Beating the Blues: Music Therapy and Depression

It’s no secret that music can calm the mind and soothe the soul. But does music therapy work as a form of treatment for depression? A new study suggests that yes, music therapy has the potential to help people overcome depression, especially when used in combination with psychotherapy or another form of treatment. The study, which took place in Sweden as was recently published in the journal of Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics, is one of the largest and most carefully-designed studies of music therapy and depression to date. The study found that listening to classical music twice daily helped reduce depression symptoms compared to listening to nature sounds. And listening to “newly composed polyphonic modern music” was even more effective than the classical music.

© Copyright 2010 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • James


    November 13th, 2010 at 6:18 AM

    So classical music soothes the soul. . . wonder what the findings would be if people were forced to listen to something like heave metal or maybe even dark or depressing music. Think that would have a negative impact on the psyche?

  • Charlotte


    November 14th, 2010 at 6:00 AM

    I know that without my music there are days when I would stay in a funk, nothing would get done, so it makes perfect sense that it could also help those suffering with depression beat the blues.

  • anodyne


    November 15th, 2010 at 3:31 AM

    Pain has been one of the major debilitating problems encountered in physical rehabilitations today. It can be a powerful obstacle to mobility and independence in performing activities of daily living.

  • Jane


    November 15th, 2010 at 5:40 AM

    What wonderful progress this could help many people who suffer with depression make if the findings hold up to be true.

  • B.Callum


    November 15th, 2010 at 6:23 AM

    its great to know of this fact as a music lover who always turns to music to sooth a broken self!

  • ROSS


    November 15th, 2010 at 12:05 PM

    Music is great. I turn to music whenever I am feeling low and it just helps me come back up and stop feeling sad and low. And the best part about music is that there is a kind for every mood possible. You can listen to music when you are happy or sad, quiet or excited, anytime anyhow!

  • calvin


    November 16th, 2010 at 2:52 AM

    nothing can bog me down so much that my favorite pop music cannot get me out of it. music is a kind of medicine to the mind and can even help relieve stress and pain :D

  • Faith


    November 16th, 2010 at 5:42 AM

    My brother is a musician and I know that anytime he gets worked up he likes to sit and write lyrics and music, or maybe even just rock out for a while.. But it calms him and gets him in the right frame of mind again.

  • cooper harris

    cooper harris

    November 16th, 2010 at 11:49 PM

    a lot of new methods are now being used as a supplement for therapy. music therapy and color therapy are some of these and it is really nice to see newer and better techniques emerging.

  • Tamara


    April 23rd, 2017 at 10:39 PM

    As evidenced in several pilot and preliminary studies, music is a diverse medical tool which, when used properly, can improve the symptoms of physical, psychological, and emotional disorders and traumas; there is, however, an obvious need for fuller studies and a broader scientific approach in order to explore the extent of music’s potential for medical use. Professional music therapy has been shown to encourage verbal and behavioral improvements in autistic and otherwise-disabled children, as well as attention behaviors, eye contact, and turn-taking in play of autistic children (Kim). The therapy has shown the ability to minimize the self-evident pain response to blood sampling in newborns (Shabani), reduce pain in cancer patients (Krishnaswamy), help to activate the stages of the grieving process for those who are mentally ill (Iliya), aid in managing anxiety surrounding meals for those with anorexia nervosa (Bibb), and play a major role in post-stroke motor rehabilitation (Motluk).
    New ways of using music to heal are being discovered: vibroacoustic therapy, which employs a physioacoustic chair that emits low frequency sound which pulses through the body, is being used to stimulate soft tissue and increase circulation and mobility, as well as psychotherapy, rehabilitation; its most important breakthrough being the effective facilitation of symptom management for those with Parkinson’s. There is now funding to perform a fuller study in regards to Parkinson’s, but the neuroscientists involved would also love to explore its effectiveness with fibromyalgia and other conditions (Motluk). Unfortunately, the majority of those conducting these studies, while their findings clearly support the use of musical treatments, lack the funding to perform the fuller studies needed to gain true recognition within the medical community and to understand with greater clarity and specificity the properties of music which contribute to the healing process.

    1. Bibb, Jennifer, et al. “‘Circuit Breaking’ the Anxiety: Experiences of Group Music Therapy during Supported Post-Meal Time for Adults with Anorexia Nervosa.” Australian Journal of Music Therapy, vol. 27, Jan. 2016, pp. 1-11.
    2. Iliya, Yasmine A. “Music Therapy as Grief Therapy for Adults with Mental Illness and Complicated Grief: A Pilot Study.” Death Studies, vol. 39, no. 3, Mar. 2015, pp. 173-184. doi:10.1080/07481187.2014.946623.
    3. Kim, Jinah, et al. “The Effects of Improvisational Music Therapy on Joint Attention Behaviors in Autistic Children: A Randomized Controlled Study.” Journal of Autism & Developmental Disorders, vol. 38, no. 9, Oct. 2008, pp. 1758-1766. doi:10.1007/s10803-008-0566-6.
    4. Krishnaswamy, Priyadharshini and Shoba Nair. “Effect of Music Therapy on Pain and Anxiety Levels of Cancer Patients: A Pilot Study.” Indian Journal of Palliative Care, vol. 22, no. 3, Jul-Sep2016, pp. 307-311. doi:10.4103/0973-1075.185042.
    5. Motluk, Alison. “Perfect Harmony: A new U of T research centre will investigate the curative power of music” UofTMagazine, Summer 2012, Accessed 23 April 2017
    6. Shabani, Fidan, et al. “Effects of Music Therapy on Pain Responses Induced by Blood Sampling in Premature Infants: A Randomized Cross-Over Trial.” Iranian Journal of Nursing & Midwifery Research, vol. 21, no. 4, Jul/Aug2016, pp. 391-396. doi:10.4103/1735-9066.185581.

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Title   Content   Author is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis, medical treatment, or therapy. Always seek the advice of your physician or qualified mental health provider with any questions you may have regarding any mental health symptom or medical condition. Never disregard professional psychological or medical advice nor delay in seeking professional advice or treatment because of something you have read on