Truth in Advertising


Truth in Advertising

All regulatory boards mandate credential holders to advertise their services and specializations in a manner that is not misleading or deceptive to the public.  Even so, from time to time therapists need a reminder that the layperson, not the expert, is the individual whose perspective needs to be taken into consideration when determining what is misleading or deceptive.  Imagine how a layperson is likely to interpret the information on your business cards, fliers, or website.  Do you really have significant training in all the areas you say you do?  Many therapists advertise a glut of services/specializations, perhaps in an attempt to let no potential client slip through the cracks.  Or perhaps the laundry list of services/specializations is a reflection of the therapist’s insecurity.  Either way, identifying more than five services/specializations begins to dilute the effectiveness of the clinician’s message.  Reading through a services/specializations list that comes across like a fortress of tossed salad ingredients can lead a potential client to wonder if the therapist has any particular expertise at all.  In a world of many, many therapists, potential clients are looking for clinicians who don’t overestimate their capabilities and thus are better able to estimate their capacity for providing effective assistance on a case-by-case basis.


Having said that, take a moment to reflect upon how a layperson might comprehend your advertisements about using art in therapy.  Is it possible for a layperson to be confused about the difference between art therapy and the use of art in therapy?  It’s your responsibility to ensure that the public has an accurate understanding of the work you do.  The worst case scenario is that your client will take legal action against you for one reason or another and in the process identify that you were providing art therapy services.  Information concerning the educational and credentialing requirements for a career in art therapy are readily available on the web, so your defense will be greatly impaired if you haven’t already met these requirements.  It’s been said that the best defense is a good offense.  Be proactive about your advertising and ensure that it’s consistent with your actual expertise.  Regulatory boards prohibit credential holders from practicing beyond the scope of their education and competence, so use art in therapy only if you can provide documentation about your training in the therapeutic application of artmaking.  You might ask your friends/family members who know absolutely nothing about therapy to proofread your advertisements; what seems obvious to a clinician might look different in the eyes of a member of the general public.  Laypeople can litigate, even if they can’t tease out the nuances of the language and terms we use.  Avoid the worst case scenario—go for the best case scenario and pursue truth in advertising!


With appreciation for the important work you do,

Megan August 2011

About the Image on This Page

This is a thumbnail of a Japanese art image from the 19th century, posted to The Public Domain website by Mitch Featherston in 2010. Click here for more information.