Music Therapy as a Complementary Form of Therapy for Mental Disorders


Pol Merkur Lekarski







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AIM: Music therapy is an important complement to the non-pharmacological methods used in the treatment of psychiatric and behavioral disorders. The paper discusses the mutual similarities between psychotherapy and music therapy, indicating the importance of transference, countertransference, resistance and contract in both methods. The differences in the tools used in these two treatment methods have been highlighted. The controversy associated with the process of educating music therapists and psychotherapist in Poland has also been discussed. The paper also reviews the latest research works on the effectiveness of music therapy in the treatment of psychiatric disorders. A meta-analysis of six papers listed in the Cochrane database concerning the application of music in the treatment of dementias has clearly demonstrated the beneficial effects of listening to music on relaxation and behavior, as well as cognitive functioning of the patients. A meta-analysis of studies on the effectiveness of psychotherapy in the treatment of schizophrenia was also published in 2017. It included 18 studies with a total of 1215 participants. The short-, medium- and long-term effects of music therapy were evaluated. There was a positive effect of music therapy on the functioning of schizophrenia patients in comparison with standard care. The analyzed data demonstrated good effects of music therapy on negative symptoms, on quality of life and on social functioning in comparison with the control group. Regular listening to music reduced auditory hallucinations in schizophrenic patients and improved the quality of their life. The positive effect of music on the brain in schizophrenia was confirmed by functional magnetic resonance imaging. Music interferes strongly with the internal speech in man and with the productive symptoms which are likely to be attention disturbances in the auditory modality. Also in 2017, the results of meta-analysis of music in the treatment of depression were published. Nine studies were included, with a total of 421 studied subjects. The addition of music therapy to the standard treatment proved to improve significantly the functioning of patients in the short-term perspective. Music therapy also reduced the slow-flowing anxiety accompanying depression. However, the long-term impact of additional music therapy was difficult to assess due to the ambiguity of the results of various studies. The combination of music therapy with cognitive behavioral therapy was studied in 155 adolescents with symptoms of social anxiety. The combination of both methods proved to be more effective than the use of cognitive behavioral therapy alone. Further, a meta-analysis of three other studies clearly indicates the effectiveness of music therapy in reducing the severity of symptoms of postnatal depression. The above observation is all the more valuable that the use of medications in nursing mothers poses a major problem in the care of pregnant women and neonates. The beneficial effect of music therapy has also been shown recently in working with individuals exposed to severe stress, who developed post-traumatic stress disorder. In conclusion, it should be stated that music therapy is a valuable and undervalued method of non-pharmacological support for patients with various psychiatric disorders.

Music and Health Institute Terms

Adolescents; Alzheimer's and Related Dementias; Anxiety; Behavioral State; Depression; Engagement Level; Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI); Functional Status; Mental Health; Mood Disorders; Music Therapy; Neurodegenerative Disorders; Psychiatric Symptoms; Relaxation; Postpartum Depression; Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD); Psychotic Disorders; Quality of Life; Trauma; Stress

Indexed Terms

Adolescents; Anxiety; Depression; Newborn Infants; Mental Disorders; Poland; Pregnancy; Quality of Life; Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic; psychiatric disorders; psychotherapy

Study Type

Meta-Analysis; Quantitative Methods


Music Therapy

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