March 11, 2021 

The American Art Therapy Association is pleased to announce that Mississippi House Bill 1315, which would have repealed the license for art therapists as well as several other occupations, died in committee on March 2nd, 2021.

Licensed professional therapists Kristina Burrow Woodruff (left) and Susan Anand (right) sport “Art Therapists Are Heroes” masks at the capitol building on Monday, March 1, 2021.

The AATA thanks and congratulates licensed professional art therapists and supporters of the profession in Mississippi who rallied in opposition of this harmful and rushed piece of legislation. AATA board member Susan Ainlay Anand, MA, ATR-BC, ATCS, LPAT led the charge. Anand also spearheaded the establishment of the license in 2000 and became the first licensed art therapist in the state. She and others quickly sprung into action educating lawmakers and the public about the critical work licensed art therapists do to support vulnerable populations in Mississippi.

Efforts by conservative groups across the country to pursue occupational licensing reform with the goal of reducing barriers to employment and entrepreneurship, have added new difficulties for art therapists seeking licenses. In some instances, states have paused considering proposals for regulation of new occupations as they reexamine their licensing structure. In others, art therapists have had to engage in time-consuming sunrise review processes to demonstrate potential for public harm and need to regulate the profession – reviews that, in the last two years, have culminated in reports recommending licensure for art therapists in Virginia, Connecticut, and Nebraska.  More recent objections to art therapy licensing bills, including alleged constitutional objections that licensure would criminalize the use of art or suppress art as free speech, have been successfully countered by art therapists in Tennessee and Nebraska.

However, Mississippi’s HB 1315 is the first bill that has proposed repealing an existing art therapy license. While the AATA was alarmed to see the legislation advance through the Mississippi House of Representatives, we commend the Senate Accountability, Efficiency, Transparency Committee for understanding the bill’s risks for consumers.

Susan Ainlay Anand, MA, ATR-BC, ATCS, LPAT, shared the following comment on the news of the bill’s defeat:

As art therapists in Mississippi have had state licensure for almost 21 years, House Bill 1315 took us by surprise. This bill threatened not only the employability of art therapists and jobs but also the provision of services for our patients and clients. The fact that so many people joined us in opposing this bill and advocating for the continuation of state licensure speaks to the support and importance of art therapy. I am grateful for the AATA national office staff that alerted us about this bill and supported us through the opposition process, and the art therapists and those in our state who stepped up and spoke out to oppose this legislation. The bill died in a Senate committee on March 2, resulting in a win for art therapists and the people we work with.

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