Résumé of the professional and educational contexts of the arts therapies


The historical background & professional context of arts therapies in Finland

Arts therapies as a profession in Finland have developed mainly from 1950s on - first within psychiatry, then expanding to special education and rehabilitation. Art therapy forms have gone through a rapid process of development, but art therapy is not currently recognised as a state registered health care profession.

Music therapy, visual arts therapy and dance movement therapy are the largest professional groups within the field of arts therapies in Finland at university level. In addition to these, also dramatherapy, art psychotherapy, and photo therapy are practised.

The theoretical framework varies from psychodynamic theories to humanistic/existential and theories of developmental psychology, quite often being eclectic and integrative i.e. combining different theoretical viewpoints depending of the target group and the special needs of the individual client.

Music therapy services are provided for a wide variety of target groups across the fields of health care, rehabilitation, and education. Clinical work is mostly conducted in private practice, but there are approximately 70 offices or posts in institutions in the field of rehabilitation and hospitals within public health care.  Music therapy can be conducted flexibly in both in- and outpatient settings. The state-run Social Insurance Institution of Finland (KELA) reimburses the costs of music therapy for certain target groups in certain conditions (up to max. 3 years therapy process), and this greatly increases the possibilities for being able to access music therapy services. In Finland there are approximately 500 clinically trained music therapists, from which more or less a half are full-time clinicians. Research is very active in the field of music therapy producing new knowledge on the effects of music therapy (EBP), and the possibilities of clinical applications. Music therapy research is centred in University of Jyväskylä, and its Music Therapy Clinic for Research and Training.

Visual arts therapy is conducted in a variety of settings: psychiatry, social service, education, and voluntary sector.  The first professional training of art therapists was organised in 1974 by the Centre of Extended Studies in the leading art and design school, which today is known as The University of Art and Design in Helsinki.  Since the beginning of the 1990s several different training programmes in visual art therapy based on both psychodynamic and other frames of reference have been offered. Visual arts therapy is now established in many psychiatric hospitals and other institutions – however, development is still slow, and permanent positions are rare.  Visual arts therapy is rather commonly considered as an application of psychotherapy. Due to the system of social insurance (KELA) in Finland, many visual art therapists who also are registered as psychotherapists work in private practice.

Dance movement therapy (DMT) services are provided for the different target groups in the fields of health care, rehabilitation, education and well-being. DMT is used both in- and outpatient settings. In Finland there are approximately 80 clinically trained dance-movement therapists, from which about half are full-time clinicians. Research is developing in the field of DMT little by little.

Levels of education

Music Therapy:

Introductory courses (3-5 ECTS) in Open University and other institutions

Basic studies (30 ECTS) in Open University (several institutions)

Subject studies (50 ECTS) in Open University (several institutions)

Professional/Clinical studies (80 ECTS) at Universities of Applied Sciences in Tampere and Turku, and in Foundation-based institute Eino Roiha Institute in Jyväskylä

International Master’s programme (120 ECTS) in University of Jyväskylä -> Eligibility for applying PhD studies at University of Jyväskylä

All the music therapy training programmes are equal in their basic structures, and the principles and lengths of crucial parts of the contents has been agreed in the collaborative group of the leaders of training programs (SUMUKE-group).

Dance Movement Therapy:

Basic studies (30 ECTS) in Eino Roiha Institute in Jyväskylä, in Summer University of Northern Ostrobothnia, and in Kokos Theatre Academy in Helsinki

Professional/Clinical studies (90 ECTS) in Foundation-based institute Eino Roiha Institute in Jyväskylä

Visual Art Therapy:

Socionomy/BA-level (120/60 ECTS), psychodynamic, Satakunta University of Applied Sciences. Course philosophy comes from the British tradition and from University of Hertfordshire. This programme is due to close in 2016.

Specialised training in psychodynamic art psychotherapy (mainly for educated psychotherapists) and art therapy (both programs include 60 ECTS); Finnish Art Therapy Association and Helsinki University Vantaa Institute for Continuing Education Professional training in Visual art therapy (76 ETCS).

The Finnish Association for Mental Health and the Association for Art Therapists in Finland started a new 4-year training in visual arts therapy in 2011. Due to the Finnish regulations of the psychotherapeutic professions, the requirements for entering the training are now a basic degree (of at least a BA level) in social- or healthcare, and sufficient studies in art.

Inartes Institute (Finland) in co-operation with European Graduate School (Switzerland) provide an extensive training program in expressive arts therapy (120 ETCS), including visual arts therapy. 

Professional associations

The Finnish Society for Music Therapy (, since 1973, with its 300 members is an active agent and proponent of the professional music therapy practice in Finland. It organises national conferences twice in year, and publishes Musiikkiterapia (Music Therapy) -journal.

The Finnish Art Therapy Association ( was founded in 1974 by some of the pioneers of Art therapy in Finland. Its aim is to promote the practice and research of Art therapy and its main focus of activity during the last ten years have been in training issues.

The Association for Art Therapists in Finland (

The Association for Art Therapists in Finland was established in 1979 to pursue and promote the professional interests of its members. The aim of the association is to further the knowledge of the field and to create professional contacts on a national and international level. The association organizes training and seminars and when needed also acts on ethical questions.

The members of the association must have completed a four-year art therapy training, which started in 1974. The frame of reference is psychodynamic. In addition to the theoretical education a clinical training and personal psychotherapy are included. The training gives qualifications to work as a therapist with individuals or with groups. The prerequisites for entering the training have been either a basic degree in art plus suitability for the field, or alternately a degree in health care with at least two years of full-time art studies.

The Finnish Dance Therapy Association

The Finnish Dance Therapy Association is registered in Finland, and was founded in 2000. The purpose the association holds is to serve as a professional network for Finnish dance/movement therapists and to make d/mt better known in Finland. The association participates in the development of d/mt training in Finland and tries to facilitate the practice of d/mt in Finland. Through the association the d/mt professionals and those interested in the field can exchange thoughts on professional issues and transmit current professional information. The association produces and collects material related to d/mt, arranges meetings and workshops for the members, and supports the d/mt research.

Professional registration

There are ongoing negotiations with authorities to get art therapy related professional titles protected and officially registered. Music therapy is partly recognised as a health profession, as Social Insurance Institution of Finland ( reimburses music therapy as rehabilitative psychotherapy and as medical rehabilitation for people with severe disabilities. These services are based on statutory liability.


Jyväskylä: University of Jyväskylä