Art therapists specialists seek status in Michigan mental health code

For people that need a release - those in search of an outlet that's both cathartic and healing - art therapy is the perfect solution.

The way Jennifer Tackett sees it, someone can take all their energy and stress and pressure of the day, and transfer it from pen to paper. 

"You're going to look for any images that could possibly pop out from your scribbles, so we can also turn our paper," she said. "We need some perspective from our chaos."

Tackett is an art therapist. She says the idea behind the practice is helping people take the disorganization from their brain and drawing it out. It'll give them continuity and a way to sort out their confusion. 

Art therapy falls under the larger profession of mental health. However, it's not treated with the same designation which underscores the concerns of art therapists who worry the field's legitimacy can be called into question as a result.

There are about 200 art therapists in the state, though that figure is said to be declining. 

"We go through a lot of training to be a unique part of the mental healthcare fabric in the U.S. but without title protection anyone can claim to be an art therapist and that would defraud consumers," said Mallory Montgomery, another art therapist.

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Advocates of art therapy have been lobbying for title protection and proper licensing among its members in the state of Michigan. Legislation aimed at creating a more official status in the field would not only guarantee better care for those seeking out art therapy services, it could boost enrollment among those qualified to teach it.

"We really want to make sure people are receiving services from qualified practitioners," said Sydney Tremont, who also works in the field. "Right now, people can take a one-hour training have no mental health experience education and say they're doing art therapy.

"I think we could really retain our talent if art therapy was licensed in the state of Michigan"

So far, two bills have been introduced with support of the Michigan Art Therapy Association. One bill covers licensing, title protection and protection for the public, essentially ensuring that anyone who uses the title "Art Therapist" meets agreed-upon standards.

The second bill would add Art Therapists to the mental health care code as qualified professionals. 

"We have to advocate for it. We need people to call and speak passionately about it. Then we'll testify and hopefully it will then be put into law," said Tremont.