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Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2005 Apr 18;(2):CD004025.

Music therapy for schizophrenia or schizophrenia-like illnesses.

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  • 1Faculty of Health Studies, Sogn og Fjordane University College, Study Centre Sandane, Sandane, Norway, 6823.



Music therapy is a psychotherapeutic method that uses musical interaction as a means of communication and expression. The aim of the therapy is to help people with serious mental illness to develop relationships and to address issues they may not be able to using words alone.


To review the effects of music therapy, or music therapy added to standard care, compared to placebo, standard care or no treatment for people with serious mental illnesses such as schizophrenia.


The Cochrane Schizophrenia Group's Register (July 2002) was searched. This was supplemented by hand searching of music therapy journals, manual searches of reference lists, and contacting relevant authors.


All randomised controlled trials that compared music therapy with standard care or other psychosocial interventions for schizophrenia.


Studies were reliably selected, quality assessed and data extracted. Data were excluded where more than 30% of participants in any group were lost to follow up. Non-skewed continuous endpoint data from valid scales were synthesised using a standardised mean difference (SMD). If statistical heterogeneity was found, treatment 'dosage' and treatment approach were examined as possible sources of heterogeneity.


Four studies were included. These examined the effects of music therapy over the short to medium term (1 to 3 months), with treatment 'dosage' varying from 7 to 78 sessions. Music therapy added to standard care was superior to standard care alone for global state (medium term, 1 RCT, n = 72, RR 0.10 CI 0.03 to 0.31, NNT 2 CI 1.2 to 2.2). Continuous data suggested some positive effects on general mental state (1 RCT, n=69, SMD average endpoint PANSS -0.36 CI -0.85 to 0.12; 1 RCT, n=70, SMD average endpoint BPRS -1.25 CI -1.77 to -0.73),on negative symptoms (3 RCTs, n=180, SMD average endpoint SANS -0.86 CI -1.17 to -0.55) and social functioning (1 RCT, n=70, SMD average endpoint SDSI score -0.78 CI -1.27 to -0.28). However these latter effects were inconsistent across studies and depended on the number of music therapy sessions. All results were for the 1-3 month follow up.


Music therapy as an addition to standard care helps people with schizophrenia to improve their global state and may also improve mental state and functioning if a sufficient number of music therapy sessions are provided. Further research should address the dose-effect relationship and the long-term effects of music therapy.

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