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Music Therapy and Relaxation Therapy for Depression

National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health

Music therapy

There is some limited evidence that suggests music therapy may provide an improvement in mood.

The Evidence Base

The evidence base on efficacy of music therapy for depression consists of a few randomized trials and a few systematic reviews.


Findings from a 2008 Cochrane review (link is external) of five studies suggest that music therapy is accepted by people with depression and is associated with improvements in mood. However, because evidence is limited by the small number and low methodological quality of studies, its effectiveness remains unclear.


There are no adverse effects associated with music therapy.

Relaxation Training

Evidence suggests that relaxation training is better than no treatment in reducing symptoms of self-reported depression, but is not as beneficial as psychological therapies.

The Evidence Base

The evidence base on efficacy of relaxation training for depression consists of several randomized or quasi-randomized controlled trials and a 2008 Cochrane review.


A 2008 Cochrane review (link is external) of 11 studies found that relaxation techniques were more effective at reducing self-rated symptoms of depression than no or minimal treatment, but they were not as effective as a psychological intervention.


Relaxation techniques are generally considered safe for healthy people. However, occasionally, people report unpleasant experiences such as increased anxiety, intrusive thoughts, or fear of losing control.

There have been rare reports that certain relaxation techniques might cause or worsen symptoms in people with epilepsy or certain psychiatric conditions, or with a history of abuse or trauma.

Sourced from a National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health publication on May 23, 2019