The Effectiveness of Art and Music Therapy on Depression in Adolescents

Junior (College 3rd year) ・Healthcare&Medicine ・APA

Understanding and handling adolescents is a big challenge especially when they are suffering from depression. Teenagers are prone to mental, physical and psychological instability, which ultimately result in depression. Such risks hamper their performance and ability to achieve their goals. Depression comes with grievous effects such as temper, reduced concentration, weight imbalance, anxiety, insomnia, low self-esteem and even suicidal thoughts. Researchers have often agreed upon the fact that there is integration between music and art in attempt to ameliorate depression in adolescents. Art, as a form of therapy, has proved effective with depressed adolescents. This resolution mechanism uses symbols, graphic depictions and other creative measures to identify the negative behavior. Art therefore allows the therapist and the client to easily identify and solve the problem through the externalization of an internal stress.  The paper therefore is a research review on the effect of art and music on depressed adolescents. Discussions will center on the effectiveness of this ideology, the methods and subject of research, discussion and summary of the findings.

Literature Review

Research on integrating effects of art and music therapy on depression in adolescents was done by a variety of authors including Mansooreh Rahmani, Bahram Bakhtiari, Saeed and Mojtaba Aghilic. The review by these authors are elaborated in the subsequent paragraphs.

According to Rahmania et al., depression is a common problem among adolescents tackling physical and emotional changes (2016). Gender issues, family problems, self-esteem issues and dealing with sexuality are just but a few of the concerns that prompts depression. In an attempt to treat these conditions, physicians have discovered the impact of art and music therapy. Teenagers are sensitive to public image of themselves. To them, psychotherapy sessions are only for seriously mentally unstable people and hence they are reluctant towards such treatment mechanisms (Rahmania, Saeedb*& Aghilic, 2016). Hence, art therapy is easily welcomed since it has no preconceived ideas.

Dere, Mertz and Diaz argue that art and music as a language of therapy has proven to be effective. Therapists do not directly dig the problematic issue but only offer the client an opportunity express the stressful issues metaphorically. This gives the adolescent a free-to-share environment which prompts freedom to express negative behavior.  As the therapists gain more knowledge on the magnitude of their problems, clients distant themselves from their own dilemma (Dere-Meyer, Bender,  Metzl & Diaz, 2011). Various sources therefore attempt to assess the effectiveness of this mode of therapy and their effect on adolescents.

Depression among adolescents can be alleviated by incorporating music and art therapy. Visual arts tap creativity and offer a platform of communication that is accommodative. When teens are exposed to art therapy they are invited to draw, paint, and make statements in other expressive forms that represent their inner feelings. This casual approach counteracts the fears of exposure and replaces it with feel-good attitudes (Dere-Meyer, Bender, Metzl & Diaz, 2011).

The art produced by these adolescents enables therapist to understand their tribulations. Imagery, metaphoric language and various forms of autistics can provide are essential in expressing emotions. From various pictures, paintings and several other forms of expression, the mood of sadness, suicidal feelings and other personal projections can be presumed (Rahmania, Saeedb*& Aghilic, 2016). Adolescents are often very cautious and highly suspicious. The probability of opening up to a counselor is very low. It is for this reason that a therapist’s use artwork and music.

In the present day, consolidation of music and arts significantly lessens the depression levels among youth. The combination of songs and artistry further brings positive results. Other forms of art forms of art are also possible as different forms of art therapy bring out different results. Visual arts give the participants a better forum to socialize and share their experiences with other individuals with the same problem. Music and art therapy forms a basis of neutrality. The principle of neutrality is a foundation of a therapeutic relationship which has to be established at the start if any therapy session (Dere-Meyer, Bender, Metzl & Diaz, 2011). The work done by specific individuals automatically comes from an individual’s creativity. The therapist can only make assessments by interpreting the meaning of the art work it without forcing their clients to talk.

Importantly, the use of music and art therapy promotes pleasure and fun. Rahmania, Saeedb*& Aghilic argue that pleasure stimulates the desire to express oneself which in a way helps to lower depression levels. Such excitement channels enhances the urge to do more drawings and mark making. This form of communication extends the processing of depressing situations and conceptualization in a positive way. Artistic expressions enable the conveyance of information that an adolescent had been previously forbidden to verbalize. Often, different people carry with them burdensome secrets that overtime, leads to depressions. In families with dark secrets or environments with ‘don’t tell’ warnings such as sexual abuse, artistic therapy is most effective. Adolescents can easily let go of their problems without having to describe them verbally. Visual representation and musical approach therefore offers an incredible supporting system (Rahmania, Saeedb*& Aghilic, 2016).  Music clearly serves as a means of increasing positive feel while art reduces depressions.

The use of art and music therapy has its limitations. The number of participants that can conduct a particular therapy is limited. It is considerably cumbersome and tiresome to work with particular clients. Keenness on the output of an individual is necessary. The willingness to recover from depression is also dependent upon the individual (Dere-Meyer, Bender, Metzl & Diaz, 2011). If a particular person is unwilling, then recovering from is impossible.  Furthermore, experts who have specialized in this form of therapy mechanism are limited. The fact that many people are unaware of the effectiveness of this form of therapy also hampers its utility. It is cumbersome and almost impossible to sustain a program because a few are either unaware while those that are aware do not trust its effectiveness.

Implication of the research

The study outlines the importance of art and music therapy is curing depression. Families that are adjusting to new phases in their relationships when their children reach adolescents can utilize this approach (Rahmania, Saeedb*& Aghilic, 2016). Using pharmaceutical methods to handle the repulsive, moody and unpredictable teenagers can sometimes bring negative results. It also brings with it a pull away and a restraining confrontational shift in the parent-child relationship. Family art therapy is not only nonthreatening but also pleasurable. Art therapy is most beneficial to psychotherapists who help patients to understand their own feelings as many people get entangled with unconscious emotions. As a result, people who are struggling with self-esteem problems and other symptoms of depression can be assisted. It is also effective for individuals who shy away from other forms of therapy. If art theory is infused with music therapy, patients are likely to have control over the healing process.

Findings from the research review provide evidence that there is a long lasting positive impact of art therapy and music in the lives of depressed youths. Additionally, the paper acknowledges that the mode of treatment is more fancy, easily infused and pleasurable compared to pharmaceutical forms of treatment. The study further gives a well-rounded picture of the importance of understanding the behavior of adolescents before enforcing any forms of treatment if ever they are to heal from depression.


The report titled Integrating Effect of Art and Music Therapy on Depression in Adolescents selected high school adolescent girls in Gorgan region (Rahmania,  Saeedb*& Aghilic, 2016). With approval by Gorgan Education Office and Research Department of Education Head Office of Giolestan Province in Iran, the study carried out. In 10 high schools where the investigation was done, 24 depressed girls were discovered Guardians and students signed consent forms for them to participate in the research. The experimental group was divided into two. One category used art and music as a form of experiment while the other category use other means such as therapy in solving depression issues. To gauge the depression levels, the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI) and the Children’s Depression Inventory (CDI) were used before and after treatment (Rahmania, Saeedb*& Aghilic, 2016). The BDI is a multiple choice questionnaire which is used in rating the levels of depression.


Students were required to fill a questionnaire that contained a number of factors. The questionnaire entailed depression correlated symptoms such as guilt feelings, irritability, fatigue, and weight loss among other symptoms. The CDI on the other hand evaluated the extent of the depression related symptoms present in adolescents.


In the research, art therapy was performed using painting tasks. The logic behind using painting was that it provides the basis of comfort ability. Subjects would freely express their feelings without any worries of judgment by their audience. Tools such as crayons, water color, papers and colored pencils were provided. Painting sessions took place for 2 hours for seven times (Rahmania,  Saeedb*& Aghilic, 2016). Music therapy sessions were done simultaneously to art sessions. Noise and stressor factors were eliminated as music tracks played. Musical themes exposed to subjects were classified as sad, strengthening and exhilarating.  Exhilarating theme engaged rhythmic music with faster beats in order to induce happiness to the subjects. Sad theme induced sympathy and relief while strengthening theme consisted of hard beats in order to stimulate positive and pleasant emotions. Experienced and efficient counselors worked with the depressed adolescents.

To determine the reliability of the questionnaires, Cronbanch’s Alpha test was carried out. In order to evaluate the data, Kolmogorov-Smirnov Test was used (Rahmania,  Saeedb& Aghilic, 2016). Independent t-test was used to establish if there were significant differences of the statistics. A SPSS software was used in all these operations.


The results showed that the data obtained was valid and reliable. The Cronbanch’s Alpha tests indicated the BDI and CDI as 0.787 AND 0.712 respectively (Rahmania,  Saeedb*& Aghilic, 2016). Experienced experts acknowledged the validity of the tools. The students who did not receive art and music therapy did not show any change through the BDI test. In the experimental group, a lot of variation was observed from the pretest to the post test. The CDI test incorporated the same interpretation as observed in the BDI test. Report shows that the use of music and art therapy helps in healing depression among the participants.

The paintings done by students depicted how each one felt about themselves. In one of the paintings for instance, a crying woman was drawn. The woman was burning a candle with falling melted wax as if the candle was shedding tears (Rahmania, Saeedb & Aghilic, 2016). The woman’s eyes were sorrowful while the lips reflected a deep sense of grief. From the artwork, it is visible that the painter felt deeply saddened. Without verbal communication, the painting clearly expressed how the student felt. Another painting was done by an individual in the later stages of the test and it entailed a plant with beautiful green leaves. The roots of the plant were visible and firmly rooted. From the art work one can tell that the message in it was that of dignity and prosperity (Rahmania, Saeedb*& Aghilic, 2016). Some birds at the top of the branches can be related to hope and growth. It is fair to say that the artist had a positive feeling while doing the painting. Evidence from the data analyses showed that art and music therapy initiated recovery as therapy continued. Happier and less depressed people were observed in comparison to the participants who did not undergo the music and art therapy.


As explained in the analysis, art and music therapy can be effective for adolescents facing depression. The art designed by the the teenagers willingly express their internal feelings. Therapists can easily interpret art work and understand the magnitude of the problem being handled. Music therapy on the hand boosts their spirit by eradicating ill feelings, low self-esteem and other negative thoughts and behaviors. As seen from research on ‘Integrating Effect of Art and Music Therapy on Depression in Adolescents done by Mansooreh Rahmani, Bahram Bakhtiari Saeed, the combination of music and art therapy is effective. Non-pharmaceutical interventions should be first considered in treatment of depression before considering other methods. Future therapy therefore should include innovations of other forms of art and combination of similar mechanisms in treating ailments among various age groups.


Dere-Meyer, C., Bender, B., Metzl, E., Diaz, K. (2011).Psychotropic medication and art therapy: Overview of literature and clinical considerations. The Arts in Psychotherapy, 38: 29-35

Rahmania Mansooreh,  Saeedb* Bakhtiari Bahram & Aghilic Mojtaba. (2016). Integrating effect of art and music therapy on depression in adolescents. Journal of Educational Sciences &Physchology.

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