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Inclusion of Art Therapists

Michelle Dean

With the emphasis nationwide on access to health care for everyone, art therapists, creative arts therapists and other arts professionals need work to be included in the group of defined providers in national and local health care solutions. In the US, there are five major mental health professions that have occupational regulations, including: psychiatrists, psychologists, psychiatric nurses, counselors, and social workers. Lack of occupational regulations for art therapists in most states creates a challenge for inclusion in healthcare reform and insurance reimbursement.

Laura Greenstone, long-time legislative advocate for art therapy, has worked tirelessly in her role as The Chair (and now Past Chair) of The National Coalition of Creative Arts Therapies Associations (NCCATA). As NCCATA Chair, Laura joined the National Arts in Healthcare Advisory Council, which was initiated by the Americans for The Arts, The Society for the Arts in Healthcare, The American Music Therapy Association, and other national arts organizations. The main task of the Advisory Council has been to create issue briefs for Arts Advocacy Day – an advocacy event held each year in DC where over 80 arts organizations and arts advocates gather to lobby in Congress. One can find the latest issue brief on Arts in Healthcare listed here:

ARTS IN HEALTHCARE is a multidisciplinary field dedicated to improving the healthcare experience for patients, families, and caregivers. This rapidly growing field integrates the arts, including literary, performing, visual arts and design, into a wide variety of healthcare settings for therapeutic, educational, and expressive purposes. 

Laura points out, and the American Art Therapy Association confirms that art therapists comprise a relatively small number of professionals, approximately 5,000 by recent national accounts, and if strong strategic planning is not accounted for and adhered to into the future that art therapists may be overlooked or even forced out of inclusion of important legislative matters facing the profession. An alternative in many states, but not all, is an option for art therapists to be included under the umbrella of counseling, which of course has generated much debate, about issues ranging from professional identity, the content of material taught in graduate art therapy programs and scope of practice for those seeking post-master’s training in art therapy.

It’s both an invigorating time and a time in which a central voice for the professional art therapist is more critical than ever.  Advocacy, communications, training and expansion of membership are just a few of the major areas of work ahead. It starts with defining the priorities.  The American Art Therapy Association has begun a comprehensive strategic planning process: a review of the fundamental challenges and opportunities before the profession and the Association.  It has been announced, the initial phase will uncover specific issues identified by practitioners, students, researchers, educators and others around the world.  Working from that broad view, the Association will create a plan that will support the art therapy profession over the next decade. Members of the American Art Therapy Association are encouraged to voice their views through the Strategic Plan Members Survey, while simpatico supporters and others are encouraged to provide comments about such matters both in response to this blog as well as with the National office.  

Work with like-minded arts in healthcare professionals may lead to other avenues of funding and inclusion in the Healthcare Reform.  This may be an opportunity for art therapists who wish to work exclusively in the Mental Health field, which primarily requires licensure in most situations. So as numbers climb to almost 15,000 professionals working in Arts in Healthcare, art therapists may wish to join with their colleagues in the Creative Arts Therapies and arts professions, for what may ultimately create a stronger voice for all.

As always, additional resources are given in the reference section of this blog.

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