Diversifying the International Journal of Art Therapy: actions for change

In response to the calls of #BlackLivesMatter, following the death of George Floyd, urging us all to reexamine our institutions in order to identify and change systematic racism, the International Journal of Art Therapy (IJAT) made a number of actions to begin this crucial process.


  • New open, transparent, and varied Associate Editor positions were created.
  • The IJAT Advisors group was diversified to represent the worldwide geographic regions of IJAT’s authors and readers.
  • The Peer Review Training was designed to be delivered online.
  • The Editor-in-Chief (EiC) worked with the EiC’s of the US and Canadian journal’s to gather a diverse group of Guest Co-Editors to work on a call for papers for a joint Special Issue on International Examinations of Anti-oppressive Art Therapy: Intersectionality, Anti-colonialism, and Cultural Humility (Guest Co-Editors, Corrina Eastwood, Dwight Turner, Patrick Vernon, Louvenia Jackson and Megan Kanarehtenha:wi Whyte). The call for papers and art was published in May 2021.
  • Appointment of an IJAT Equality Diversity & Inclusion (EDI) Advisor to work with the Editor-in-Chief and a diverse group of members and colleagues of the journal’s learned society, the British Association of Art Therapists (BAAT) to create clear actions for change for the journal including succession planning for the future role of IJAT EDI Advisor. These actions should be considered a beginning rather than conclusion to engagement with these issues.
  • The EDI Advisor will continue to hold annual open consultation surgeries with BAAT members to feedback to the journal any ongoing concerns, successes and potential barriers to be considered.

However, further work is urgently needed to ensure that the journal is actively addressing issues of racism, inequality and bias in all areas, challenging non-inclusive trends and practices in academic publishing and creating space for a more diverse authorship and journal content to greater reflect the diversity and complexity of service user and art therapist experiences. This includes reviewing of submissions being carried out in the most non-biased and informed way, by a network of peer reviewers that have a variety of diverse professional specialisms but also come from a range of social, cultural, personal and political perspectives, with a rich breadth of lived and clinical experience. This is also an important step towards bringing about more diversity amongst authors and topics published in the journal.

Actions for change:

1. Introducing an opinion piece category. This category was developed in response to concerns that publishing research and practice papers only limited the development of art therapy knowledge within the journal due to restricting other epistemologies. Opinion pieces contribute towards building art therapy theory, practice or policy through informed, original and differing perspectives on the normative epistemology or ontology of art therapy or related subjects. This new category enables authors to examine assumptions in current art therapy theory, practice or policy and make space for the valuing of epistemological discussion that may challenge normative constructions of Other, by dominant and often western thinkers. Opinion pieces will be reviewed by peer reviewers assigned due to professional specialism and/or lived experience relevant to the topic of each submission to check that the requirements and ethical standards outlined within the template are met.

2. Extend the collecting of details held on those in the peer reviewing network to include identity markers and lived experience, as well as professional specialism. Sensitively collecting demographic information that more accurately demonstrates the wealth of experience, standpoint epistemology held, and communities occupied by those in the peer review network, can further act as a benchmark on our progress in ensuring the network is inclusive and diverse.

3. Invite reviewers to include lived experience related to intersectional experience of identity and community in specialisms, to ensure that submissions will be reviewed by a diverse group of peer reviewers.

4. Meaningfully consider the lived experience of reviewers when anonymously matching them to submissions for all categories of the journal. This is to ensure, where possible, that reviews are carried out by those who have shared lived and/or clinical experience with the author and/or service users, as described within the submission. This will increase varied feedback, informed by a variety of world views.

5. A thorough review of the current specialisms held by those in the review network to be carried out. In addition to the regular review of specialism based on service user population, clinical experience and research expertise, a thorough review with a focus on intersectionality and anti-oppressive frameworks will be carried out. The review will be coupled with a commitment to increase invitations to potential peer reviewers in order to fill identified gaps in the network’s expertise.

6. Peer review training will be redesigned to increase the time spent on examining potential bias in the reviewing process and how it may manifest, to include more explicit considerations of intersectional thinking and consciousness raising with regard to held power and privilege in the profession. Training will strive to embody the intention of anti-oppressive practice and model accountability and collaborate with others. Although not intended to be exhaustive or definitive, considerations of concepts such as white fragility, white exceptionalism, and tone policing from dominant social group perspectives will be explored in training. Peer review training, and the Associate Editor mentors for new Peer Reviewers, will utilise anti-racist tool kits such as those published by The Coalition for Diversity and Inclusion in Scholarly Communications, to inform review processes and publication practices. Early Popular Visual Culture (EVPC) guidelines will also be used when considering the use of historical materials such as citation and the ethical use of visual materials along with T&F Ethical Guidelines for Authors. Training will also provide guidance on inclusive citation practises, challenging reviewers and the IJAT Board to ask questions such as, whose voices are foregrounded in this submission and whose voices are privileged when considering theory and research? Reviewers will be guided to include considerations of antiracist research methodology and inclusive citation practices when reviewing submissions to the journal, to enable challenge of this in review and feedback.

7. An updated and comprehensive review of language and terminology will be carried out with consideration of the way in which language must adapt and change to challenge its potential use to mark, hoard and abuse power. This will include the compiling of diversity and inclusion language guidelines in collaboration the BAAT and IJAT Advisers to be updated on an ongoing basis through ongoing consultation, research, networking with BAAT affiliated groups, and use of peer review network feedback. The language guide will be included in peer review training.

8. Initial payment for Peer Review Training (which was returned following completion of first review) will no longer be required and the advert for peer review training will be re written to feel more inclusive, inviting and with greater consideration of the diversity and difference of those it wishes to appeal to.

9. Acknowledge that racism and prejudice is pervasive in scholarly publishing and that those whose do not fit the dominant norm in the profession may face barriers and trauma when navigating predominantly white, cis gendered, heteronormative spaces. This includes developing an increased understanding of the ways in which those from marginalised groups may have unique and specific experiences of being asked to provide free labour. This understanding will inform the way in which invites to join the IJAT peer review network are communicated and the benefits of being a peer reviewer and sitting on the board are clearly stated with an understanding that sustainable working relies on reciprocation, mutuality and respect that acknowledges the power imbalances within such exchanges.

10. Ongoing review of the potential barriers to involvement in the peer review network (along with academic writing, publishing, research and the further opportunities that becoming a peer reviewer may afford) for those that do not fit the dominant and normative groups in the profession, and who have experienced oppression and prejudice from within the profession and beyond.

This will be done by:

a) Carrying out ongoing consultation and networking with BAAT affiliated groups, SIGs and members.
b) Privileging and valuing the voices of clients, services users and lived experience collaborators.
c) Engagement in active therapist-activist discourse.
d) Utilising a diverse peer review network’s feedback and collaborating with experts and other journals beyond and outside of the profession of art therapy.
e) Ensuring a continued dedication to anti-oppressive practice through the journals work, while modelling accountability in the profession from our positions of power and privilege.

These actions for change have all been agreed by the IJAT Editorial Board following development by IJAT EDI Advisor, Corrina Eastwood, in collaboration with the IJAT Editor-in-Chief, Alex McDonald, and the diverse group of BAAT members and colleagues, named below, approached by the IJAT EDI Advisor to offer consultation based on the breadth of their lived and clinical experience. They have provided invaluable consultation on an EDI policy for IJAT giving time, considerable expertise, insight and emotional labour in honour of change. As noted in these actions for change, the IJAT Board would be appreciative of ongoing open EDI consultation and feedback from all members of its learned society, BAAT.

Initial consultation group:

Trish Bedford
Sarah Blick
Sejal Chad
Tasha D’Aguiar, Co-Coordinator of the BAAT Art Therapy, Race and Culture Special Interest Group (ARC)
Gillian W Datlen
Kim Geffray, Member of the People of Colour Art Therapy Peer Support Group
Mandy Leonard, IJAT Dual Experience Advisor
Alma McQuade, IJAT Dual Experience Advisor
Georgina Obaya Evans
Kristina Stamatiou, Co-opted EDI Advisor on BAAT Council and Co-Coordinator of ARC
Nina Tara, Member of the Black African and Asian Therapy Network
Prabhjot Virk

Reviewing the actions for change

25 January 2024, 2pm-3:45pm 

The journal’s equality, diversity and inclusion team will be holding an online open consultation to review the impact of the journal’s actions for change with journal readers, reviewers, and authors.

Find out more