Themes for Therapy from the Nordoff-Robbins Center for Music Therapy at New York University/More Themes for Therapy from the Nordoff-Robbins Center for Music Therapy at New York University

By Nemeth, Jean M. | Music Therapy Perspectives, January 1, 2004 | Go to article overview

Themes for Therapy from the Nordoff-Robbins Center for Music Therapy at New York University/More Themes for Therapy from the Nordoff-Robbins Center for Music Therapy at New York University


Nemeth, Jean M., Music Therapy Perspectives


Ritholz, M. S., & Robbins, C. (Eds.). (1999). Themes for therapy from the Nordoff-Robbins Center for Music Therapy at New York University. NY, NY: Carl Fischer. 103 pages. ISBN 0-8258-3633-6 (paper). $19.95.

Ritholz, M. S., & Robbins, C. (Eds.). (2003). More themes for therapy from the Nordoff-Robbins Center for Music Therapy at New York University. NY, NY: Carl Fischer. 120 pages. ISBN 0-8258-4917-9 (paper). $19.95.

In the field of music therapy, Nordoff-Robbins Creative Music Therapy represents a long-established and respected treatment methodology. Based on the tenets of "in the moment" musical improvisation and composition, this approach to music therapy seeks to engage the client in the active process of music making within which therapeutic goals and outcomes can be implemented and fostered. The method stresses the connection between "live" music-making and achievement of personal and developmental growth.

For the outsider, this clinical improvisation medium may appear less accessible than other styles of music therapy practice where textbook-based theoretical frameworks are more didactically elucidated. The rich musical style, harmonic intricacies, and thematic flexibility do not as easily lend themselves to simple parroting. Practitioners may, in fact, shy away from this style of practice, citing lack of familiarity or comfort level working within this musical framework.

In Themes for therapy from the Nordoff-Robbins Center and the follow-up More themes for therapy from the Nordoff-Robbins Center, editors Michelle Ritholz and Clive Robbins seek to allay some of these anxieties by providing companion songbooks of music selections composed for therapy. The editors, along with twenty-one other contributing therapist-composers, provide a total of 87 musical pieces carefully crafted for use in a variety of therapeutic musical endeavors. In addition to the editors, contributors include such well-known practitioners as Turry, Beer, Birnbaum, Buchanan, Fidelibus, Lee, Nordoff, Nowikas, and Robbins. It is emphasized that each selection evolved from direct clinical work where the song or piece was composed or developed in response to the needs of a particular client or group. However, the editors feel that these songs have proven to have application possibilities far beyond their original settings. Though primarily provided for use by the music therapy community, they point out that the compilations may also be valuable to others as well-namely music teachers, special education music specialists, and musically skilled activity therapists. Moreover, the materials are described as appropriate for use with a wide range of groupings, ages and special needs populations.

The original compendium, Themes for therapy, was published in 1999. The first book opens with a Table of Contents which lists the selections alphabetically and denotes both the therapist-composer and page within the text. Turning the page, the reader then finds the songs re-listed, this time grouped by subject matter. This section more clearly delineates the songs' intended purposes, grouping them by sections into Greeting, Self-Awareness & Socialization, Physical Awareness & Movement, Transitions & Encouraging Play, and Goodbye categories. The Greeting and Goodbye sections are the largest, representing 10 of the total 42 songs. The instrumental songs and pieces are subsequently grouped as well, according to Drum & Cymbal, Resonator Bells/Metallophone, Tambourine/Small Percussion, and Multiple Instruments. The entire list is numbered from 1-39 with a few selections combined under single number headings.

The book then moves to an introduction by editors Ritholz and Robbins. Here the writers delineate the origin of the book's content, the rationale for using songs in therapy, and tips on application of the materials to actual therapy situations. As noted, the music contained in this book originated from actual music therapy practice at the Nordoff-Robbins Center. …

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