1969: DVATA (Delaware Valley Art Therapy Association) was the first regional association of art therapists in America to incorporate. It is a 501c3 nonprofit corporation with all associated regulations.
1970’s:Born in the earliest years of the art therapy profession, DVATA was a grassroots assembly of local art therapists in the greater Philadelphia area (including neighboring south New Jersey and northern Delaware, called the “Delaware Valley”). It was mostly fed by students, graduates, and professors at the first graduate art therapy program in America, Hahnemann University (now Drexel University) in Philadelphia. Art therapists began seeking each other out because of our common interest in helping people heal through art and visual communication. Early gatherings of the organization included salon-type informal gatherings in art therapists’ living rooms and dining rooms. They gathered to share new techniques and art tasks and to support one another.
1980’s-2000: As the chapter became more established, benefits and services DVATA provided included: bi-annual salary surveys to aid with salary negotiation, research and announcements of art therapy job opportunities, CE seminars, annual conferences, job fairs for graduate students, discounted admission to events for members, networking opportunities, discounts at local art supply stores, and legislative advocacy, etc. 1990’s -2001: DVATA joined the Pennsylvania LPC licensure movement to ensure that art therapists were included in the new LPC law. Art therapists joined with music therapists, dance-movement therapists, mental health counselors, and marriage and family therapists to advocate for the creation of the Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) credential. The LPC provided legal legitimacy for art therapy – and equivalency with counselors and social workers. Board Certified Art Therapists became eligible for LPC in PA.
2001-2003: Art Therapists, under the umbrella of the Professional Counseling Law, were approved by insurance companies as eligible to receive insurance payment for art therapy services. This enabled thousands of Pennsylvanians to access private practice art therapy services for the first time. It also created a pathway for art therapists to graduate from institutional work, gain professional autonomy, and increase income in private practice settings.
2015: AATA informed DVATA of the changing mental health landscape as well as expected restrictive changes in the LPC law. Educational requirements were expected to shift away from art therapy and strengthen counseling content. These changes posed an existential threat to the way art therapists identify and practice. Furthermore, we learned that in Pennsylvania, art therapists had no representation or voice on the state LPC licensure board. There was no means to communicate our professional needs and boundaries to the board that regulates our work. The need for a new, independent professional art therapy license became apparent, leading to the creation of a DVATA subcommittee, the Pennsylvania Art Therapy Licensure Council (PAATLC), to pursue licensure.
2016-18: PAATLC, with guidance from AATA’s legislative counsel, researched strategy for the creation of and advancement of a potential bill. Many drafts of a bill were revised, considering the unique needs of Pennsylvania art therapists and in parallel to license requirements of other states. We learned how the legislative process works in Pennsylvania. 2018-2019: The state-wide licensure movement made it necessary for DVATA to expand representation to ALL art therapists across Pennsylvania. Efforts are currently being made to rename the DVATA “PAATA” – the Pennsylvania Art Therapy Association. (The new PAATA will NOT turn its back on our lifelong Delaware Valley colleagues. South Jersey and northern Delaware art therapists are always invited to connect and learn with us.) Simultaneously, when the new PAATA is created it will engage and represent art therapists from around the ENTIRE state of Pennsylvania. Applications to the IRS and AATA have been submitted and we are awaiting official approval for the name change.
April 2018: The licensure subcommittee ratified the final draft of its bill. It was endorsed by AATA’s governmental affairs attorney. After putting out feelers to various PA state representatives, we learned that after the election in November 2018, there would be turnover in Harrisburg and the current legislative cycle would end. We decided to strategically hold off on legislative advocacy work until January 2019. Pennsylvania holds 2-year legislative cycles and the next one runs from January 2019- December 2020.
January 2019: Representative Tim Briggs (Montgomery County) agreed to sponsor the bill.
February 2019: PAATLC submitted a 108 page “Sunrise Evaluation” to the PA House of Representatives. It is requested by many states in advance of licensure work. The S.A. is comprised of 25 essay questions about the proposed legislation, its rationale, and its expected consequences and outcomes. The Executive Director of the PA House Licensure Committee accepted our S.A. and circulated it for consideration by legislators.
March 20, 2019: Our legislation was introduced to Pennsylvania’s house of representatives as HOUSE BILL 932 (HB 932).
March 21-22, 2019: HB 932 acquired four co-sponsors.
April 4, 2019: HB 932 was referred to the PA House Licensure Committee.
May-June 2019: Letter and email-writing campaigns were undertaken to stimulate the House Licensure Committee to discuss HB 932 and move it to the full House of Representatives for a vote.
August 25, 2019: The Delaware Valley Art Therapy Association officially changed their name to the Pennsylvania Art Therapy Association in an effort to unite art therapists across the state.
March 8, 2021: Out legislation was reintroduced to Pennsylvania's house of representative as HOUSE BILL 786 (HB 786).
YOU ARE IMPORTANT!The creation of an independent license will protect the public, define and promote our profession, and generate opportunity for PA art therapists. You are a part of the solution and we need your passion, enthusiasm, and support. Keep checking the webpage “Current Licensure Tasks” to learn the specific thing you can do this week to help move our license forward.