Music Therapy for Depression

Who doesn’t enjoy listening to their favorite music? The music we listen to affects our mood depending on what type of music it is. And we usually pick particular music depending on our mood at the time.


When we are feeling excited and happy we play upbeat music. Say if you are getting ready for a night out with friends, or you are taking a drive in the sunshine. After a long stressful day at work, we tend to play music with a slower beat that relaxes and detaches us from the thoughts of the day. When we are feeling sad, we play a song with lyrics that reflect our situation. Music plays such a huge part in our lives, that when a famous musician passes away, people mourn for them. This is someone who they have never met, yet the sense of loss can be immense.


So listening to music can definitely act as therapy for us in everyday life. However there is now evidence to prove that playing an instrument can improve the mental health of those who are suffering from depression. Music therapy is much like having a music lesson but the tutor is trained as a therapist. The idea is to work on music together so that the participant experiences their part in actively making their own music. Results of trials conducted in Finland specifically for adults suffering with depression found that where people attended up to 20 sessions of improvised music making with their therapist, their mood and functioning improved.


The report found that actively participating in the playing of instruments gave a sense of  ‘active doing’.  This is an important characteristic of music therapy and a meaningful way of dealing with issues that are associated with depression sufferers.


Listening to our favorite music gives us a sense of pleasure and meaning, which are two qualities that are absent in people suffering from depression. So while these feelings are being experienced, there is no awareness of the depression symptoms. This is sometimes more effective and certainly more instantaneous, than prescribed medicine.


When there are two or more people involved in creating music, a connection is made between them and this is known as a ‘buzz’ in music therapy terms. This is another benefit of the therapy as people suffering from symptoms of depression find it extremely difficult to connect with other people.


It is difficult to play an instrument if your body is rigid and stiff. So in order to master the art of playing an instrument, we have to learn to relax our body and get into the flow of the music. This in itself shifts the body away from being in an anxious and stressed state and towards a feeling of inner peace and a connection with the music.


Music talks to us all in different ways, so there is an individual language going on between the creator of the sound and the sound itself. Certain notes and tones, translate into different things to people, and creating this language between a person and the music, absorbs us and at that time we are unable to hear the things that make us feel depressed.


Even if you are not able to arrange to see a music therapist, there are many online tutorials and it is relatively easy to pick up a cheap second hand instrument. Why not have a go. Or ask someone you know who already plays an instrument to teach you a few things to start practicing with. You never know where it may lead.