Testimonials and Biographies

Jaakko Erkkilä, Finland

PhD, Music Therapist, Psychotherapist

Jaakko is the director of the Music Therapy master’s programme at University of Jyväskylä, Finland, and Head of the Music Therapy Clinical Training at Eino Roiha Institute, Jyväskylä, Finland. He has over 20 years of clinical experience, working with adolescents and adults with psychiatric disorders, children with neurological disorders and people with developmental disorders. His primary focus is music psychotherapy in psychiatric setting, in particular clinical improvisation. Jaakko is a member of Finnish Centre of Excellence in Interdisciplinary Music Research, in charge of music therapy research there. He serves on the editorial boards of Nordic Journal of Music Therapy and Musiikkiterapia (Finnish music therapy journal) and is a founding member of Music and Medicine. He has published several book chapters and journal articles.


Marko Punkanen, Finland

PhD, Music Therapist, Dance/Movement Therapist, Trauma Psychotherapist

Marko started his professional career as a social educator and worked in a children’s home for six years before he started his music therapy studies at the Sibelius Academy. He is currently working as a music/dance-movement/psychotherapist and supervisor in private practice and as well as a university researcher in University of Jyväskylä, Finland. At the University of Jyväskylä his responsibility is to take good care of the Music Therapy Master Program students. That is actually very nice job to do because the students are so enthusiastic and wonderful people.

He is the director of Nyanssi Therapy Centre and a co-director of the first extensive VAT/PA training in Finland. He is also one of the founders of the VIBRAC - Skille-Lehikoinen Centre for Vibroacoustic Therapy and Research. The centre has an international advisory board that serves as a central point for networking VAT clinicians and researchers all over the world.

From 2007 to 2011 he worked as a researcher in Finnish Centre of Excellence in Interdisciplinary Music Research in University of Jyväskylä. He was part of the music and emotion research team.

“During those years [as a researcher] Jyväskylä became another hometown for me and I really like the city and its various cultural activities”.


Hanna Hakomäki, Finland

PhD, Music Therapist, Psychotherapist, Registered EMTC Supervisor/The European Music Therapy Confederation

Hanna Hakomäki has just recently, spring 2013, completed her  PhD studies at the University of Jyväskylä. The journey took 10 years starting with the Music Therapy Master’s Degree Program in 2003. Her background lies in piano teaching and working as a music therapist. During her doctoral  studies at the University of Jyväskylä, she found the possibility to collaborate in multidisciplinary research clusters such as children, young people and their growth environments rewarding as well as the Multidisciplinary Doctoral Research Program in Psychotherapy. As she had not been living in Jyväskylä, but travelling back and forth by train, the size of the city had been just perfect: "everything one needs is within walking distance".


Jaana Lehikoinen, Finland

MA, Music Therapist, Past MT Degree Student

Studying in the Music therapy master programme at Jyväskylä University inspired Jaana to study more about music therapy as a profession. MT training added to her interest of theoretical thinking and expanded her understanding of scientific methods. In addition to science, during her MT training she learned plenty of things which she can utilise in her clinical music therapy work. During the years the MT training has developed hugely. For instance, possibilities to take part in clinical observation and supervision of therapy work with clients offers students a unique way to develop their clinical skills as music therapists with a help of peers and supervisors.

While she was as a student in MT training, she had a chance to receive the three months scholarship to the Louis Armstrong Center for Music and Medicine in New York. The role and support of MT training and trainers in Jyväskylä were significant. Music therapy in medicine is a new area in Finland and therefore she wrote her master thesis on that subject. Nowadays she is giving lectures at Jyväskylä University, Open University and Eino Roiha Institute about music therapy in medicine and also about the GIM method. In Eino Roiha Institute she works also as a clinical supervisor in music therapy training. In addition to her work as a trainer, she works in her private practice as a music therapist and GIM -therapist. MT training has allowed her to create the kind of career as a music therapist and a trainer that she wanted.


Olivier Brabant, France

MA, Past MT Degree Student, Current PhD student

From France, to Germany, Finland, Italy and back to Finland, Olivier is a great example of the type of diverse backgrounds which one can expect to meet in this International Music Therapy Degree Programme.

Olivier got the idea to study music therapy whilst he worked as an aid to care assistants in a nursing home for people suffering from Alzheimer's Disease in Italy.

“What truly sets this programme apart is the group atmosphere and the closeness that develops between people. Unlike other studies where students hardly get to know each other, here you will become part of a very supportive group and share a lot with your course mates. Not only will you learn about certain academic subjects, but also (and maybe most importantly) about yourself. I found that being part of this programme was in itself very transformative”.

Because the content is 50% theory and research, and 50% clinical work, every student needs to decide which path to pursue after the master. Olivier decided to stay at the University of Jyväskylä and start a PhD on a topic related to music therapy. Even though he has opted for doctoral studies now, the option to become a fully-qualified music therapist will always remain open.


RoseAnna van Beek, The Netherlands

MA, Music Therapist, Past MT Degree Student

During her Music Therapy BA in Amersfoort, in the Netherlands, she did an exchange for one semester to Jyväskylä. “It was a great experience. The friendly atmosphere, the many international students and the clinical focus of the Music Therapy MA program were what I was looking for as an extension to my BA”. She therefore decided to come back to do her MA here.

“I learnt a lot from observing and participating in the clinical training and supervision, the research methodology courses and the workshops. My class was a nice mixture of international and local people and because of the intensity of the program, we really got to know each other and learn from our different backgrounds”.

Apart from the positive academic experience of studying in Finland, Jyväskylä is also a lovely place to live - the feel of a small town, but with all the amenities one would ever need. Affordable student housing, lots of great (also second hand) shops, nice places to eat or have a cup of tea and cheap, healthy lunches for students. Both in winter and in summer time, there are many fun things to do; snowboarding, canoeing, swimming, sitting around a campfire and, of course, going to a sauna.


Erica Eckhaus, USA

MA, Music Therapist, Past MT Degree Student


Educated as a music therapist at Temple University, Philidelphia, PA, Erica has found the diversity at the University of Jyväskylä exciting and enlightening.  She has found that the more holistic approach to learning – from the audio/visual content recorded from live therapy sessions from consenting clients – has helped her to gain an outsider’s perspective.

When applying to the University of Jyväskylä, I did not know what to expect.  However, after being in Finland this year, all of my expectations and possible concerns have been surpassed”.

The University of Jyväskylä’s Music Therapy Programme is a place to consider applying to if interested in research. Prior to attending the University of Jyväskylä, Erica’s knowledge regarding research was minimal. However the course professors encourage all students to begin immediately contemplating potential ideas for theses research. This academic year she also gained an understanding concerning research in theoretical terms as well as in its practical uses in statistical programs.

This program provides the most unique learning experience.  Erica learned a great deal from a practical and theoretical point of view, but also from being in a class with people who come from all over the world. Erica regards her experience in Jyväskylä as a valuable opportunity to learn music therapy from an international perspective and explains that it has strengthened her beliefs and confirmed that she made the right choice in coming to Finland.

“Since studying at the University of Jyväskylä I have realized that although music therapy holds different meanings, approaches, and techniques in every country, we are all in it together for the same reason- to help people with the use of music".


Esa Ala-Ruona, Finland

PhD, Music Therapist, Psychotherapist

Esa works as an associate professor and university researcher at the Music Therapy Clinic for Research and Training, at the University of Jyväskylä. He has studied clinical music therapy in Sibelius-Academy and completed his MA (2002), MPhil (2004), and PhD (2007) in the University of Jyväskylä. Currently he is a lecturer, clinical teacher and supervisor, and he coordinates the International Master's Degree Programme in Music Therapy. He has more than 25 years of experience in working within psychiatry and neurology, and also has been working with patients with acute and chronic pain and psychosomatic symptoms.

He has been actively involved with the process of professionalization of music therapists and the development of music therapy training. His research interests are in studying musical interaction and clinical processes in improvisational psychodynamic music therapy, and the progress and outcomes of rehabilitation of stroke patients in active music therapy. He is the past chair of the  Finnish Society for Music Therapy, and the past chair of the Association of Professional Music Therapists in Finland. He is the country representative in European Music Therapy Confederation (EMTC) and representative of University of Jyväskylä in European Consortium of Arts Therapy Education (ECArTE).

Esa is the editor-in-chief of Finnish Journal of Music Therapy, and co-editor of a number of publications. He is also the co-founder of the Skille-Lehikoinen VIBRAC-Centre and the first extensive training on Vibroacoustic therapy (VAT) in Finland, and he has been developing and studying the possibilities of VAT in specialized health care. He regularly gives lectures and workshops on music therapy both nationally and internationally.


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