The first art therapeutic approaches in Germany developed in the 1920s and 1930s in the contexts of anthroposophic orientated medicine and the integration of art in psychiatric treatment. The development of active music therapy can be situated in the time-period after the Second World War. The first discipline to be established at an academic level was music therapy in the 1970s, followed by art therapy in the 1980s and dance movement therapy (Heidelberg) in 2012.


Art therapy can be studied in Germany at different institutions and under different labels, for example: art therapy, art and creative therapy, and creativity therapies. It is based on different theoretical and methodological foundations such as psychoanalysis, Gestalt therapy, anthroposophy, learning and behavioural theories, etc., and on different organisational practices. Bachelor and Masters programmes in art therapy are offered either at universities or universities of applied sciences (e.g. Nürtingen, Ottersberg, Hamburg) or at art academies (e.g. Kunsthochschule Weissensee, Berlin, Alanus Hochschule für Kunst und Gesellschaft, Alfter). Art therapy is studied either as an additional qualification (Berlin and Hamburg), as a specialisation, or as a foundation course (Nürtingen, Ottersberg). Further professional training parallel to one’s own occupation is offered at, for example, the private Fritz Perls Academy (Hückeswagen). No academic training exists for dramatherapy in Germany at present. Music therapy training takes place mainly through postgraduate courses at several universities or universities of applied sciences, e.g. in Augsburg (M.A.), Berlin (M.A.), Frankfurt am Main (M.A.), Münster (M.A.) or Heidelberg (B.A./M.A.). To undertake one of the Bachelor programmes, students are required to have a high school qualification and a subject-specific university entrance qualification; for the masters’ programmes, a first academic degree. Bachelor programmes take three or four years to complete, Masters programmes, one to two years. The character of the professional education depends on the existing curricula and examination rules applying to every institution.


The profession is not yet recognised in Germany. There is no state regulation in respect of the professional recognition of an art or music therapeutic service whose costs are covered by health insurances (as is the case with medical care). As art therapists are characterised as auxiliary healing professionals and not as healing professionals there is consequently still no legally protected and independent status for this profession. Since the 1970s a number of professional associations have formed. The largest of them is the Deutscher Fachverband für Kunst- und Gestaltungstherapie e.V. (German Professional Association for Art Therapy and Creative Therapy, DFKGT). The largest music therapy association is the Deutsche Musiktherapeutische Gesellschaft (DMtG). In 2008 the German associations came together to form the Bundesarbeitsgemeinschaft Künstlerischer Therapien (BAG), which is the National Association for Arts Therapies and includes art therapy, music therapy, dance therapy, movement therapy and theatre therapy. Their aim is to work together toward a standard of arts therapies education and toward a professional profile of arts therapists in Germany. They aim to initiate a legal provision as healing professions. The policy aim is to achieve full professional recognition. The BA and MA programmes at state recognized universities are officially recognized as accredited courses of study by the ministries. Art and music therapists are allowed to practise in clinics etc.. Under legislation relating to psychotherapy passed in 1998 psychologists and teachers with psychotherapy training (mainly with a psychoanalytic or behavioural orientation) may work as independent practitioners. Nevertheless, the attending physician remains responsible and the arts therapist operates under his/her supervision. This does not apply to the wider field of therapeutic measures taken within education, counselling, prevention, rehabilitation, integration of marginal groups. In 2002, 56.4% of art therapists worked independently, 43.3% in clinics, 22.6% in other institutions, 3.8% in schools and 2.5% in kindergartens. A new study initiated by the professional associations is soon to take place. According to the development of research in the field of arts therapies, clinics, rehabilitation institutions and counselling authorities register a growing demand for non-medical therapies using artistic-creative media. There is also a growing demand in social fields and schools.


In the German arts therapies landscape, research is set at masters’ level in the various university programmes. PhD research at various training institutions has resulted in a wide range of publications. Also, individual universities and clinics have engaged in research projects, a number of which can be viewed as entries in the individual member sections. In 2017, the Wissenschaftliche Fachgesellschaft für künstlerische Therapien (WFKT) was founded. This scientific learned society for the arts therapies aims to:

  • promote research in higher education
  • create a dialogue between science, practice and other respective learned societies
  • develop research strategies in the arts therapies
  • support research projects and fledgeling researchers
  • participate in national and international health conferences
WFKT has established the Journal of Arts Therapies (JAT) as a bilingual scientific publication to promote research activities and make research results accessible to a broader arts therapies community.