help for children and adolescents with behavioral and emotional problems.

Specifically, those aged 8-16 who received music therapy were found to have significantly improved self-esteem and significantly reduced depression compared with those who received treatment without music therapy. Young people aged 13 and older who received music therapy had improved communicative and interactive skills than those who received usual care options alone.

Music therapy also improved social functioning in all age groups.

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Ciara Reilly, Chief Executive of Every Day Harmony, a music therapy charity who was involved in the current research, said: "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 randomised controlled trail in a clinical setting. The findings are dramatic and underscore the need for music therapy to be made available as a mainstream treatment option.”

Music therapy is more than just listening to a favorite tune on the radio or having piano music in the clinic lobby (although these can be quite soothing and helpful). It is an established health profession in which music is used therapeutically to address physical, emotional, cognitive, and social needs of individuals. It is delivered by a certified therapist who has at least 1200 hours of clinical training with emphasis in not only music, but also psychology and medicine.

The American Music Therapy Association (AMTA) gives just a few examples of how music therapy can help nearly everyone:
• Work with Congresswoman Giffords to regain her speech after surviving a bullet wound to her brain.
• Work with older adults to lessen the effects of dementia.
• Work with children and adults to reduce asthma episodes.
• Work with hospitalized patients to reduce pain.
• Work with children who have autism to improve communication capabilities.
• Work with premature infants to improve sleep patterns and increase weight gain.
• Work with people who have Parkinson’s disease to improve motor function.

To find a qualified music therapist in your area, visit http://www.musictherapy.org

Journal Reference:
Sam Porter, Valerie Holmes et al. Music therapy for children and adolescents with behavioural and emotional problems: a randomised controlled trial. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 2016; DOI: 10.1111/jcpp.12656

Photo Credit:
By English: Lance Cpl. Lisa M. Tourtelot [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons