Calling Yourself an Art Therapist in Texas


Calling Yourself an Art Therapist in Texas

Many Texas clinicians are baffled when it comes to the credentialing of art therapists.  No wonder—the state law that defines who can hold themselves out to the public as art therapists is the LPC Act, and in order to meet the standards set forth in this law, an individual has to work behind the scenes to pursue the Art Therapy Credentials Board’s requirements for taking the national board certification exam in art therapy and then submit proof of successful completion and an additional fee to the LPC board.


In the meantime, the LPC board has taken the stance that an individual is not supposed to use the national art therapy credentials s/he he earns along the way to being granted LPC-AT (“licensed professional counselor-art therapist”) status at the state level until that status has actually been attained.  These national credentials include the ATR (“art therapist registered”), acquired after completing post-master’s supervision requirements in art therapy, and eventually the ATR-BC (“art therapist registered-board certified”), acquired after passing the national competency exam in art therapy).  Whew!


To complicate matters, there are STILL no graduate art therapy programs in Texas, which means that would-be LPC-ATs received their graduate education elsewhere and perhaps have already earned and been using national credentials in art therapy up until their move to this state.  Such people need to realize that national credentials don’t exempt them from having to follow the requirements of state law unless the state law specifically says this.  The LPC Act does not offer such exemptions.


Most of these individuals have educations that are well-suited for pursuing a license through the LPC board.  It’s within their best interest to do this, as the LPC Act indicates that unlicensed people who hold themselves out to the public as art therapists through any combination of abbreviations, letters, or words may be charged with a criminal offense.  As for those who obtain a counseling license but choose not to meet the requirements for the “AT”, the LPC board’s code of ethics does not offer an exemption for LPCs who have national credentials in art therapy; it states that none of its licensees may hold themselves out to the public as art therapists without the LPC-AT.


Others with national art therapy credentials, though few, may be candidates for a marriage & family therapy license, a psychology license, or a social work license.  The plot thickens here.  One section of the LPC Act indicates that it’s a Class B misdemeanor for anyone to hold her/himself out to the public as an art therapist without being licensed under the LPC Act.  But another section of the LPC Act suggests that mental health practitioners licensed under other state boards don’t have to abide by the terms of the LPC Act as long as they refrain from using a title that incorporates the words “licensed counselor”.  Where does the title “art therapist” stand, considering that these two sections of the law appear to send different messages?


I checked with the LPC board about this and was informed in no uncertain terms that any licensed professional who uses national art therapy credentials or the title “art therapist” is committing a crime if s/he does not have the LPC-AT.  The board’s lawyer asserted that the two sections of the law I referenced don’t send conflicting messages; they just have to be read together.  Considering that one passage comes from Subchapter B and the other comes from Subchapter J, I wonder how many people would naturally read them back to back?*


And then there are the people who’ve been given the official title of “art therapist” by their employer if the employer is a federal, state, county, or municipal agency or a public or private educational institution.  The LPC Act states that its requirements don’t pertain to these individuals, but it’s important to note that things could get sticky for them if they use the title “art therapist” outside of their job.


It gets even better.  The Art Therapy Credentials Board recognizes that the credentials it offers at the national level do not trump the requirements of state law.  The ATCB Code of Professional Practice stipulates that practitioners of art therapy are responsible for conforming to state laws pertaining to independent practice, which is sometimes mistaken for private practice but actually means the ability to provide professional services without the need for operating under someone else’s license.  The LPC Act is such a law.  If only it wasn’t so confusing.


Despite the black holes, loopholes, and worm holes, here are some resources that can serve as a starting point for untangling the “art therapist” knot:

Art Therapy Credentials Board

Registration (ATR)

Board Certification (ATR-BC)

Code of Professional Practice  1. General Ethical Principles.  1.1 Responsibility to Clients

Texas Occupations Code, Chapter 503 (“the LPC Act”)

Subchapter B. Application of Chapter.  §503.051. Counseling for Government or Educational Institution

Subchapter B. Application of Chapter.  §503.054. Counseling by Other Licensed or Certified Professional or by Religious Practitioner

Subchapter G. License Requirements.  §503.303. Specialization in Art Therapy

Subchapter J. Penalties and Enforcement Provisions.  §503.452. Criminal Offenses

Texas State Board of Examiners of Professional Counselors Title 22, Texas Administrative Code, Chapter 681 (“LPC Board Rules”)

Subchapter C. Code of Ethics.  §681.49. Advertising and Announcements


Please note that the information presented here is not intended to serve as a substitute for legal advice.  If reading this has left you with more questions than answers, which it probably has, you should direct your inquiries to the Art Therapy Credentials Board (, the LPC Board (, and/or a knowledgeable mental health lawyer in this state.  Clear as mud?  And how.  But worth trying to wade through?  Yes, if you are thinking of calling yourself an art therapist in Texas.


With appreciation for the important work you do,

Megan December 2012

*this paragraph was added February 2013 after I received a response from the LPC board

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