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  • Writer's pictureCaitlin Begley

How Music can Relieve Anxiety in Children and Young People

Using music is an increasingly popular form of therapy for children with anxiety, depression, ADHD and autism.

The most common form of treatment for anxiety in young people is talking therapies or medication. Although advantageous in many ways, these options do not work for every child. Therefore, there is a need for a non-invasive, inclusive and non-verbal approach to treatments.

This is where music therapy can help. Music therapy provides a safe, non-judgemental and open space to explore feelings and emotions, without even using any words.

How does music therapy relieve anxiety?
  • Music that we like releases dopamine in our brains, and as a result makes us feel happiness.

  • It can also help us develop emotional regulation: attributing feelings and interactions with songs helps us practice complex and adaptable emotional skills.

  • Children can release and explore a variety of emotions in a safe, controlled environment, through a creative platform.

  • Music is closely tied to our self-identity. When young people listen to music that reinforces that, it can boost their confidence and reduce anxieties.

What does music therapy look like?

Every child is different, so every music therapy session will differ too.

  • The session may be structured or improvised- it may be therapist-led, or child-led.

  • There is often a range of instruments available- drums, keyboards, and string and percussion instruments. There may also be singing or recorded songs.

  • There may be musical games, dancing, performing, writing and playing or making up music. Both the therapist and the child will work together.

How can we use these benefits in day-to-day life?

As amazing as it would be, not every anxious child can have access to music therapy. However, we can use the science and benefits from what we know about music therapy to apply to daily life to encourage the use of music for relieving anxiety in young people.

  • Play slower music in your home or classroom. If you're a parent, playing music with 60-80 BPM around the house whilst your child is feeling anxious can subconsciously slow down breathing and heart rate, resulting in relaxation. If you're a teacher, you can play similar songs at different points in the day to calm your class and ease any over-stimulated children.

  • Make a stress-reducing playlist for anxious moments. If your child has a specific trigger for their anxiety, consider making a ready-to-go therapeutic playlist for them to listen to. Use familiar and favourite songs, or perhaps songs that have happy memories attached.

  • Provide creative outlets for emotions. Whether that be instruments, dancing or singing, encouraging children to express their feelings through creative means like music can be a great way to learn managing emotions. It can help minimise angry outbursts, escalating arguments, and be a great way to get to know your child and their emotions better.

To read more about the benefits of music for anxiety in children, access the links below:

Click here to find a music therapist near you using the British Association for Music Therapy website.


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