Music therapy as an adjunct to standard treatment for obsessive compulsive disorder and co-morbid anxiety and depression: A randomized clinical trial

J Affect Disord. 2015 Sep 15;184:13-7. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2015.04.011. Epub 2015 Apr 11.


Background: Previous studies have highlighted the potential therapeutic benefits of music therapy as an adjunct to standard care, in a variety of psychiatric ailments including mood and anxiety disorders. However, the role of music in the treatment of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) have not been investigated to date.

Methods: In a single-center, parallel-group, randomized clinical trial (NCT02314195) 30 patients with OCD were randomly assigned to standard treatment (pharmacotherapy and cognitive-behavior therapy) plus 12 sessions of individual music therapy (n = 15) or standard treatment only (n = 15) for one month. Maudsley Obsessive-Compulsive Inventory, Beck Anxiety Inventory, and Beck Depression Inventory-Short Form were administered baseline and after one month.

Results: Thirty patients completed the study. Music therapy resulted in a greater decrease in total obsessive score (post-intervention score: music therapy+standard treatment: 12.4 ± 1.9 vs standard treatment only: 15.1 ± 1.7, p < 0.001, effect size = 56.7%). For subtypes, significant between-group differences were identified for checking (p = 0.004), and slowness (p = 0.019), but not for washing or responsibility. Music therapy was significantly more effective in reducing anxiety (post-intervention score: music therapy + standard treatment: 16.9 ± 7.4 vs standard treatment only: 22.9 ± 4.6, p < 0.001, effect size = 47.0%), and depressive symptoms (post-intervention score: music therapy + standard treatment: 10.8 ± 3.8 vs standard treatment: 17.1 ± 3.7, p < 0.001, effect size = 47.0%).

Limitations: Inclusion of a small sample size, lack of blinding due to the nature of the intervention, short duration of follow-up.

Conclusion: In patients with OCD, music therapy, as an adjunct to standard care, seems to be effective in reducing obsessions, as well as co-morbid anxiety and depressive symptoms.

Keywords: Anxiety disorders/therapy; Combined modality therapy; Music therapy/methods; Obsessive compulsive disorder; Randomized clinical trial; Treatment outcome.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Anxiety / psychology
  • Anxiety / therapy*
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy* / methods
  • Comorbidity
  • Depression / psychology
  • Depression / therapy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Music Therapy*
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder / psychology*
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder / therapy*
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales