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Writing A Senator: Art Therapy Licensure

Hello Virginia Art Therapists! I am happy to share with you my experience reaching out to a Virginia Senator as a message of encouragement to those of us who feel like our letters will be thrown away and our phone messages ignored. We’ve already heard back from the Senator's office and my coincidental family connection wasn’t even the primary motivating force to receiving such a quick reply.

I have been a practicing art therapist in Virginia for 5 years now, but had not made the time before now to find out where we are with the licensure efforts (insert excuse here). It was not until attending the Virginia Board of Counseling meeting, where art therapy licensure was found on the Board's meeting agenda, that I learned of the need to reach out to our local politicians, to encourage efforts towards an art therapy license in Virginia. Following the meeting I received helpful information from Gretchen Graves regarding our focus on contacting legislators involved in the government's Health and Education committee. Through various conversations with friends and family members I was then reminded by my mom of her community connection with one of the Virginia Senators, who just so happens to be serving on the Health and Education committee! So, we went to work on composing a letter that would include her connection, our effort, and the many benefits that will come with art therapists being licensed in Virginia and sent it off to the Senator. (Thanks mom!)

It was only a matter of 1.5-2 weeks before my mom got a response from the Senator’s office from one of his staffers. The really promising point to highlight here is the staffer was the one excited by the letter and it was the staffer who reached out to my mom, the acting director of the VA Board of Counseling and Donna Betts all in the matter of a few hours. And it was the staffer who expressed great interest in asking more questions so that she could present the letter in an informed way to the Senator, who she felt confident would want to back our effort once he learned of the need.

I hope you find this to be encouraging. I know I personally had grown a bit pessimistic about the ability to be heard in today’s noisy political environment. However, this is a good example of how we just don’t know who will take interest in our request for a license. My general experience in hearing from some other local politicians is that this is a good time to be asking for a license as there is a lot of energy and focus being placed on mental health, particularly focused on community based services and psychiatric hospitals after the incident with Senator Deed’s son and the lack of services for veterans. We can certainly be more helpful to these populations, along with countless others, with the help of an art therapy license.

The letter that my mom and I wrote has been sent on to the Virginia Art Therapy Association (VATA) Board, edited, and is now available to be distributed. If you are willing to get involved, feel free to contact VATA or Gretchen Graves to learn more about who to contact and how. I wish you much success in getting in touch!

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