March 12, 2020 


The American Art Therapy Association (AATA) shares in the concerns we are facing as a nation and a global community regarding the dynamic developments of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. We stand with our art therapy community and people around the world, keeping everyone’s health—physical and emotional—as our number one priority. While immunocompromised populations and older adults are at particularly high risk, coronavirus-related anxieties have reached every household. Peoples’ worry about their health and that of loved ones is compounded by the potential economic hardships and the struggle to rearrange work or study schedules and flow of their everyday lives.

Yesterday, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a pandemic, and states and institutions have taken increasingly strong steps to slow the spread of the virus. To date, 29 states and the District of Columbia have declared states of emergencies, and institutions across the country are adapting to online formats or temporarily closing.

Many universities housing art therapy education programs are likewise taking these steps and we know that these accommodations will not be easy. Yesterday, the Accreditation Council for Art Therapy Education (ACATE) released a statement assuring CAAHEP accredited programs that ACATE will be a resource to help them “navigate issues that impact their students,” including the potential for late graduation if internships cannot be completed within schedule. Schools that are approved by the Educational Programs Approval Board (EPAB) should contact EPAB administrators as a resource in implementing institution-wide policies.

AATA’s President Dr. Margaret Carlock Russo shares the following words of encouragement: “As you navigate the adjustments recommended by your local health authorities, employers, and education institutions, we encourage you to be mindful of your own anxiousness and that of the community around you. As you follow all of the sanitary recommendations, please don’t forget to also take steps to protect your mental health. Anticipation of the unknown can cause immense anxiety.”

Regarding our 51st annual conference in Washington, DC this fall, we are continuing to carefully monitor the development of the outbreak as we communicated to members last week. We will follow guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the WHO, and federal and local health departments.

We are reviewing our conference policies around cancelations and staying in close communication with the conference venue, the Grand Hyatt Washington, for precautionary and response measures regarding the situation. We will continue to communicate with our prospective attendees on this issue as we move closer to Early Bird registration beginning April 2nd. With our conference seven months away, we do not have plans to cancel or reschedule the event at this time.

We hope that the following resources will be helpful in gaining accurate up-to-date information about COVID-19, and help clarify misinformation that may be circulating.

Keeping track of the evolving situation
Practical information on prevention and treatment
  • The CDC’s About Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) webpage includes information on how it spreads, symptoms, prevention and treatment, stigma and resilience, and what to do if you are sick.
  • The WHO’s advice for the public webpage shares information on protective measures, when and how to use masks, myth-busters, advice for health workers, getting workplace ready, and a video on best ways to protect yourself and others from getting the coronavirus.
About stigma
  • The CDC emphasizes that “stigma hurts everyone by creating fear or anger towards other people.” Groups of people who may be experiencing coronavirus-related stigma include persons of East Asian descent, people who have traveled, and emergency responders or healthcare professionals.
On mental health
  • The CDC’s Mental Health and Coping During COVID-19 points out that “fear and anxiety about a disease can be overwhelming and cause strong emotions in adults and children.” The webpage offers resources for supporting yourself, and information for parents, responders, and people released from quarantine.
Travel plans
  • Both the CDC and the WHO provide advice to assist in making travel-related decisions.