February 7, 2019 | #WeAreArtTherapists


During the annual conference, the AATA was honored to bestow the 2018 Honorary Lifetime Member (HLM) award to Cheryl Doby-Copeland, PhD, ATR-BC, LPC, LMFT, in recognition of her vast contributions to the field and Association.  Throughout her career, she has demonstrated excellence in leadership, clinical work, research, character, and mentorship. Dr. Doby-Copeland is a pioneer in the field. In 1991, she became the first African-American Director of the AATA Board of Directors and is now the first African-American to receive the AATA’s highest honor.

HLM nominees are considered based on three broad criteria: (1) Breadth of influence upon entire field of art therapy; (2) Enduring effect upon the entire field of art therapy; and (3) Importance of contributions as evaluated from an interdisciplinary viewpoint.  Dr. Doby-Copeland’s record is outstanding in each of these areas.

Dr. Doby-Copeland received her BFA in Art Education and MPS in Art Therapy and Creativity Development from Pratt Institute and continued to earn her PhD in School Psychology at Howard University.  With over 43 years as a clinical art therapist, she has shown commitment to working in the public sector with underserved and marginalized clients.  She has been employed by the Department of Behavioral Health for the District of Columbia Government since 1994 and currently works on a clinical team providing culturally competent art therapy to children and families.  She has authored numerous publications and has been a regular presenter at the annual conference since 1997.  Doby-Copeland has been Adjunct Faculty at The George Washington University’s Art Therapy Program since 1998 and has also served as external reviewer for EVMS students’ culminating projects. She has mentored countless students, particularly African American students and new professionals.

Through numerous leadership roles over the course of her career, Dr. Doby-Copeland has made lasting contributions to the profession and the association, serving as:  Director on the Board of Directors (1991-2001, 2013-2018), Speaker of Assembly of Chapters (2018), Multicultural Committee Member (1994-present; Chair, 1998-1999), Ethics Committee Chair (2011-2013), and Nominating Committee Member (1982, 2003; Chair, 2004).  Her leadership work involved working on a team to update the new Ethical Principles for Art Therapists (2013) and establishing multicultural competencies for art therapists.  As a testament of these contributions and her clinical excellence, Dr. Doby-Copeland was awarded the AATA’s Distinguished Clinician Award in 2003.  She is currently one of the leading advocates in the Potomac Art Therapy Association pushing for licensure in the District of Columbia.

The AATA greatly appreciates Dr. Doby-Copeland’s continued contributions to the field and to the Association and was honored to announce her as HLM during the awards ceremony at the 2018 conference.

We invite members to recognize colleagues’ contributions this Honors season.  Login to MyAATA to find the 2019 Call for Honors.

Dr. Doby-Copeland accepts HLM from AATA President Dr. Christianne Strang and delivers remarks at AATA’s 49th annual conference in Miami, FL.


In submitting the nomination, colleagues, friends, and mentees shared many accolades:


As a fellow Howardite [Howard University alumna], words cannot fully express my joy at the prospect of witnessing Dr. Cheryl Doby-Copeland ascend to the level of HLM in the American Art Therapy Association. Through her work, she has broken down doors, shattered expectations and blazed trails that have paved the way for future art therapists of color, like myself. Moreover, as an African American woman engaged in full-time clinical work in the field, I am grateful for her example and lived experience.

Cheryl is certainly a force to be reckoned with… She is present in the moment, confident in her skills and ability when she walks into a room and remains so as she leaves. Cheryl operated in many roles which has been like a bridge over troubled waters. She is always approachable, well prepared for whatever the situation, and the consummate professional

Cheryl has been a constant role- model for others as she encouraged art therapists, particularly those of color to become active in AATA committees and/or Board positions; to publish their work and/or contribute their ideas and projects to the field of Art Therapy.

When she first served on the Board of Directors, she seized the opportunity to raise the board’s awareness about the cultural competence continuum. This contributed to a redevelopment of the vision, mission and values statements to include language that reflected the desire of the association to achieve cultural proficiency.

In my various roles as an AATA volunteer on the state chapter, committee, and national board levels, never have I known someone as consistently compassionate, balanced, dedicated, and reliable as Dr. Doby-Copeland.

She continues to serve families in her local community and advocates for the rights of art therapists and clients. She is a phenomenal leader, wielding the utmost integrity and humility, and most deserving of accolades she has yet to receive.

Approaching her experiences of injustice, discrimination, and racism with an eye towards critical interest and a desire to seek social change has been a defining feature of Dr. Doby-Copeland’s career and professional pursuits.

Cheryl served as committee member for my master’s thesis titled, “The Graduate School Experience of Art Therapy Students of Color.” As a committee member, Cheryl encouraged me to not only reflect on the data collected, but challenged me to apply it to my own personal graduate school experience. Supportive, encouraging, and present are a few other words that can be used to describe Cheryl as a committee member. The knowledge acquired in working with Cheryl has encouraged me to continue to fight for diversity within the field of art therapy through both publication and taking action. I could not have asked for a better person to have served as my committee member, now mentor, and hopefully soon co-author for my publication.

I had the amazing privilege of working as an intern under Cheryl Doby-Copeland at the Child and Family Therapy Center (DC Government). During my graduate studies, I was also a student in her special topics class on Multiculturalism in Art Therapy. Of all the instructors I have had in my undergraduate and graduate studies, Cheryl has made the most significant impact. She was a caring and dedicated supervisor and instructor who challenged me to look at how my own racial identity has shaped my life and effects my interactions with others. She helped to prepare me to honestly examine the cross-cultural experiences that are a part of my personal and professional experiences every day.

Cheryl’s broad sphere of influence as a strong advocate for multiculturalism, inclusion and diversion began in the 70’s, long before it’s now political correctness. She has been a champion for the acknowledgement and visibility of those who have been seemingly overlooked in AATA.

As an instrumental member of the DC Professional License in Art Therapy Committee, she meets with elected officials and government administrators to advocate for the unique contributions that art therapy offers to DC residents.

Dr. Doby-Copeland embodies the adage, “be the change you want to see in the world.” This infuses all that she does, and makes a profound impact on each individual whom she encounters.