Thanks to your continuous efforts in promoting our cause: House Bill 786 (HB786) is now sponsored by a legislator in Montgomery County, and our field's Standard Occupation Code has been adjusted to "Therapists All Other"! These are both important steps forward in our efforts toward title protection and recognition as an independent occupation. Keep up the good work! Read the full legislative text here.
Pennsylvania Art Therapy License Bill Overview
The Pennsylvania Art Therapy Licensure Council (PAATLC), on behalf of Pennsylvania’s Art Therapists, is proposing an AMENDMENT to the existing LPC/Social Work/Marriage & Family Therapy License originally adopted in 1987.
Risk of Harm to Vulnerable Pennsylvanians: Burgeoning awareness and popularity of art therapy has caused more and more non-art therapists and under-trained individuals to use art in clinical practice or claim that they are art therapists or “doing art therapy”. Pennsylvanians with developmental disabilities, mental health disorders, the elderly, and less educated, and other underserved populations are among our most vulnerable citizens. Untrained/under-trained practitioners may not be aware of the impact of various art media on a client’s emotional/mental functioning. They are likely untrained in the method and timing of interpretation of art and may traumatize or psychologically injure clients. They may cause clients to have bad experiences in therapy and cause them to avoid pursuing necessary mental health treatment in the future. Likewise, un/under-trained clinicians may not know how to guide the client to calm and safety if unexpected images, emotions, traumas, or impulses emerge. Errors due to insufficient training and experience may cause the client psychological or even physical harm. Presently, here is no legal recourse to protect consumers from people representing themselves as art therapists or claiming to “do Art Therapy”.
Confusion accessing qualified, excellent art therapy treatment by mental health consumers: In the current law, Art Therapists are identified as Licensed Professional Counselors in an ambiguous category called “a field closely related to the practice of professional counseling”. Art Therapy is undifferentiated from professional counselors under the L.P.C. law. Social workers, counselors, or MFT's may be led to believe that art therapy is a merely a tool or intervention to enhance their work rather than a discrete profession with extensive training, experience, supervision, and ethical decision-making guidelines. This may cause confusion among even well-meaning mental health therapists who may unwittingly claim that they are "providing art therapy”. There is great potential for unknowing or knowing fraud, and the public would may not know the difference between art therapists social workers, MFT's and professional counselors if they all have the same LPC license.
Lack of representation in professional and licensing matters: Art Therapists currently do not have an identified seat on the LPC licensure board.
Seeking an independent license that defines and differentiates “Professional Art Therapy” as a distinct profession with unique education, theory, and techniques.If the art therapy license bill is passed, it will create the Licensed Professional Art Therapist (L.P.A.T.) law in Pennsylvania, which will establish title protection, legal standards of education, ethics, and training, and regulate the practice of Art Therapy in PA.
Goals of the proposed license bill are: A) to protect the public from ineffective/inappropriate care, B) to ensure that Pennsylvanians’ have awareness of and access to the highest quality treatment available from this valuable mental health profession, C) to place one professional art therapist as a representative on the State Licensure Board, and D) to generate more work opportunities and prosperity for PA art therapists and the larger Commonwealth.
Protecting the public: This bill establishes title protection for professional art therapists. Title protection means that only people holding the Licensed Professional Art Therapy (L.P.A.T.) credential can call themselves Licensed Professional Art Therapists (L.P.A.T.) or professional art therapists, and only they can say they are providing professional art therapy. It also establishes clearly who can NOT call themselves art therapists. Professional art therapists’ high quality and unique training and services will be publicized, enabling the public to seek out and participate in high quality art therapy from appropriate practitioners.
Penalty for violation of the L.P.A.T. law: Title protection is further strengthened with a civil penalty (identical to the social work and counseling licenses). People who illegally hold themselves out as art therapists, or advertise or engage in private practice of art therapy without the license may be served a penalty of up to $10,000, after a hearing is held.
Representation: The proposed amendment establishes two positions as representatives on the State Licensure Board for Art Therapists.
Legal right to perform clinical diagnosis: We propose that Art Therapists be enabled to perform psychological diagnosis according to our training and within the scope of our practice. Our request is parallel to current license regulations for other master's level mental health professions.
Cost Effective: The L.P.A.T. bill strives to be revenue neutral for the Commonwealth.
We propose that the L.P.A.T. be administered by the current Social Work, Marriage and Family Therapy, and Professional Counseling Board and not to create a new board.
We propose to add only one art therapist to the existing board for representation.
We move to save administrative costs for a licensing examination by using a private, outside credentialing body: the Art Therapy Credentials Board (ATCB). ATCB will provide, score, and certify that L.P.A.T. applicants have passed the art therapy certification exam. The ATCB Certification Exam is already acceptable as an LPC licensing examination in the current LPC license, so that is not a change.
We expect numerous art therapists to be licensed as both LPC and L.P.A.T, which would bring additional revenue to the licensing board.
With the profession of art therapy clearly differentiated from other mental health professions, job opportunities and art therapy entrepreneurship will increase, attracting more qualified Professional Art Therapists to work in PA, bringing in additional tax revenue.