August 2, 2018

On July 24th the Attorney General Jeff Sessions addressed an audience of high schoolers at Turning Point USA’s High School Leadership Summit and accused many higher institutions of “doing everything they can to create a generation of sanctimonious, sensitive, supercilious snowflakes.” In his remarks, he listed therapy dogs, art materials – specifically coloring books and playdough – and art activities, such as encouraging students to “draw about their feelings,” as examples.  Read the speech transcript here.

The American Art Therapy Association and the American Counseling Association (ACA) collaborated in writing a formal response, asserting that his “remarks were highly misguided and they further stigmatize young people who seek mental health services and ways to manage stress at a critical transitional time in their lives.”

While art therapy was not specifically called out in the Attorney General’s speech, as art therapists, we are keenly aware of the inherent emotional benefits of art-making as well as the critical need for attention to mental health awareness and access to services on college campuses.

Higher institutions are, for good reason, working to increase the reach of counseling services in their mental health centers and to foster the awareness of mental health needs and resources in their communities through campus-wide events focused on reducing anxiety and stress. Many of these events center on art-making activities, informed by evidence that the process of making art can influence neural pathways and lead to improved physical and mental health. Addressing mental health and emotional needs can foster resiliency and should, therefore, be viewed as a strength and not a weakness.

Please read the full letter sent to the Attorney General’s office on August 1, 2018.