The arts therapies as a profession in Finland have developed rapidly since the 1950s – initially within psychiatry and expanding to special education and rehabilitation. Music therapy, visual arts therapy and dance movement therapy are the largest professional groups at university level. Dramatherapy, art psychotherapy and photo therapy are practised as well. The theoretical framework includes psychodynamic, humanistic, existential and developmental psychology theories. Clinical approaches tend to be eclectic and integrative depending on the target group and the special needs of the individual client.
Pioneering work in Music Therapy began in the 1920s and 1930s. It became more widespread in the late 1960s, largely through the work of Petri Leihkoinen who founded the Sibelius Academy in 1973.
The Finnish Society for Music Therapy was also established in 1973. The Academy offered various programmes in music as art, performance and soloist training and launched Music Therapy training programmes for the first time in the mid-1980s. The Academy was also the first institution to offer training for clinicians. Meanwhile, the University of Jyväskylä launched a second training programme in the mid-1980s.
Music Therapy in Finland has evolved along two different paths, both theoretical and practical. One has been more psychodynamic (and psychoanalytic), the other a more functional and rehabilitative approach. Formal training programmes were established as a real need emerged for a systematic approach to critical development, with a more rigorous understanding of theories and practices.
The visual arts and painting also went through a similar process.
The first professional training of art therapists was organised in 1974 by the Centre of Extended Studies in the leading art and design school (now
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.
The training landscape in Finland is historically complex, and the current model of training is based on Foundation- and University-based approaches where clinical and theoretical learning are situated, respectively. Students are required to undertake both trainings to fulfil vocational and academic requirements, and there are opportunities for further specialisation. University level training programmes are recognized by the Ministry of Education, but Finland does not have an accreditation system as in other countries.
Training leans heavily on collaborative learning and seeks to adapt the education process and the production of knowledge to the individual learning styles of the students.
The following programmes are offered:
All the music therapy training programmes are similar in their basic structures and durations.
Dance Movement Therapy
Introductory courses, basic studies, and subject-specific studies are offered at the
Open University and other institutions.
Professional/Clinical studies are offered at
Universities of Applied Sciences in Tampere and
Turku and in Foundation-based studies at the
Eino Roiha Institute in Jyväskylä.
An International Master’s programme, with eligibility for applying PhD studies, is offered at the
University of Jyväskylä (see the University’s
Department of Music, Art and Culture Studies as well).
Visual Art Therapy
Basic studies are offered at the Eino Roiha Institute in Jyväskylä, as well as at the Summer University of Northern Ostrobothnia, and in
Kokos Theatre Academy in Helsinki.
Professional/Clinical studies in Foundation-based training are offered at the Eino Roiha Institute in Jyväskylä
There are no Dramatherapy training programmes in Finland.
A BA-level Socionomy programme is offered at the
Satakunta University of Applied Sciences.
Specialised training in psychodynamic art psychotherapy (mainly for qualified psychotherapists) and art therapy are offered at the
Finnish Art Therapy Association and Helsinki
University Vantaa Institute for Continuing Education Professional training in Visual art therapy (76 ETCS).
A 4-year training programme in visual arts therapy is offered through the
Finnish Association for Mental Health and the
Association for Art Therapists in Finland. A basic degree (BA level) in social- or healthcare-related and art studies is an entry requirement.
Inartes Institute (Finland) in co-operation with
European Graduate School (Switzerland) provide an extensive training program in expressive arts therapy, including visual arts therapy.
There are ongoing negotiations with authorities to secure protection and official registration for titles related to arts therapies. At present the Arts Therapists are also negotiating with the Ministry of Health and Social Affairs and the Ministry of Education and Culture to establish an umbrella association for all disciplines to be recognized with the title of Arts Therapies.
Music Therapy profession is self-regulating, and the Finish Society for Music Therapy supervises the field. Music therapy is partly recognised as a health profession by the
Social Insurance Institution of Finland (KELA), and there are ongoing negotiations with the supervisory authority of health professions to have the professional title of music therapist included in the register of health care professions. There are levels of regulation: protected title and legalised title. The latter is the stronger and preferred option.
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 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
reimburses the costs of music therapy for certain target groups in certain conditions. There are approximately 500 clinically trained music therapists, approximately half of whom are full-time clinicians.
Art Therapy, on the other hand, is not currently recognised as a state registered health care profession. Visual arts therapy is conducted in a variety of settings including, psychiatry, social services, education, and the voluntary sector. 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 considered an application of psychotherapy. Due to the system of social insurance 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. There are approximately 80 clinically trained dance movement therapists, approximately half of which are full-time clinicians.
The other Arts Therapy disciplines all have national associations, and some of them may have more than one.
The Finnish Society for Music Therapy, with its 300 members, has been an active agent and proponent of the professional music therapy practice in Finland. It organises national conferences twice per year and publishes the Musiikkiterapia journal.
The Finnish Art Therapy Association was founded in 1974 by pioneers of Art therapy in Finland. Its aim is to promote the practice and research of Art therapy. Its main focus of activity during the last ten years has been on training issues.
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 Finnish Dance Therapy Association was founded in 2000 and serves as a professional network for Finnish dance movement therapists and to promote DMT’s profile in Finland. The association participates in the development of DMT training in Finland and facilitates the practice of DMT in Finland.
Research is crucial to the future of the arts therapies. In Finland, research is a very active field, especially in music therapy, and research is also beginning to develop in DMT. All forms of research are needed at all levels of evidence. Collaborative and applied approaches are common and more likely to attract funding. Collaboration happens between arts therapies and psychology or arts therapies and medicine, rather than as cross-modal studies (between the arts therapies), and can be at national and international level. International research collaboration is mainly concentrated in the field of music therapy.
The University of Jyvaskyla is becoming an important centre for education and research for the Arts Therapies. University and faculty have supported building the infrastructure for research and training facilities, which are at a very high level
(https://www.jyu.fi/hytk/fi/laitokset/mutku/en/research/finmus). Currently, there are between 10 and 15 students conducting doctoral work covering single case studies, surveys, action research and small-scale experiments. For a list of theses titles in English see:
https://jyx.jyu.fi (search for “music therapy”).
The professional association supports all kinds of research activities and participates in the distribution of data collection and related activities. There has been a constant need for evidence-based research, which is closely connected to medical contexts during the last two decades.
For further information on research activity at the University of Jyvaskyla, see:
The Academy of Finland:
The Ministry of Social Affairs and Health:
The Ministry of Education and Culture:
See the following interdisciplinary website: