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Clin Psychol Rev. 2009 Apr;29(3):193-207. doi: 10.1016/j.cpr.2009.01.001. Epub 2009 Jan 22.

Dose-response relationship in music therapy for people with serious mental disorders: systematic review and meta-analysis.

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Unifob Health, Bergen, Norway.


Serious mental disorders have considerable individual and societal impact, and traditional treatments may show limited effects. Music therapy may be beneficial in psychosis and depression, including treatment-resistant cases. The aim of this review was to examine the benefits of music therapy for people with serious mental disorders. All existing prospective studies were combined using mixed-effects meta-analysis models, allowing to examine the influence of study design (RCT vs. CCT vs. pre-post study), type of disorder (psychotic vs. non-psychotic), and number of sessions. Results showed that music therapy, when added to standard care, has strong and significant effects on global state, general symptoms, negative symptoms, depression, anxiety, functioning, and musical engagement. Significant dose-effect relationships were identified for general, negative, and depressive symptoms, as well as functioning, with explained variance ranging from 73% to 78%. Small effect sizes for these outcomes are achieved after 3 to 10, large effects after 16 to 51 sessions. The findings suggest that music therapy is an effective treatment which helps people with psychotic and non-psychotic severe mental disorders to improve global state, symptoms, and functioning. Slight improvements can be seen with a few therapy sessions, but longer courses or more frequent sessions are needed to achieve more substantial benefits.

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