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Jackie Schuld Art Therapy Blog

How Local Professional Organizations Can Support Members

I’m in a consultation group with fellow art therapists in private practice. One of those therapists recently told our group that she is becoming the president of the American Art Therapy Association (AATA) state chapter in her state. Our consultation group is spread across the country, and she asked us for feedback about our AATA chapters. She wanted to know what our chapters do and what we would like them to do.


This is an admirable question considering AATA state chapters are run entirely by volunteer art therapists. They are people who are stepping up to further the art therapy field and art therapists.


Given that the board consists of volunteers, many state chapters struggle to provide benefits to local members (If you think your AATA state chapter is doing well, please let me know either in the comments or an email. I want to uplift the hard work people are doing).


Many therapists think the primary purpose of AATA on a national and local level is to work toward legislation that promotes licensure for art therapists. While this is certainly one purpose (and a controversial one that I have written about in my essay "The Great Debate Around Art Therapy Licensure"), I think state chapters can assist art therapists in multiple other ways that take far less effort.


"Steps Taken" Marker by Jackie Schuld

Newsletters

State chapters can produce a monthly or quarterly newsletter that lets members know what actions the chapter is taking, upcoming events, member spotlights, and more. Many members have no idea what their state chapters are doing and this would be an easy way to keep members informed and engaged.


Education

State chapters can provide education opportunities for art therapists. This could be accomplished in two ways. The chapter could send out a survey to therapists about what topics they would like more education on (for example, I would love to know more about the norms of art therapist salaries, case loads, and the like in Arizona). They could then choose to hold virtual discussion groups on these topics.


The chapter could also put out a call for requests for art therapists to lead a webinar on an art therapy related topic. I know funding can be limited for state chapters, so it may be possible that art therapists are willing to donate their time or offer a reduced rate for other therapists.


Art Therapist Promotion

Art therapists are doing some pretty amazing things. State chapters can showcase what their members are doing through member spotlights in newsletters, as well as sending out notifications about groups, workshops, and other programs that art therapists are providing. I find it invigorating to learn what others are doing and it fuels my own desire for innovation. Plus, I would love to share opportunities with my clients.


Networking

I would love to meet other Arizona art therapists and hear what they are up to. I think networking also promotes future collaboration and ideas. While I would love in-person events, these networking events could be held virtually once a quarter or at whatever frequency membership requests.


Opportunities

I do my best to be aware of opportunities within my field, but it would be great if state chapters let members know of opportunities relevant to the field. For example, they could let members know about relevant workshops, conference presentation opportunities, and the like. They could also let therapists know about any job openings.


Art Therapy Promotion

I once attended an Arizona AATA chapter meeting and they discussed ways they can uplift awareness about the field. I had never considered this. They suggested hosting a workshop or event for the public. Another idea is that someone could pitch an article to local newspapers or magazines (this idea was inspired by a local article featuring art therapist Rebecca Wilkson - https://www.naturaltucson.com/2021/09/30/370035/art-therapy-creating-lasting-change)


I understand the state AATA chapters have limited time and resources and may not be able to do all of the above. The state chapters could survey their members about their highest priorities for their local chapters and this could help chapters discern where to best put their efforts.

 

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