Music and mental health: Nordoff Robbins policy position

Nordoff Robbins advocates for the postitive impact of music and music therapy on mental health and wellbeing, providing clear evidence to policy-makers.

Music and mental health: Nordoff Robbins policy position

At Nordoff Robbins, we believe in music and music therapy’s ability to reach even the most vulnerable people in our society. Mental illness can be very isolating, affecting a person’s personality and thought processes and their ability to express themselves, to interact with others and sustain helpful relationships – but music therapy can have a positive impact, offering a non-verbal means of communication, and working on emotional, physical and social difficulties.

In particular, the close musical attention of music therapy may be much more bearable than verbal interaction and people have an opportunity to experience their capacities for creativity and wellness. Music therapy is found as part of the multi-disciplinary team in many psychiatric services, but is also an invaluable dimension of community-based provision which seeks to help people to keep well and avoid hospital admissions.

This is why we are building the case for music therapy as part of a holistic approach to mental healthcare. We raise awareness of the positive impact of music therapy on mental health and wellbeing through advocacy and research, and we provide clear and rigorous evidence of this to commissioners and policy-makers, to demonstrate the need for sustainability and funding for music therapy services.

The Creative Health: The Arts for Health and Wellbeing1 report recommends that “arts therapies and participatory arts should be included in guidance on school counselling services.” It makes clear that the arts can help keep us well, aid our recovery and support longer lives better lived – and help meet major challenges facing health and social care, including mental health: “Arts participation helps to overcome anxiety, depression and stress in parents and their children, encouraging bonding and emotional expression.”

Supporting evidence

  • Ansdell and Meehan conducted a study on music therapy in adult psychiatric care and rehabilitation that found that participation in music therapy has benefits in itself, but can also help re-establish patients’ ongoing use of music as a health-promoting resource and coping strategy in their lives.2
  • Four out of five studies analysed for the Cochrane Review of Music Therapy and Depression found a greater reduction of depressive symptoms among those randomised to music therapy than to standard care conditions.3
  • Similarly, the Cochrane Review of Music Therapy and Schizophrenia found that in 18 studies, there was evidence to suggest that music therapy as an addition to standard care improves global state, mental state, social functioning and quality of life.4

1 The All Party Parliamentary Group on Arts, Health and Wellbeing, 2017. Creative Health: The Arts for Health and Wellbeing report.
2 Ansdell, Gary and John Meehan. 2010. “‘‘Some Light at the End of the Tunnel’’: Exploring Users’ Evidence for the Effectiveness of Music Therapy in Adult Mental Health Settings.” Music and Medicine, 2(1).
3 Maratos A, Gold C, Wang X, 2008. Crawford M. Music therapy for depression. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. Issue 1.
4 Geretsegger  M, Mössler  KA, Bieleninik  Ł, Chen  XJ, Heldal  TO, Gold  C. 2017. Music therapy for people with schizophrenia and schizophrenia‐like disorders. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, Issue 5.

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