The Beginning of Confrontation -AATA

Dear Cynthia Woodruff, Donna Betts, and Lisa Hines,

I am writing to express my concern at the recent AATA statement allying ourselves with Karen Pence.


While her husband, as Governor of Indiana, was advocating for conversation therapy for LGBT people and putting women who had miscarriages in jail, and while Trump seeks to dismantle the ACA which affords healthcare to 40 million people, threatens to defund VAWA and Planned Parenthood, bans immigrants, and in other ways causes harm to the most vulnerable in society–in other words, our clients–we cannot stand idly by.


Morality and questions of ethics extends beyond the art studio and the clinical encounter. If we do not advocate for a world in which our clients, no matter their situation, can live fuller, safer, more stable lives, then our services are merely a bandaid on the mental health problems which arise as a result of intergenerational trauma, chronic poverty and community instability, and the stress caused by racialized microaggressions, interpersonal violence, etc.

The current administration represents a threat to our clients, that is clear–and to our profession overall. If 40 million people lose their health insurance, then they also lose access to mental health services–meaning that they cannot access art therapy, putting us out of a job. Trump seeks to defund the NEA and NEH, vital arts organizations without which rich, vibrant cultural works would not be made, leaving the country poorer for it.

The threat the Pences, specifically Karen Pence posses to art therapists of color, and queer art therapists is clear. As a gender non-conforming queer person, my work is at stake. Karen pence specifically wrote in the 90s that she would not even present materials that reference queer experiences or affirm the existence of LBGTQ people, in a letter to the Indianapolis Star. She has specifically advocated for faith-based discrimination, which was passed as legislation by Mike Pence and led to the largest HIV outbreak since the epidemic. Karen is widely hailed as Mike Pence’s ‘prayer warrior’ and moral guide. The AATA cannot support Karen Pence and still advocate for LBGTQ art therapists as these actions are in direct conflict. I urge you to consider not only the welfare of our clients but the welfare of art therapists, who see these actions as an act of discrimination and a sign that the AATA does not stand with us and will not protect us.

Art therapy is rooted in channeling deep creativity out of seemingly desperate situations, and a commitment to care for our fellow humans. I hope that AATA sees past Karen Pence’s comments to the higher stakes for ourselves and our clients that the current administration represents.

We have dedicated our lives to healing, not only our clients, but also our country, and thus, the world. I hope that you will join me in working within AATA and outside of it to better navigate what comes next.


Gette Levy
Graduate Student
Masters of Arts in Art Therapy and Counseling
School of the Art Institute
Photo: Photo illustration by YES! Magazine via WikiMedia Commons.

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