April 5, 2024 | Meredith Ashley, AATA Policy and Communications Coordinator


Art therapists are currently licensed in 14 states across the country. This year alone, five pieces of licensure legislation have been introduced through the hard work of AATA chapters and volunteers. Another 8 states are beginning to educate their legislatures for campaigns in 2025 and beyond. As anyone who has participated in advocacy can attest, there is no magic bullet to pass licensure, or any new policy, into law. It takes time and effort to raise awareness, educate lawmakers, build coalitions, and rally the public. This may leave some art therapists wondering, Does a stand-alone art therapy licensure really matter?  

Art Therapy Licensure is New

Art therapy licensure is a relatively new concept.  New Mexico became the first state in the country to offer art therapy licensure. Since then, Connecticut, Delaware, Kentucky, Maryland, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Jersey, Ohio, Oregon, Tennessee, Virginia, and DC have joined New Mexico in offering art therapy licensure.

Additionally, three other states have some type of title protection law. 

Buckeye Art Therapy Association celebrating their licensure victory at the 2023 Annual Conference with then-AATA President Girija Kaimal.

How Changes in the LPC Will Lock Out Future Art Therapists

In states without licensure, art therapists have been able to manage their practices by holding licenses in related mental health fields, including LPC and LMFT.

However, recent changes to CACREP standards, a body which accredits the nearly 1,000 graduate degree programs in counseling and its specialties, will very soon lock future art therapists out of gaining an LPC. Similar changes may eventually affect the LMFT license as well. As an established art therapist, these changes may not affect you or your practice directly. But the impact of the new CACREP standards will certainly compromise the long-term sustainability of the art therapy profession. How will future art therapists, including those currently enrolled in education programs, establish a practice if their art therapy degrees are not accepted within the new CACREP guidelines?

AATA leaders have long been sounding the alarm about these upcoming CACREP changes. The changes are now here and will take effect July 1, 2024. By making their standards more specific, CACREP will no longer provide any flexibility to accept art therapy courses within the CACREP guidelines. Only CACREP-accredited or closely aligned non-accredited programs will be accepted for LPC licensure. While a handful of CACREP-accredited programs offer art therapy as a focus area, the vast majority do not. As a result, most art therapists will be forced to pursue a second degree from a CACREP-accredited counseling program, take the risk of practicing unlicensed, or pursue a different career.

Considering the Big Picture for Art Therapy

For art therapists with current LPC or LMFT licenses, changes to CACREP may seem irrelevant. But given how hard art therapists have fought to gain recognition for the work they do as a regulated mental health profession, it doesn’t seem right to just accept a collapse of the profession into a subsidiary of counseling or MFT. We must continue to raise awareness of art therapy as a unique profession—and art therapists as uniquely qualified to integrate and employ psychological theory, art media, and creative processes to help people cope with mental health challenges. The most effective way to ensure that art therapy continues to grow as a profession is to enact art therapy licensure in every state in the nation.

Backed by academic research, the increased recognition of Art Therapy: the Journal of the American Art Therapy Association, and years of raising public awareness and serving the community, we have seen the unprecedented growth of the art therapy profession. And especially after the COVID-19 pandemic, people are increasingly understanding the value of arts within mental health—and seeking out professional art therapists. Thousands visit our Art Therapist Locator each month, and now the Art Therapy Barbie is also helping to bring further understanding about the work art therapists do to new audiences. 

Tennessee Hill Day, 2020

Art Therapy Barbie introduced in 2024

Being pushed out of LPC and MFT licenses will not only be a setback to the hard-won victories but will also discourage interested students from pursuing art therapy degrees, shrinking programs, and the art therapy profession, nationwide.

What’s Next?

The next step is to secure art therapy licensure in all 50 states. We can no longer rely on the stop-gap strategy of obtaining a related license. Instead, we need a license that recognizes our own unique skills and training. Having such a license would not only further legitimize art therapy as a rigorous field of mental health professionals but would allow us to help protect ourselves and the public from those not qualified to call themselves art therapists. Without unique art therapy licensure, both art therapists and the public remain helpless to prevent unqualified individuals from practicing as so-called art therapists without the necessary training or credentials.

Art therapists, AATA chapters, and coalition partners are actively pursuing art therapy licensure legislation this year—with more campaigns starting in other states in 2025. If you live in states with active efforts, including Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Michigan, Illinois, Florida, Washington, Vermont, California, or Colorado, please get involved by contacting your state or local AATA chapter, or me at mashley@arttherapy.org.

Your involvement is crucial to ensuring that art therapy grows as a mental health profession. Whether you’re an art therapist, a researcher, a new professional, or art therapy student, I hope you join our efforts!



Contact your local or state AATA chapter to see how you can get involved in a state licensure campaign.


If you’re an AATA member, join the MyAATA State Advocacy Forum and attend Assembly of Chapter meetings to learn from the efforts of other state advocates.


Find and contact your state senator or representative to educate them about art therapy and the need for licensure in your state. Start by sharing this fact sheet.


Check out resources created by other states on the MyAATA Advocacy & Public Policy page in the Example Campaign Materials section.


Sign up for the Art Therapy Today newsletter to stay up to date on licensure.