Background: Music forms an important part of the lives and identities of adolescents and may have positive or negative mental health implications. Music therapy can be effective for mental disorders such as depression, but its preventive potential is unknown.
Objective: The aim of this study was to examine whether group music therapy (GMT) is an effective intervention for young people who may be at risk of developing mental health problems, as indicated via unhealthy music use. The main question was whether GMT can reduce unhealthy uses of music and increase potentials for healthy uses of music, compared to self-directed music listening (SDML). We were also interested in effects of GMT on depressive symptoms, psychosocial well-being, rumination, and reflection.
Methods: In an exploratory cluster-randomized trial in Australian schools, 100 students with self-reported unhealthy music use were invited to GMT (weekly sessions over 8 weeks) or SDML. Changes in the Healthy-Unhealthy Music Scale (HUMS) and mental health outcomes were measured over 3 months.
Results: Both interventions were well accepted. No effects were found between GMT and SDML (all p > 0.05); both groups tended to show small improvements over time. Younger participants benefited more from GMT, and older ones more from SDML (p = 0.018).
Conclusions: GMT was associated with similar changes as SDML. Further research is needed to improve the processes of selecting participants for targeted interventions; to determine optimal dosage; and to provide more reliable evidence of effects of music-based interventions for adolescents.
Keywords: cluster RCT; mental health; music; prevention; school.
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