Art Therapists and Title Protection in Virginia

Last month the topic of Title Protection for Art Therapists in Virginia came up on our Facebook page. I thought the topic was important, worth further exploration, further explanation, and further discussion.

Title protection for Art Therapists would mean that anyone calling themselves an Art therapist, or stating that they practice Art Therapy would have to meet certain regulations put in place and monitored by the state.  Many Art Therapists have worked toward their Art Therapy Registration (ATR) and Board Certification (ATR-BC) which are regulated by the Art Therapy Credentials Board (ATCB). However, many of us are aware that there are counselors calling themselves art therapists because they implement art in their practice, or are claiming to do art therapy when they have not been formally trained. Title protection in Virginia would mean that Individuals that do not meet the education and training requirements could not call themselves Art Therapists and could not practice Art Therapy.

Currently New York State has title protection for the title ‘”Creative Arts Therapist” and “License Creative Arts Therapist”.  The full and current New York State Law, Rules and Regulations  is posted here under the subsection Creative Arts Therapy. Specifically it is stated; “Practice of creative arts therapy and use of the titles “creative arts therapist” and “licensed creative arts therapist”. Only a person licensed or exempt under this article shall practice creative arts therapy or use the title “creative arts therapist”. Only a person licensed under this article shall use the title “licensed creative arts therapist” or any other designation tending to imply that the person is licensed to practice creative arts therapy.”

I did a little further research on what The Virginia Department of Health Professions (VDHP) has said on the topic. There may be more current information, however, the most recent information I could location was from 1995.  VHDP conducted a study of the need to regulate art therapists as a separate license or specialty under the Board of Counseling. You can find the full document here, below is the conclusion of that study:

“This study by the Virginia Board of Health Professions to evaluate the need to regulate art therapists was conducted in response to a request from Delegate Robert F. McDonnell based on concerns that untrained or ill-trained persons practicing art therapy may place clients and others at undue risk, especially with regard to cases of alleged abuse in children.

            The Board based its review on the relevant policy literature, analysis of the competencies and standards of practice for art therapists, evaluation of the state’s experiences with complaints regarding art therapy, and its review of public comments, and interview information.  These standards are in keeping with regulatory principles established in Virginia law and are accepted in the national community of regulators. 

            The Board concluded the following:

– There is potential for harm to the public.  Although there is little case evidence from complaints filed with state agencies, in part because art therapists are not regulated, there is anecdotal evidence of harm, particularly as it relates to false accusations of abuse.

American Art Therapy Association certified art therapists do possess specialized skill in applying art in therapy and art as therapy.

– Although under most circumstances, art therapists are under the supervision of a licensed mental health professional, there is evidence that they exercise independent judgment in that those who supervise them may not have the same skill level in art therapy as they do.

– The economic impact of licensing this group under its own regulatory board would likely be substantial to the licensee and, ultimately, to some degree to the consumer.  An alternative for those art therapists who seek licensure would be for them to consider doing so with the Board of Professional Counselors and Marriage and Family Therapists.  Another alternative would be to seek title protection.

– Finally, and importantly, the Board concluded that it was premature for them to make any final recommendation regarding the need to regulate art therapists at this time.  Various individual groups within the general field of behavioral sciences and mental health counseling have, from time to time, sought state regulation in order to legally distinguish them from other groups.  Art therapists are the latest to be reviewed, with recreational therapists, and marriage and family therapists being the most recent previous examples. 

            Given this apparent trend, the Board determined that a more comprehensive examination of the various groups within the field of behavioral sciences and mental health service providers is prudent and would prove more efficient than to continue to examine each group in turn without a comprehensive approach to this problem.”

I, personally and professionally, have had discussions with many individuals about the practice of art therapy. Its been hard to convey the importance of having the proper education,training, and supervision before practicing art therapy. I think so many people have called themselves art therapists without actually being an art therapist that now we don’t have the professional respect we should. Many Art Therapist are working hard to change that image and many have been successful. I think title protection would be a great step forward for our profession, paving the way as new Art Therapists enter the field.

So, what do we need to do in order to seek title protection from the state? That is a great question that I don’t yet have the answer to. However, I do know that there is power in numbers and the more Art Therapists that are registered and board certified by the ATCB the more likely that we will be taken seriously. The more members VATA has the more likely it is that we can push for this type of legislation as a group.  I plan to follow up with this question and give more definitive answers as I learn them, I hope that you too will seek out more information and perpetuate further discussion with your peers

If you have thoughts or feedback please post them here or start a discussion on our Facebook page. I and VATA would love to hear from you.


3 responses to “Art Therapists and Title Protection in Virginia

  1. Hello,

    I am very interested in obtaining title protection, licensure, or registration for art therapists in VA. I found some documents on line that may help, if you have not yet come across these….
    Title protection is known as Statutory Certification in Virginia, which may be why it is so hard to find info regarding title protection.

    Here is an excerpt from the document….Considering the education level required of art therapists, the Statutory Certification seems to be below the level needed. I have added the section on licensure below as well.

    Statutory Certification. Certification by the state is also known as “title protection.” No scope of practice is reserved to a particular group, but only those individuals who meet certification standards (defined in terms of education and minimum competencies which can be measured) may title or call themselves by the protected title.

    RISK: Moderate potential, attributable to the nature of the practice, client vulnerability, or practice setting and level of supervision.
    SKILL & TRAINING: Specialized; can be differentiated from ordinary work. Candidate must complete education or experience requirements that are certified by a recognized accrediting body.
    AUTONOMY: Variable; some independent decision-making; majority of practice actions directed or supervised by others.
    SCOPE OF PRACTICE: Definable, but not stipulated in law.
    COST: Variable, depending upon level of restriction of supply of practitioners.
    APPLICATION OF CRITERIA: When applying for statutory certification, a group must satisfy Criterion 1, 2, 4, 5, and 6.

    Requirements of a masters degree, and the ATCB meets the skill and training, and Autonomy of art therapists as primary therapists.

    Licensure. Licensure confers a monopoly upon a specific profession whose practice is well defined. It is the most restrictive level of occupational regulation. It generally involves the delineation in statute of a scope of practice which is reserved to a select group based upon their possession of unique, identifiable, minimal competencies for safe practice. In this sense, state licensure typically endows a particular occupation or profession with a monopoly in a specified scope of practice.

    RISK: High potential, attributable to the nature of the practice.
    SKILL & TRAINING: Highly specialized accredited post-secondary education required; clinical proficiency is certified by an accredited body.
    AUTONOMY: Practices independently with a high degree of autonomy; little or no direct supervision.
    SCOPE OF PRACTICE: Definable in enforceable legal terms.
    COST: High
    APPLICATION OF THE CRITERIA: When applying for licensure, the profession must demonstrate that Criteria 1 – 6 are met.

    I hope this has helped some, I would like to be involved to whatever extent that I can. Thank you for taking a look.


  2. Found one more thing on how to get started…

    Who may request a study and how? Requests for the Board to conduct an evaluation may come from a number of sources:

    • the General Assembly
    – as a legislative resolution
    – as a request from an individual member,
    • the Governor,
    • the Director of the Department of Health Professions,
    • Professional or Occupational Associations and Organizations,
    • Concerned Members of the Public.

    For requests from organizations or individuals, the review process commences with a formal letter of intent proposing the study.

    • Sara,
      Thanks for your post and interest. Are you currently a member of VATA. If not I suggest you join, part of our current goal is to increase membership so that we may make legislative action requests as a body and under the American Art Therapy Association. We would love to have more active members and we are always looking for more formal support in our legislative pursuits as well as other areas. Please contact us at if you would like to become more involved (or even if you are interested in writing for our blog)

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