It is hoped that the research, by Queen’s University Belfast (QUB), will help pave the way for the treatment becoming more mainstream.
Ciara Reilly, chief executive of the Music Therapy Trust which provides theservice in Northern Ireland, said: “The findings are dramatic and underscore the need for music therapy to be made available as a mainstream treatment option.
“For a long time we have relied on anecdotal evidence and small-scale researchfindings about how well music therapy works. Now we have robust clinicalevidence to show its beneficial effects.”
It is estimated that about 20% of Northern Ireland’s youth population presentwith a mental health problem before their 18th birthday.
Researchers monitored 251 young people aged between eight and 16 between March 2011 and May of this year.
Participants were divided into two groups, with 128 being given the usual care options, while 123 were assigned additional music therapy. All of the young people were being treated for emotional, developmental or behavioural problems.
The study, which was funded by the Big Lottery fund, found that those whoreceived music therapy had improved communicative and interactive skills,compared to those who only received usual care options.
Early findings suggest that the benefits sustained as a result of music therapyare long-term.
Professor Sam Porter of the School of Nursing and Midwifery at QUB, who led the study, said the results were “hugely significant” in terms of determiningtreatments.