What ‘Empire’ Got Right (And Wrong) About Music Therapy

Perhaps one of the most stirring and sympathetic characters in Fox’s hit show “Empire” is Andre, who suffers from Bipolar disorder. In case you’ve been living under a rock for the past three months and haven’t watched the hottest TV show of 2015, here’s a quick recap of Andre’s situation: the oldest son of a music conglomerate CEO vies for power over the company he helped build, but between all the pressure (and betrayal, and violence, and lack of love and support), as well as his attempts to keep a lid on his emotions, Andre eventually flushes his meds down the toilet, precipitating a mental breakdown and entry into an in-patient therapy program. That’s where he meets Michelle White, a lovely and talented music therapist played by Jennifer Hudson.

Certain members of the Lyon family (cough-Cookie!-cough) express skepticism about music therapy, and there’s no doubt that Andre’s status as the “talentless” son who can’t sing doesn’t help things, either. But the show’s depiction of music therapy, along with the peace that Andre experiences at the piano bench with his therapist, isn’t just a way to shoehorn music into every aspect of the TV show. Instead, said Al Bumanis, a board-certified music therapist, the show is correct to represent music therapy as a powerful tool for people coping with mental illness.

“Music has a way of reaching people where other interventions, like regular talk therapy, occupational therapy, may not,” said Bumanis, a spokesman for the American Music Therapy Association (AMTA). “I think it was a positive that people saw that music therapy is a viable and real health care profession.”

The Roots Of Modern Music Therapy

Music therapy, as the name suggests, uses music as a treatment tool to address non-musical goals. The idea —> Read More