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The field of art therapy will be getting official regulations, based on recommendations by a Higher Education Council panel and the Health Ministry.

They submitted them to the Knesset Health Committee, which is expected to approve them soon.

The panel, headed by Haifa University School of Education head Professor Adir Cohen, drafted recommendations for recognizing graduate studies in music, visual art and drama therapy.

It decided that only master's degree graduates should be recognized as art therapists. Students with bachelor's degrees in other subjects would need to complement their master's degree with therapeutic studies such as basic psychology courses and courses in their field of art.

The supplementary courses would include 300 hours of art studies at an academic or professional institution and 200 hours of field experience. Students could receive an exemption by submitting a relevant portfolio of works.

The two-year M.A. program would include 600 hours of practical training. In order to receive a ministry license to practice, graduates would have to go through 960 hours of internship and pass a Health Ministry exam.

These recommendations would enable the Health Ministry to supervise the practice and control how many people could enter the field of art therapy.

As of 2004, there were 2,000 art therapists practicing in Israel. That year the High Court of Justice ordered the authorities to stop issuing certificates recognizing paramedical professions that were not regulated by law, including art therapy. Since then, the profession has been unsupervised.

Once the practice is regulated, anyone presenting himself as an art therapist who lacks the proper education and training will be committing a criminal offense.

However, the law will apply only to students who begin art therapy studies after the recommendations are approved; currently practicing art therapists are expected to be recognized under the law.

During panel debates, two members had demanded that only students with a B.A. therapy, art or art education be accepted into the art therapy study program. Ultimately, the nine other members prevailed, opening the studies to B.A. graduates from any field.

The process of regulating paramedical professions has been going on since the High Court ruling six years ago. In March, a law regulated the fields of physical, occupational, speech and nutrition therapies. Other health-related practices were later added to the law, including chiropractic, clinical criminology, podiatry and surgical podiatry.

The Israeli Association of Creative and Expressive Therapies welcomed the recommendations.

"We have been trying for years to gain the medical establishment's recognition and commend the recommendations on the subject," said association chairman Moti Makmori.

In the United States, only M.A. graduates may receive a degree in art therapy. In some European states however, such as the Netherlands, bachelor's degrees are enough to practice.