Know What You’re Doing & What Qualifies You to Do It


Know What You’re Doing & What Qualifies You to Do It

First and foremost, understand that using art in therapy is different from practicing art therapy.  Many otherwise capable clinicians make the mistake of assuming that art therapy is an activity that happens when they bring art materials into a session.  Art therapy isn’t an activity or a modality; it’s a profession that has a set of educational and credentialing requirements similar to yet different from the requirements of other mental health professions.  A non-art therapist is welcome to use art materials and methods with clients as long as she/he has been trained to do so in a safe and effective manner; all mental health regulatory boards have rules that prohibit the use of interventions in which a licensee/certificant lacks adequate preparation.  For example, the Texas State Board of Examiners of Professional Counselors stipulates in Title 22, Texas Administrative Code, Chapter 681:

Subchapter B. Authorized Counseling Methods and Practices.

§681.31. Counseling Methods and Practices.  The use of specific methods, techniques, or modalities within the practice of professional counseling is limited to professional counselors appropriately trained and competent in the use of such methods, techniques, or modalities. Authorized counseling methods, techniques, and modalities may include, but are not restricted to, the following: (17 categories are listed, including) expressive modalities utilized in the treatment of interpersonal, emotional or mental health issues, chemical dependency, or human developmental issues. Modalities include but are not limited to, music, art, dance, movement, or the use of techniques employing animals in providing treatment.


Please note that even with appropriate training and competence, a non-art therapist who uses art with clients is not actually providing art therapy services.  Although they may look the same to an uninformed observer, the use of art in therapy is very different from the practice of art therapy.  This goes back to the specific educational and credentialing requirements within the field, both of which were respectively established to ensure the knowledge base of its practitioners and the protection of the public.  Offer art therapy services only if you have been educated to do so and can provide clients (and/or their parents/guardians), supervisors, administrators, licensing boards, and lawyers with information about the qualifications that allow you to offer art therapy services.  In the absence of such qualifications, you are using art in therapy and may do so only through specific training in this area per your regulatory board/s.  Knowing what you’re doing and what qualifies you to do it makes a big difference in terms of keeping your clients and your credentials safe.


With appreciation for the important work you do,

Megan July 2011

About the Image on This Page

This is a thumbnail of Public Domain Abstract Art, posted to The Public Domain website by Mitch Featherston in 2012. Click here for more information.