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Levels of training in the Nordoff-Robbins approach to music therapy were developed to maintain the highest possible standards in the practice and to insure that the core skills and philosophy of the approach are effectively passed on to future practitioners.

Level 1 training focuses solely on the clinical practice of Nordoff-Robbins music therapy. This training is open to music therapists with a Masters degree in music therapy; those who possess an undergraduate degree in music therapy and are undertaking this training concomitant to enrollment in a music therapy Masters program; and music therapists recognized to be certified music therapists by the appropriate licensing agency of their home country.

Level 2 training builds upon the Nordoff-Robbins therapist's clinical skills and facilitates supervisory ability. In addition to doing supervised clinical work, the Level 2 trainee may assist in training a field work student or participate as a co-therapist with an Intern or Certification Candidate in order to develop supervisory skills.

Level 3 training focuses on developing effective trainers of the approach by 1) achieving the skills to teach the full range of course material offered in Level 1 Certification and 2) presenting and/or publishing contemporary work relevant to Nordoff-Robbins philosophy or practice. It is expected that Level 3 candidates will be practicing music therapists and that the Level 3 training will facilitate further growth in the trainee's clinical practice.

Pre-Requisites for Level 3 Training

In order to enter into the Level 3 training track, the potential candidate must successfully complete Level 2. Level 2 is awarded to Nordoff-Robbins music therapists who have worked over a period of 3-5 years (post-Level 1 Certification) to integrate, internalize and expand his/her understanding and application of the Nordoff-Robbins approach. He/she will consistently demonstrate an advanced standard of professional practice as seen in a breadth and depth of clinical experience and understanding, and possess the following competencies in individual and group work, above and beyond the "entry-level" Nordoff-Robbins Level 1 therapist:

  • Ability to intervene, evoke and support change through music 
  • Advanced ability to create music co-responsively
  • Capability as a strong leader in musical and verbal interventions
  • Skill and flexibility in a range of musical idioms and styles
  • Ability to be self-reliant and work independently
  • Successfully convey the approach in professional writings and/or presentations
  • Ability to facilitate the growth of graduate fieldwork students, interns and Level 1 Nordoff-Robbins candidates in a co-therapy or supervisory role

Qualities of the Level 3 Candidate

A Level 3 Candidate has an established track record as a respected professional in the field of music therapy. In addition to having the sufficient musical, clinical, and supervisory skills, the candidate has the potential to nurture creativity, introspection and playfulness, while cultivating respect for the Nordoff-Robbins approach. The candidate has the potential to inspire students and forge trusting relationships with them in order to create a professionally exciting and safe training environment.

Structure of the Level 3 Training

Level 3 training involves direct, interactive teaching of students as well as examination of and lecturing on archival and contemporary Nordoff-Robbins case studies.


The Level 3 candidate first participates as an apprentice teacher. In addition to mastering the training materials, the Level 3 candidate learns from the trainer to discern the needs of the trainees and to adjust the course work accordingly. After observing and co-teaching with a Level 3 practitioner, the candidate teaches alone while getting periodic feedback from the trainer. The Level 3 trainee is expected to be able to teach the following courses or content areas:

Clinical Improvisation: Musical Resources and Clinical Applications

  1. Focus on developing musical resources and practical skills, studying various musical styles, idioms and forms.
  2. Provide a forum in which to explore and further develop musical resources with specific clinical situations in mind. Work on clinical techniques, (i.e., matching, enhancing, evoking, challenging) and role-play specific situations that arise in clinical practice.
  3. Encourage exploration of personal reactions to music, help students gain awareness of personal styles and habits that arise in improvisation.

Clinical Practice Seminar

Articulate the philosophical foundations of this work and illuminate empirically the process of music therapy through careful and detailed analysis of individual therapy case presentations. Inclusion of significant cases studies in Creative Music Therapy: A Guide to Fostering Clinical Musicianship, as well as contemporary viewpoints, i.e., articles on Edward in the Nordic Journal of Music Therapy, discussions from Paths of Development in Nordoff-Robbins Music Therapy. Highlight clinical/musical concepts and techniques. Provide an opportunity for Level 1trainees to share excerpts of ongoing work and receive practical feedback on clinical/musical interventions.

Practice and Theory of Group Music Therapy

Covers the following topics through discussion and direct application: 

  1. Clinical considerations in group music therapy, including: goals, stages of development of the individual and group, the place of improvisation and composition in group process, leadership styles.
  2. Techniques involved in improvising songs and developing instrumental improvisations.
  3. Techniques involved in both leading and playing composed or arranged songs and instrumental pieces.
  4. Considerations for composing vocal and instrumental pieces based on the needs of your clients; opportunities to compose original material to be work shopped in class. 
  5. Selection, care of and use of the various instruments, mallets/beaters, etc.

Building Analytic and Presentation Skills

A component of the building of teaching skills is for the Level 3 candidate to review a seminal Nordoff-Robbins Case study (from CMT revised or archival material) and present the case to a Level 3 practitioner (s) and students.

In addition, the candidate may present or publish a contemporary clinical case that includes implications for Nordoff-Robbins philosophy or approach.

In both cases, the Level 3 trainee is assessed on depth of knowledge, clarity of communication, and ability to engage the listener/reader.

Skills to be Evaluated in Level 3 Candidates:

The following skills are considered essential and are cultivated and evaluated over time through observations and discussion:

  • Assess the developmental level of the trainee's musical skills, discovering how to best understand how the student learns; adjust the imparting of information accordingly
  • Identify the particular musical strengths of the candidates and adjust each course to bring out those strengths
  • Assess the emotional openness of the student and his or her ability to express music spontaneously and freely.
  • Develop strategies in order to cultivate spontaneity and freedom i.e., careful nurturing, strong challenging, etc.
  • Nurture free expression and responsiveness with the recognition that these qualities are just as important as learning the structures of particular musical styles and idioms.
  • Cultivate the ability in the trainee to infuse his or her improvisation with clinical intent.
  • Attempt to understand the dynamics of the group of candidates as a whole to intervene where necessary to create an atmosphere of safety, support and risk-taking.
  • Give positive support by finding each trainee's strengths and share this authentically; Give critical feedback with sensitivity and equanimity.
  • Convey the power of music - its psychological and emotional content - as well as the idea that engaging in musical experience means learning about the human condition
  • Inspire the trainee through example
  • Convey belief in each trainee's potential
  • Supervise the trainee effectively, cultivating self-awareness and skill development based on the Nordoff-Robbins Competencies
  • Possess course content knowledge: Seminal cases from Creative Music Therapy (Revised); musical styles, idioms, scales, including writings from Healing Heritage; group repertoire from relevant Nordoff-Robbins music publications; construction of compositions based on Nordoff lectures; knowledge of contemporary NR literature

Completion of Level 3 Training

At the completion of the requirements, the Level 3 trainee has attained a deeper understanding of the core elements of the Nordoff-Robbins approach and this perspective is reflected in the teaching skills that have been acquired. The trainee can now transmit these essential elements sensitively and creatively to help the students reach their fullest potential. The trainee will be able to integrate the artistic and scientific components of the approach, recognizing the need to cultivate intuitive and creative faculties in the students as well as explicit rationale and procedures.

Respectful of the legacy, while looking to innovate and develop the approach based on new developments in the field and the strengths of the students, the trainer is expected to be a leader in representing Nordoff-Robbins nationally and internationally. Upon completion of the training the Level 3 trainee will receive final approval from Nordoff-Robbins Center for Music Therapy Managing Director Dr. Alan Turry.