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Creative arts therapies in Israel dates back to 1971 when the Israeli Association for Creative Arts Therapies (YAHAT) was formed by creative arts therapists to build the new profession in Israel.  Currently, there are 7,000 creative arts therapists using arts representing the subfields of visual arts therapy, bibliotherapy, dance-movement therapy, drama therapy, music therapy, and psychodrama.  Creative arts therapies training involve a master's degree, provided at six colleges and two universities.  In Israel, about 50% of the therapists are integrated within the Ministry of Education, in the special education system in particular, as well as within the regular education system.  Israeli creative arts therapists provide private therapy sessions, as well as well as group and dyadic therapy to children and their parents.  Therapists are also integrated into adult hospitals and in programs from the Ministry of Welfare, and the Ministry of Defense.  Each year, 350 graduates complete their training programs and integrate into the system in a variety of employment settings.  Currently, one challenge in Israel is regulatory, since the Regulation of Health Professions Law does not include creative arts therapies and thus the profession currently lacks a legal basis for licensure.

The Creative Arts Therapies in Israel

In 1971, a small group of creative arts therapists in Israeli founded the Israeli Association for Creative Arts Therapies (YAHAT) (for its abbreviation in Hebrew of “Creation, Expression, Therapy”) as a professional organization to promote the profession in Israel.  The first academic programs in creative arts therapies were established in 1981 at the University of Haifa, Levinsky College, and an Israeli extension of the U.S.-based Lesley University in Ramat Aviv.  These were soon followed by the opening of programs at Bar Ilan University, David Yellin College in Jerusalem, and then by Kibbutzim College, and Tel Hai College. 

In 1992, the Ministry of Health issued a circular defining the art therapy profession and setting the requirements to receive the official certification for “status recognition” as  a therapist, in the subfields of  visual arts therapy, bibliotherapy, dance-movement therapy, drama therapy, music therapy, and psychodrama.  The circular defined training in the field as “certificate studies for graduates of a bachelor's degree in behavioral sciences or equivalent degrees.”  Studies at the University of Haifa (visual art, dance, bibliotherapy), David Yellin College (Visual Arts and Music) and Levinsky College (music and dance) were recognized. 

In 2003, the Ministry of Health issued another circular to set up training programs and structure training, with 1,200 hours of practical training, with prerequisites in psychology and the relevant art form.  Participating programs included Bar Ilan University (for music therapy), Beit Berl College (for visual arts), Tel Hai College (drama therapy), Kibbutzim College (Visual arts, movement, and psychodrama), and the Lesley University branch in Israel.  The circular also emphasized that any new program should offer training at the M.A. level to receive recognition from the Ministry of Health. 

However, in June 2004, status recognition for creative arts therapists was withheld by court order on the claim that such status recognition should be statutory rather than administrative.  The court order specified that even though the Ministry of Health had been granting recognition certificates to a wide range of health professions since Israel became a state, there had never been a law in the Knesset allowing the Ministry to do so.  Therefore, the process of granting certificates was halted until the passing of such a law.  The Ministry of Health also published that public and other employers were also permitted to employ those lacking Ministry of Health certificates of recognition of status. 

In 2008, the Knesset enacted the Regulation of Health Professions Law setting forth regulation of status recognition for practitioners the “paramedical” fields of occupational therapy, physiotherapy, speech therapy, and nutrition/dietrics – but not for creative arts therapies.  Today, the law regulating the status recognition for creative arts therapists remains on the table, as submitted by Member of Knesset Nurit Koren, but the Ministry of Health hinders the inclusion of the creative arts therapies in the Law.  

Meanwhile, the Council for Higher Education published uniform guidelines for academic recognition of creative arts therapy M.A. programs, in July 2010.  In 2014, the Israeli Higher Council for Creative Arts Therapies was established by the recognized training programs to lead a uniform professional approach to creative arts therapies in Israel. This includes the guidelines for the post-M.A. third year of Advanced Clinical Training and the guidelines for clinical supervision for creative arts therapies students and practitioners. 

As of 2017, all training programs in creative arts therapies are master’s level programs, including all six areas of the arts, at eight colleges and universities throughout Israel: 

  • The University of Haifa (art therapy, drama therapy,  psychodrama, dance movement, bibliotherpay, music therapy)
  • Kibbutzim College (art therapy, psychodrama, dance movement, bibliotherpay)
  • Ono Academic College (art therapy, psychodrama, dance movement, musc therapy)
  • Beit Berl College (art therapy)
  • David Yelin Academic College of Education (art therapy, dance movement, biblio therapy, music therapy)
  • Tel Hai Academic College (art therapy and drama therapy)
  • Bar Ilan University (art therapy and music therapy)
  • Sapir Academic College (art therapy)
  • Herzog Academic College (art therapy) 

Additionally, the University of Haifa has a branch location in the ultraorthodox Jewish neighborhood of Bnei Brak for religious students, offering an M.A. in Psychodrama and in Art Therapy.  Ben Gurion University’s Social Work Department also offers a concentration in art therapy program within its Master’s in Social Work program.

The University of Haifa and Bar ilan offers a PhD in Creative Arts Therapies.

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