Needed Change in the Art Therapy Field
I’m an art therapist who deeply loves the work I do. I’m grateful that I get to run a private practice and shape my career around what lights me up. The field of art therapy has brought so much to my life.
AND, at the same time, there was (and is) a lot I had to wrestle with as I became an art therapist. There were a lot of experiences and norms within the profession that did not sit right with me.
I didn’t understand how more therapists weren’t talking about these things. I now accept that I usually see the world a little differently due to my autistic mind. My brain hones in on differences between stated values and actual action. My mind links together things I’m seeing and then gathers more evidence.
I used to wish I could be more like other people and just focus on the positive. I now feel my unique perspectives are an asset. I no longer sweep them under the rug. In the past year, I’ve shared over 50 essays about my views of art therapy, the mental health field, private practice, and more.
I recently came across a list I wrote a year ago in my journal called, “Shit That Ain’t Right.” I was only one year out of graduate school, so some could call me naive. At the same time, one could also say I was new to the culture/field and thus better able to see it.
As I reviewed my list, I was delighted to see how many of the things I have since written essays about. I say delighted because I am not here to tear down the art therapy field. I am here to uplift it. I want to name the things that get in the way and explore the ways we can do better. I want to be a culture maker in our field.
In that effort, here is my “shit list.” I’ve provided links to the topics I've explored more in my essays.
Topics Not Sufficiently Addressed in Graduated School
How to go about licensure
What to actually do with clients
You cannot pick who you work with
Vulnerable populations of clients are given to least experienced therapists (i.e. interns)
Industry of Agencies
Forces the new professionals to do the grueling work
Industry of Group Practice
50-75% cut taken by group owner
Group practices operating on the industry standard instead of realizing the standard sucks
Independent contractors (no benefits)
Art Therapy Field
We are primarily white women, which brings:
Why aren’t we better at caring for each other and ourselves?
AATA and ATCB
Speakers not paid at AATA conferences
What do AATA chapters do for us?
What is going on with ATCB? (This was written when many art therapists were having their licenses revoked)
Where Do We Go from Here?
1. We continue to cultivate awareness
When we name and call out the harmful cultural norms and systems that are impacting us, we can shift from individual blame to collective effort. The challenges of being therapists are not individual problems to be fixed. They are collective and systemic norms within our profession that need to be collectively addressed.
2. We brainstorm ways to address the problems
We collectively brainstorm alternatives, strategies, structures, and systems that can dismantle the harmful norms and support the world we envision for ourselves
3. If you are doing this work (whether that be in your own writing, podcasts, videos, social media, or whatever), please drop a link to it in the comments. I want to uplift the work of culture makers.
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