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Proposal would introduce state licensing for clinical art therapists

Clinical art therapy addresses specific psychological and emotional issues in a structured environment.

But professionals providing such services in Minnesota are not specifically licensed, which can lead to lack of accessibility for effective mental health care and public harm from inadequate training and limited regulation.

Sponsored by Rep. Esther Agbaje (DFL-Mpls), HF2743 would establish licensing requirements for clinical art therapists and require them to be licensed by the Board of Marriage and Family Therapy. She said the bill would protect the public from people purporting to be art therapy practitioners, but who are not academically trained nor have the clinical skills for safe and ethical practice.

It was laid over, as amended, Thursday by the House Health Finance and Policy Committee.

“Art therapy is a distinct and independent mental health profession. Art therapists are like other health professionals, but they do not yet have the equivalent recognition level,” Agbaje said. “… Art therapists are trained in trauma-informed and developmentally appropriate nonverbal approaches to therapy unique to their field. Art therapists must show competency in the use of art materials and understanding how the specific properties of different art materials and the active artmaking process elicit changes in neurobiology.”

They can be beneficial in cases involving children, the elderly, and people for whom English is not a primary language.

Briana Colton is a registered art therapist and a licensed professional clinical counselor which means acquiring two licenses: an art therapy credential through a national credentialing board and a state licensing fee for her clinical counseling license.

She works in private practice, including with children on the Autism spectrum and adult females who’ve experienced sexual assaults. She’s found the practice provides a plethora of benefits.

“Art therapy allowed them to externalize their emotions and thoughts, actively and visually change the narrative, and find a positive self-identity again through artmaking and creation of visual metaphors in the artwork,” Colton wrote in a letter.

The change would also allow more insurance companies to pay for the care.

Among proposed licensing requirements, a therapist would need to have a master’s or doctoral degree, earned graduate-level credits in specified critical content areas, pass the Art Therapy Credentials Board certification examination, and completed 4,000 hours of supervised postgraduate practice experience.

“We would like to ensure the required training is met to meet the ethical standards of art therapy,” said Erin Rafferty-Bugher, an art therapist since 1998.

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