Résumé of the professional and educational contexts of the arts therapies


The professional context of arts therapies in Sweden

The arts therapies in Sweden have developed over the last 50 years and there is a steadily increasing demand of art, music and dance/movement therapists. Arts therapists work in a variety of settings: health care, special education, rehabilitation, palliative care, etc.

Arts therapies education is given at an advanced university level in music therapy, dance/movement therapy and in visual art therapy. A few private institutes also offer training courses, this also includes psychodrama (the term drama therapy is not used in Sweden).


Professional context of Art Therapy

The history of art therapy in Sweden starts in the 1960’s when artists, art teachers, occupational therapists, and others who had trained overseas started using art in psychiatric treatment and in special education. In 1976 the Swedish Association for Art Therapy was founded and during the years 1985 to 1998 offered a three year part-time training course. The first art therapy education at university level (60 ECTS) started 1997 at the Faculty of Medicine, Umeå University, and since 2005 it has led to a Masters degree (one year) in art therapy. The first three doctoral dissertations in Sweden by art therapists were presented during 2007 and 2008, at Umea University. Four more art therapists will submit their dissertations within the next few years.

Educated art therapists work mainly in private practice; a few are employed as such, mainly in psychiatric services. Some psychotherapists, occupational therapists, psychologists, nurses, special educators, with additional training in art therapy are employed on the basis of their first profession. Several art therapists have taken an additional University Diploma in psychotherapy (90 ECTS) in order to become authorized for work as registered psychotherapist.

In 2006 the National Association for Art Therapists (SRBt) was founded to include all art therapists in our country. Ethical guidelines and a model for authorizing formally qualified art therapists are important accomplishments of the association. Every second year the Swedish, Danish, Norwegian, Finnish or Icelandic Art Therapy Associations arrange a Nordic Seminar in art therapy.

As art therapy is not yet a recognized profession in Sweden, there is no requirement to be registered in order to be employed as art therapist. However, the authorization by SRBt certifies that the art therapist has formal education, and a certain amount of supervised clinical experience.




birgitta.englund@umu.se or +46 90 786 98 98


Professional context of dance therapy

The history of dance therapy in Sweden starts at the beginning of the 1980s when dancers and dance teachers and other interested parties started to bring together information about dance therapy mainly from USA and Europe. The Swedish Association for Dance Therapy was founded in 1984 and had as its main goal to spread information about dance therapy and to develop an education in the field.

The Association organised short courses with guest teachers from abroad. There was cooperation with New York University and dance therapist Miriam Berger among others.

As interest in dance therapy grew, the first introductory course (30 ECTS) was held in 1991 at the University College of Dance in Stockholm. This course was gradually developed into an MA (120 ECTS) including basic psychotherapy education. Owing to a major reorganization at the University College of Dance and Circus the further education in dance therapy has been put on hold indefinitely. Currently there are courses at private institutes and an introductory course at University of Karlstad (7.5 ECTS).

Dance therapists work mainly in private practice but some work within Stockholm City Council.  Since dance movement therapy is not yet recognized as a profession, they are employed in the capacity of their first profession, as social workers, physiotherapists, psychotherapists, psychologists or special educators. Some are employed as dancers, dance teachers and choreographers.  Dance therapists in Sweden work with individuals and groups, adults and children within psychiatry, clients with eating disorders, children with special needs, elderly clients, within oncology, with fibromyalgia and pain disorders among others. Dance therapy is used within hospitals and schools. Several dance therapists have taken the additional university diploma in psychotherapy (90 ECTS) and are authorized to work as registered psychotherapists.

The first three doctoral dissertations in Sweden by dance therapists were presented in 1994, 2002 and 2004. There is also research being conducted within Stockholm City Council in the context of psychiatry and eating disorders, as well as the elderly client group. The Association supports a professional network and has a list of practising therapists with a formal training who work according to the ethical guidelines of the Association.



Professional context of music therapy

In music therapy musical experience, musical creation and interaction are used for therapeutic purposes. In 1974 The Swedish Association for Music Therapy, Svenska förbundet för musikterapi (SFM) was founded by a handful of people interested in music therapy.  1977 SFM started to publish a journal, Musikterapi.

Music therapy training on an academic level was first introduced 1981 at the Royal College of Music in Stockholm as a postgraduate programme in music therapy for educated music teachers.

1985 Sjöviks folkhögskola started a basic course in music therapy at folk high school level.  

Musikterapiinstiutet, a private institute, was founded 1987 in Uppsala with the aim to educate in the method called Functional Music Therapy (FMT)  A programme on graduate level in Functional music therapy started 1988 at Ingesund University College of Music.

The music therapy programme at The Royal College of Music in Stockholm is open for students with at least a 180 ECTS music teacher programme or corresponding qualifications and professional experience of using music in an educational or health-care context. You can also be eligible on the strength of other higher education (psychologist, teacher, occupational therapist, physician or suchlike) plus documented practical and theoretical knowledge of music.

The programme is founded on a broad humanistic and psychodynamic basis with a focus on communicative musicality and integration of musical and therapeutic competences. It is aimed to develop the student’s professional skills to use music for purposes of health promotion and therapy.

The programme includes music therapy methodology, music therapy practice, supervision and music therapy self-experience. The theoretical studies focus on music, psychology, psychotherapy, ethics and relevant clinical literature. The student graduates with a Master’s thesis.


Contact: +46 70 726 9781 or anci.sandell@kmh.se


Umeå: Umeå University