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The historical background of arts therapies in the Netherlands

With the implementation of the arts within psychiatric settings in the 1950s, arts therapy courses slowly started to be developed. In the 1970s, several Bachelor programmes were established. Owing to the structure of the Dutch educational system it was not possible to continue onto a Masters degree until the Bachelor Masters system was embraced and implemented (Bologna Declaration).  Now alongside the Bachelors several Masters have been and are being developed. All the arts therapies courses are taught within universities for applied sciences, and the duration of a Bachelor is four years full time (240 ECTS).  Master courses can have between 60 and 120 ECTs.

Training courses

There are seven universities for applied sciences that offer recognised training in arts therapies across the country:
Stenden in Leeuwarden
Artez in Arnhem and Enschede
HAN in Nijmegen
Hogeschool Zuyd in Heerlen
HU in Utrecht and Amersfoort
Codarts in Rotterdam
Hogeschool Leiden in Leiden
Several universities collaborate in centres for research (see under each university for more information) and some are currently developing a joint masters. One of these research centres is KenVak, the joint venture of several universities.
It is possible to study at the level of both BA, MA and there is the possibility of a PhD, but not every university can offer all these levels.  All the arts therapies are offered but not every university offers them all.


Professional associations

There are four professional arts therapies associations, one for each modality:
Art- Nederlandse Vereniging Beeldende Therapie (NVBT)
Dance: Nederlandse Vereniging voor Danstherapie (NVDAT)
Drama: Nederlandse Vereniging Dramatherapie (NVDT)
Music:  Nederlandse Vereniging Muziektherapie (NVMT)

These associations, together with the association for psychomotor therapy and play therapy, are grouped under the umbrella of a federation named Federatie Vaktherapeutische Beroepen (FVB) . The Association for Anthroposophic based Arts Therapies (Art, Music, and Speech & Drama Therapy), the  NVKT, cooperates with the Federation. The professional associations support therapists by organising and offering activities, workshops and courses for continuous professional development (CPD). They work to develop protocols and modules for clinical settings, and set standards for professional practice.

Links to Dutch Federation of Arts Therapies and the Dutch Dramatherapy Association

The Federation serves the joint interests of all the arts therapies with, for instance, governmental organizations, healthcare and insurance companies or educational programmes, and helps further development within the professional field. There is a code of ethics and a procedure for complaints in place. A journal for the arts therapies is published four times per year.
There is a separate body for registration, called Stichting Register Vaktherapeutische Beroepen, where arts therapists, with a degree from one of the acknowledged and government-accredited programmes can register on junior or senior level after fulfilling additional requirements.



Marc Willemsen M.A. is a registered drama therapist (SRVB) and member of the NVDT. He works as a senior lecturer at the HU University of Applied Sciences in the Department of Creative Arts Therapies and as a supervisor at the Nationwide Institute for Loss and Grief in the Netherlands (LSV). After he worked for more then a decade at the child and adolescent division of a psychiatric hospital (GGz Centraal), he opened a private practice (Het Speelvlak). Marc is a graduate of the Institute for Developmental Transformations, a psychodrama therapist (NVGP) and registered group worker. He is training director of DvT Netherlands North. As an actor he has been involved for several years in the theatre company Wolkentheater creating plays for refugee children.

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