By Gretchen Graves, MS, ATR-BC, CDATA  | January 18, 2018 | Advocacy Events


As the AATA works with members in 24 states engaged in advocacy efforts during the 2018 legislative sessions, I would like to highlight some good news from Virginia. The Virginia Board of Health Professions recently presented its proposed scope of study and schedule for a comprehensive review of the art therapy profession during a public meeting on December 7, 2017. The Board’s study responds to the Virginia Art Therapy Association’s (VATA) sunrise review application that the chapter submitted in August. The Board approved a motion to proceed with formal review of the profession during an open hearing in October, one of only two reviews of unlicensed professions the Board has approved in recent years.

VATA, American Art Therapy Association

Art Therapists Donna Betts, PhD, ATR-BC; Heidi Bardot, MA, ATR-BC, LCPAT; Sarah Deaver, PhD, ATR-BC; Carol Olson, LPC, ATR-BC; Leila Saadeh, MS, ATR-BC; Laura Tuomisto, ATR-BC, CTT; Monika Burkholder, MS; and Gretchen Graves, MS, ATR-BC, CDATA

VATA is one of eight AATA chapters to submit detailed review applications to state agencies or special legislative committees as prerequisites for introducing licensure legislation. So far, these reviews have produced mixed results for art therapists  stalling licensing efforts in Vermont and Colorado, where the reviews found little documented evidence of public harm by art therapists to warrant licensure, but opening new legislative or regulatory approaches to benefit art therapists in Arizona and Utah. Review applications submitted by chapters in Florida, Connecticut, and Minnesota have provided important background information for legislators who will consider licensing legislation, explaining the details of licensing proposals, need for regulation, potential conflicts with other professions’ scope of practice, and estimates of potential costs to regulate the profession.

The art therapists who attended the Virginia board meeting include: Donna Betts, PhD, ATR-BC; Heidi Bardot, MA, ATR-BC, LCPAT; Sarah Deaver, PhD, ATR-BC; Carol Olson, MA, LPC, ATR-BC, ATCS; Leila Saadeh, MS, ATR-BC; Laura Tuomisto, MS, ATR-BC, CTT; Monika Burkholder, MS; and Gretchen Graves, MS, ATR-BC, CDATA. The board asked us a few clarifying questions regarding the education and training requirements of art therapists as well as the differences between our profession and counseling. They then assigned our study to a Mr. Jim Wells, who seemed interested and asked us a few questions after the meeting.

Following VATA’s initial 30-page request for review for regulation of art therapists back in August, the Board of Health unanimously voted to pursue a sunrise review. We were told it was one of the most thorough applications the board had ever received. A special shout-out goes to AATA Policy Advisor Dean Sagar and Virginia art therapists Gretchen Graves, Laura Tuomisto, Leila Saadeh and Carol Olson for collaborating to put it together!

The Board of Health Profession’s willingness to undergo a comprehensive study is good news for art therapists. While new professions are rarely invited to undergo the sunrise review process in Virginia, at least two of only three professions undergoing sunrise reviews since 2008 have received Board recommendations for licensure.

After the meeting, the group gathered to debrief and plan for the next steps.  Carol realized the radio station she works with had open time in the studio, and so we went and recorded a radio show that we will strategically air about two or three weeks before the February 27th hearing.  We talked about art therapy, what it is, why licensure is important, and discussed a number of other topics related to the profession.  Check the VATA website for a link to the radio show, which will air on January 29th on 97.3FM WRIR and will be available at after the 29th.

Almost one-third of the States currently require some form of sunrise or scope of practice review as prerequisites for determining whether licensing or other regulation of new professions is needed to protect the public. At least three additional states with AATA chapters have pending legislation that would create similar review processes or licensing restrictions.

The next important date for the Virginia Board’s review is February 27th, the first hearing for the study that will solicit public comments.  We hope to have as many voices there as possible!  A timeline for the study will be posted on the VATA website under Licensure.