Have Depression? Music Therapy Can Help

Music Therapy has been proven to help a person in a plethora of ways, including treatment of depression.

Interested in music therapy, but not sure if it’s for you?

This blog will dig deep into:

  1. What is Music Therapy?
  2. Proof Music Therapy Works
  3. What is a Typical Music Therapy Session Like?
  4. Steps You Can Take

What is Music Therapy?

Music Therapy is an evidenced based practice where a board certified music therapist helps individuals focus on increasing…

  • Positive relationships
  • Self expression
  • Mental and physical health
  • Effective communication skills
  • Attention span and memory

But how exactly does music therapy work? According to The British Journal of Psychiatry, music impacts depressive symptoms because of its aesthetic, physicality, and relationality.

  1. The music itself is an aesthetic. In an improvisation for example, both the client and music therapist play what comes to mind. There is no right or wrong way to improvise. In fact, you  do not have to know anything about music to be successful in music therapy in general, let alone in improvisation. It is the music therapist’s job to help the client make sense of their improvised music-- to give it direction and help it to flow.

So… Why is this important?

This interaction between the music therapist, client and music is truly beautiful and helps the client to feel supported in the music making process. The client may experience an increase in self-esteem, having played something that was truly their own. It also helps the client to increase social interaction, by creating music with another person.

  1. During music therapy sessions, the music has the capability to bring you into a whole other world. You may experience a sway in your body, a tapping in your foot, clapping of your hands, or your eyes starting to close as you drift into deeper and deeper focus. All of these responses are purely physical- the music is coursing through your body. You may or may not even be aware of it. You are no longer focused on anything else, but rather, the music itself.

This means that music is able to act as a temporary distraction from the real world, or “teleport” you to another place and time in your mind. It helps a client to find temporary relief from any pain  (mental or physical)  they might be experiencing.

  1. Thirdly, music can be relational. It is able to bring people of all different backgrounds together. By making music with others, you can experience a type of bond and connection with someone you never would have encountered otherwise. As is the saying, “when words fail, music speaks”, music is able to communicate for us. Our deepest fears,our concerns about life, our wildest emotions, are all encapsulated in the music through rhythms, melodies, or harmonic progressions. By playing instruments with others and creating music, a bond is formed, and relationships are built.

So...Why is this important?

The music therapist helps the individual(s) to not only find themselves in the music, but listen to others as well. Music is a collaborative effort and experience. Clients will gain a greater appreciation for others and an increased awareness of self. All individuals have a  (musical) role in the group, and when removed, the dynamic shifts.

Giving each client a role is very validating for them, and also helps them become more aware of themselves in the context of a group setting.

Proof Music Therapy Works

Music therapy has been proven to have incredible results, but specifically, it can be used to treat depression. In a 2011 study published by The British Journal of Psychiatry, 79 participants (ages 18-50) previously diagnosed with depression were split into two groups randomly. One group received music therapy and standard care, while the other only received standard care. The study took place over the course of 20 biweekly sessions.

The results showed that those who received both music therapy and standard care services experienced a greater improvement in their depressive symptoms. Although music therapy is not said to cure depression, it can help decrease symptoms significantly.

What is a Typical Music Therapy Session Like?

Interested in knowing what a typical music therapy session is like? Here is a breakdown:

  • Opening: Sessions frequently start with introductions, a  “Hello Song” to let clients know the session has begun, and a short list of what  the session will focus on today.
  • Interventions: Sessions can include any of the following:
  • Listening to music
  • Recreating popular songs with new instruments, vocals, etc
  • Composing your own song from scratch by yourself or in a group
  • Improvising music on the spot
  • Musical games
  • Movement songs or activities
  • Closing: Music Therapists close sessions with a “Goodbye Song” to let clients know the session is ending. Music Therapists  might also state when they will be back again, or when sessions will be (if on a regular basis).

Steps You Can Take

Music therapy is an incredible resource and one to consider if you or someone you know suffers from depression. For additional resources on how music therapy can help, The American Music Therapy Association has even more resources or check out the music therapy blog at Incadence.org. If you’re located in Southwestern PA, please contact Three Rivers Music Therapy to get started.