1. Health
Send to a Friend via Email

Music Therapy

What Should I Know About It?

By

Updated January 29, 2013

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Music therapy is a treatment method that involves using music to enhance health. There are many different approaches to music therapy, including creating music, listening to music, and talking about music. Although music therapy is often used to promote mental and emotional health, it may also help improve quality of life for people coping with physical health conditions.

What Does Music Therapy Involve?

A music therapy session may incorporate a number of different elements, such as making music, writing songs, or passively listening to music. While music therapists often aim to foster the patient's emotional expression, there can be many other different goals in a music therapy session. These goals include relief of stress or anxiety, improvement of mood, and enhancement of quality of life for people dealing with illness.

Research shows that patients do not need to have any musical ability to benefit from music therapy.

Learn more about music therapy.

Benefits of Music Therapy

Here's a look at some key study findings on the health effects of music therapy:

1) Depression

Music therapy may help some patients fight depression, according to a review published in 2008. Researchers sized up data from five previously published studies, four of which found that participants receiving music therapy were more likely to see a decrease in depression symptoms (compared to those who did not receive music therapy). According to the review's authors, patients appeared to experience the greatest benefits when therapists used theory-based therapeutic techniques, such as painting to music and improvised singing.

2) Stress

Music therapy may help ease stress in pregnancy, according to a 2008 study of 236 healthy pregnant women. Compared to a control group, the 116 study members who received music therapy showed significantly greater reductions in stress, anxiety, and depression. The music therapy involved listening to a half-hour of soothing music twice daily for two weeks.

In a research review published in 2009, investigators found that listening to music may also benefit patients who experience severe stress and anxiety associated with having coronary heart disease. The review included two studies on patients treated by trained music therapists. Results showed that music listening had a beneficial effect on blood pressure, heart rate, respiratory rate, and pain in people with coronary heart disease.

3) Autism

Music therapy may help improve communication skills in children with autistic spectrum disorder, according to a review published in 2006. However, the review's authors note that the included studies were of "limited applicability to clinical practice" and that "more research is needed to examine whether the effects of music therapy are enduring."

4) Cancer

Research suggests that music therapy may offer a number of benefits for people coping with cancer. For instance, music therapy has been shown to reduce anxiety in patients receiving radiation therapy, as well as ease nausea and vomiting resulting from high-dose chemotherapy.

Sources

Bradt J, Dileo C. "Music for stress and anxiety reduction in coronary heart disease patients." Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2009 15;(2):CD006577.

Chang MY, Chen CH, Huang KF. "Effects of music therapy on psychological health of women during pregnancy." J Clin Nurs. 2008 17(19):2580-7.

Ezzone S, Baker C, Rosselet R, Terepka E. Music as an adjunct to antiemetic therapy. Oncol Nurs Forum. 1998;25:1551-1556.

Gold C, Wigram T, Elefant C. "Music therapy for autistic spectrum disorder." Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2006 19;(2):CD004381.

Maratos AS, Gold C, Wang X, Crawford MJ. "Music therapy for depression." Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2008 23;(1):CD004517.

Smith M, Casey L, Johnson D, Gwede C, Riggin OZ. "Music as a therapeutic intervention for anxiety in patients receiving radiation therapy." Oncol Nurs Forum. 2001 28(5):855-62.

Related Video
Making Music With Children

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.

We comply with the HONcode standard
for trustworthy health
information: verify here.