Music Therapy And Depression: How Music Can Lift Your Mood

Updated June 15, 2024by Regain Editorial Team

According to the World Health Organization, more than 280 million people live with depression. That's an estimated 3.8% of the entire global population.

Not only is the prevalence of depression rising, but traditional treatments may not always be the best solution for all patients. That's why alternative treatments, such as music therapy, are becoming increasingly popular across the globe.

As we explore this exciting new technique, we'll also look at recent studies that suggest it could be a powerful tool in helping people manage and overcome depression.

Are you feeling depressed or anxious?

Background on music therapy

Music therapy has been utilized for centuries in various forms all across the globe. From ancient Egypt, Greece, and China to modern times, music has been vital for promoting healing and overall well-being.

In the early 20th century, music therapy began to take shape as a formalized discipline. Due in part to the extraordinary impact of music observed on soldiers who returned from World War II, battling physical injuries and psychological trauma, music therapy grew in popularity.

If you are experiencing trauma, support is available. Please see our Get Help Now page for more resources.

Today, music therapy is officially recognized as a powerful treatment for a wide range of conditions, including autism, anxiety, depression, and dementia. By using music to stimulate the brain, one can unlock immense healing potential for both the body and mind. This practice is the ultimate display of art and science working hand in hand to heal and transform lives for the better.

Imagine a space where you can let your guard down and express yourself freely. A space where your emotions are not only heard but also understood. That's exactly what music therapists offer their clients. These trained professionals deeply understand how music can tap into our emotional, cognitive, and social needs.

By combining their expertise in music, psychology, and therapy, music therapists design personalized interventions that address the unique needs of their clients. As a result, different approaches to music therapy may be tailored to a patient's specific needs.

Active music therapy is a unique, transformative form of therapy that encourages the client's active participation in the creation or performance of music. It's a chance to explore emotions and thoughts while using music as a tool for expression and healing.

The beauty of active music therapy is that no prior musical experience or skill is required to participate. The focus is on the therapeutic process, not on musical proficiency. Clients may choose to play musical instruments, sing, improvise, or engage in structured musical exercises. It's a safe, supportive environment where clients can feel free to be creative and vulnerable.

Conversely, receptive music therapy takes this concept to the next level by using carefully curated music to help clients process emotions, connect with their inner selves, and relax. One of the unique features of this type of therapy is guided imagery, where a therapist helps clients visualize specific scenes or emotions while listening to the music. Imagery can enhance relaxation and evoke insights and feelings that may not have been discovered otherwise.

The science behind music and mood

Have you ever experienced an instant mood boost when playing your favorite song or hearing a catchy tune on the radio? The reason behind this phenomenon lies in the brain's response to music.

When we listen to music, our bodies release neurotransmitters that regulate various functions within the brain. For example, scientific research shows that listening to music stimulates the release of several neurotransmitters associated with mood regulation, such as dopamine, serotonin, and endorphins. These neurotransmitters can promote feelings of happiness, pleasure, and relaxation and reduce the perception of pain.

Music may also have the power to activate various brain regions that regulate emotions and cognitive processes. Brain mapping studies have shown that music can engage the amygdala, responsible for processing emotions, and the prefrontal cortex, which is involved in decision-making and self-regulation. Interestingly, music can also stimulate the hippocampus, a region associated with memory formation and retrieval, and the nucleus accumbens, a key player in the brain's reward system.

Music has incredible powers that can influence our emotions and well-being. The impact of music on stress and anxiety is exceptionally well documented, as it has been found to induce relaxation and reduce cortisol levels in the body.

For those experiencing depression, the connection between music and memory can be particularly meaningful. Whether it's a favorite song from childhood or a melody that reminds us of a significant event, familiar tunes can trigger the recollection of positive feelings and experiences that may have been buried deep within us.

The unique ability of music to evoke memories and emotions makes it an invaluable tool in the therapeutic process. Music therapists take advantage of all these benefits to help their clients heal and reach their therapeutic goals.


How you can use music to enhance your everyday life

Music has the power to brighten our mood and lift our spirits, making it an effective tool for enhancing everyday life. One way to tap into this power is by creating a personal playlist of songs that evoke positive emotions, such as joy, calm, or motivation.

Your mood-boosting playlist can be as diverse as you want it to be, incorporating a variety of genres and styles tailored to your personal preferences. Be mindful of the tempo, rhythm, and lyrics of your chosen songs, and consider what emotions they produce in you.

Whether you prefer soothing melodies or energizing beats, music has the power to create a positive and supportive environment that can help you tackle your day with ease. Consider listening to calming music while you sip your morning coffee, or choose something more upbeat to motivate you during a workout. And, if you're feeling stressed or overwhelmed, listening to music during relaxation activities like meditation or yoga can help you find your inner calm and create a sense of emotional harmony.

Attending live music events can also be an excellent way to lift your spirits and connect with others. Concerts, festivals, and other music events allow you to immerse yourself in the music and let loose with friends or family. In addition, the communal experience of enjoying music together has been shown to foster feelings of belonging and emotional support, making it a great way to share the healing power of music with others.

Music therapy has the ability to achieve incredible results on its own, but combining it with other therapeutic approaches can be even more impactful. By bringing in traditional talk therapy, such as cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) or interpersonal psychotherapy (IPT), the mental and emotional aspects of depression can be directly addressed alongside the benefits of music therapy.

Complementary therapies like art therapy, dance/movement therapy, or mindfulness practices may also be explored to create more comprehensive and holistic treatment plans. These approaches can work together to provide you the opportunity to heal mentally and physically while also finding joy and fulfillment in the process.

Online therapy is a convenient way to access mental health services that can help you benefit from the therapeutic use of music. A licensed therapist can provide guidance, support, and resources to help you explore how to use music as a tool for self-care, emotional regulation, and overall well-being. With a framework for blending traditional therapy with music or other creative therapies, you can find the path best suited to your needs.

Since 1996, clinical research has consistently indicated that online CBT may be as effective as in-person therapy. With decades of evidence in its favor, online therapy may prove to be a productive and viable option for anyone looking to benefit from the healing power of music. Through reframing emotional experiences and exploring our relationship with music, online therapy can help us find the tools we need to positively integrate music into our daily routines.

Overcoming depression, anxiety, and other mental health challenges can be a difficult journey. But with the right tools, the healing power of music can be a powerful ally in getting you closer to the life you want. Understanding how our brains process and respond to music can help us use it as a resource for growth and well-being.

Are you feeling depressed or anxious?

Counselor reviews

"My experience with Priscilla has been immensely helpful in better understanding myself and providing me with the tools to see my life and relationships with more clarity and compassion."

“Sarah has been comforting to me through a very difficult transition . She has helped me to regain confidence and listen to my intuition. She is a great listener and has encouraged me to rediscover and use my voice.”


Music can be so much more than just a source of entertainment. It can also be a powerful tool for self-care, emotional regulation, and life-long well-being. The potential of music therapy for depression can be harnessed through careful research, practice, and the exploration of additional therapeutic approaches.

The future of music therapy for depression looks incredibly promising as researchers continue to dive into the potential of this art form for healing. Incorporating music into your everyday life can open doors to a world of growth and emotional regulation. Combining these tools with online therapy can further your journey toward empowerment and balance. For those seeking a holistic approach to their mental health, this can be the path to unlocking the power of music-based therapy and creating a more satisfying and fulfilling life.

For Additional Help & Support With Your ConcernsThis website is owned and operated by BetterHelp, who receives all fees associated with the platform.
The information on this page is not intended to be a substitution for diagnosis, treatment, or informed professional advice. You should not take any action or avoid taking any action without consulting with a qualified mental health professional. For more information, please read our terms of use.
Get the support you need from one of our therapistsGet Started
This website is owned and operated by BetterHelp, who receives all fees associated with the platform.