The history of arts therapies in Estonia goes back to the early 1980s, when practitioners and researchers interested in the therapeutic effect of the arts converged on
Tallinn University to practise and discuss as well as organise seminars and workshops, inviting specialists from abroad to participate. The Medical Library of Estonia (now Academic Library of Tallinn University) had an important role in promoting arts therapies and, in the 1990s, the active implementation of arts therapies and took place at the Tallinn Psychiatry Clinic (now the
Psychiatry Clinic of North Estonia Medical Centre).
Since then, a series of international events organised by Tallinn University have been fundamental in the promotion of the arts therapies, the most significant of these were: The International Music Therapy Conference in 1990, part of the 19th World Conference of the International Society of Music Education (ISME) in Helsinki; an International Symposium on Arts Therapies Violence and Tolerance in 2004; and ECArTE’s 9th European Arts Therapies Conference in 2007.
In 1991-1992 the first introductory course in music therapy took place at Tallinn University with lecturers from Finland. Music therapy trainings with local teachers started at Tallinn University in 1995 and at the Continuing Education Centre of
Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre in 2009. The emphasis has been on psychodynamic and humanist approaches. In receptive music therapy, vibroacoustic therapy (a method employing the effect of low frequency sound and music) has been of essential importance from the aspect of research, application, and development of the equipment. Since 1995, Estonia has been represented in the European Music Therapy Confederation, and since 1996 in the World Federation of Music Therapy.
Visual art therapy
Although the first more extensive course in visual art therapy took place only in 2004-2005 as a collaborative project between the
Estonian Society of Creative Arts Therapies and trainers from Finland, it has rapidly developed into the most popular orientation in creative arts therapies training. In therapeutic work, different approaches are applied, with developmental, humanist-expressive and solution-focused orientations dominating. Visual art therapists constitute the majority of the members of the
Estonian Society of Creative Arts Therapies. The Department of the Art Therapy in Educational Settings was formed in 2020 under the Society.
Dance and movement therapy
The circle of dance movement therapists is small but constantly growing. The training is concentrated at Tallinn University and The Dance Movement Therapy Department of the
Estonian Society of Creative Arts Therapies (established in 2017) is providing continuous education, community events and supervision for the specialists. The DMT department has been a full professional member of the European Association Dance Movement Therapy since 2019. In therapeutic work, the solution-focused approach prevails and DMT is mostly applied with children in rehabilitation and school settings.
The specialty of dramatherapy has not yet been developed in Estonia; there are few specialists who have acquired a basic course in dramatherapy and use dramatherapy in their practice. There is a fairly large school of psychodrama in Estonia with two training centres: T
allinn Psychodrama Institute, Moreno Centre and
Tartu Psychodrama Institute.
Arts therapies degree courses
Tallinn University is the only university in Estonia offering degree courses in creative arts therapies. In 2007 the University launched a three-year Bachelor’s degree course (180 ECTS) and a two-year Master’s degree course (120 ECTS) in Arts Therapies with four specialisations: music therapy, visual art therapy, dance and movement therapy and dramatherapy. Since 2013, candidates have only been admitted to
Master’s programme (120 ECTS) and one-year basic courses are provided as preparation for the Arts Therapies Master’s studies.
Arts Therapies Master’s programme enrols students in two specialisations: visual art therapy and dance and movement therapy. The programme belongs to the Study Programme Group of Health Care and graduates receive a degree in Health Care (MSc). The programme is implemented at the School of Natural Sciences and Health, the study area is Psychology and Behavioural Sciences. The Arts Therapies Master’s program was approved by the
Estonian Ministry of Education and Research and validated by the
Estonian Quality Agency for Higher and Vocational Education in 2014 and 2017. In 2005 Tallinn University became an associated member and in 2008 a full member of ECArTE.
The admission requirements for the Arts Therapies master's programme are: Bachelor degree in Arts Therapies or corresponding qualification, which includes health and psychology related training; art-related preparation corresponding to the area of specialisation, basic training in Arts Therapies and experience of work with children, youth or adults.
Continuous education courses
Tallinn University offers
arts therapies continuous education trainings as well. Continuing Education Centre of
Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre offers music therapy trainings.
The profession of creative arts therapist is state recognised in Estonia. After completion of the Master’s programme in Arts Therapies and at least one year of practical work in the speciality, it becomes possible to apply for the vocation Creative Arts Therapist Level 7. Professional standard includes three specialisations: art therapist, music therapist and dance movement therapist.
Creative Arts Therapist Level 7 qualifies the holder as a specialist of psychotherapy and rehabilitation in the professional area of Health and Well-being. The professional standard of
Music Therapist Level 6 is registered under Occupational Therapy.
There are around 100 creative arts therapists in Estonia, most are art therapists. Creative arts therapies are applied mostly in the form of rehabilitation services. In addition, creative arts therapies are applied as supportive therapies in psychiatric treatment and social care, and in recent years as a support service for schools. The graduates from the creative arts therapies programme are employed in various areas – for example, the health and social care systems, in education, in children’s, youth and family work and in the wider preventive work in the field of public health.
The Estonian Society of Creative Arts Therapies was established in 2004 and functions as a professional society for specialists involved in the field of creative arts therapies, including visual art therapy, music therapy, dance movement therapy and dramatherapy.
The Estonian Society of Music Therapy was founded in 1990.
Current research and research interests in arts therapies include: the application of arts therapies in educational settings; the relationship between creative activities, creativity and wellbeing; art therapy with persons with suicidal behaviour; and psycho-physiological effect of vibroacoustic therapy (VAT). There is a considerable body of published research available across the disciplines.