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Oct 18

By RICK NAUERT PHD Senior News Editor

A new study suggests music therapy may be used to reduce depression in children and adolescents with behavioral and emotional problems.

Researchers at Queen’s University Belfast found children who received music therapy had significantly improved self-esteem and significantly reduced depression compared with those who received treatment without music therapy.

Investigators also found that those who received music therapy had improved communicative and interactive skills, compared to those who received usual care options alone.

In what researchers say is the largest study of its kind, 251 children and young people were divided into two groups; 128 underwent the usual care options, while 123 were assigned to music therapy in addition to usual care.

All were being treated for emotional, developmental, or behavioral problems. Early findings suggest that the benefits are sustained in the long term.

Sam Porter, Ph.D., of the School of Nursing and Midwifery at Queen’s University, who led the study, said, “This study is hugely significant in terms of determining effective treatments for children and young people with behavioral problems and mental health needs.”

Valerie Holmes, Ph.D., of the University’s Centre for Public Health, School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences, and co-researcher of the study, said, ”This is the largest study ever to be carried out looking at music therapy’s ability to help this very vulnerable group.”

Ciara Reilly, chief executive of the Northern Ireland Music Therapy Trust, noted, ”Music therapy has often been used with children and young people with particular mental health needs, but this is the first time its effectiveness has been shown by a definitive randomized controlled trial in a clinical setting.

“The findings are dramatic and underscore the need for music therapy to be made available as a mainstream treatment option. For a long time we have relied on anecdotal evidence and small-scale research findings about how well music therapy works. Now we have robust clinical evidence to show its beneficial effects.”

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