Careers

Graduates Making A Difference

2011 – VANCOUVER, BC

Sarah Peacock (2011 VATI graduate) is the director of Magpie’s Nest Community Art Society. She and the Magpies host pop-up art workshops aimed at connecting community and reducing social isolation through creative art-making. They are working toward opening a grassroots neighbourhood studio in East Vancouver that is accessible and affordable, nurturing the creativity of each individual. Sarah also facilitates art therapy workshops primarily in addictions and mental health, and also works with veterans. She hopes to combine the inherently therapeutic aspects of art-making with community work to create a catalyst for social change. www.magpiesnest.ca

2011 – IRELAND

I arrived in Vancouver in September 2010 from Ireland to do the post graduate diploma in Art Therapy at VATI. I was about to retire from paediatrics in Ireland, and having found, in the course of my work that art was a medium that children were very comfortable with, and was very helpful in getting an insight into their world, I wanted to find out more, hence my arrival in Vancouver. How did I end up there? Well, I wanted a full time course, and having searched the internet I came across VATI, and it appealed to me.

I had spent my career using my left brain with hardly a nod to my creative right side, and so it was totally outside my comfort zone to do a course which involved the right side of the brain. I saw myself as having no artistic ability whatsoever, and to say I was feeling inadequate is putting it mildly. But in spite of all that, I found the course very stimulating, and really enjoyed it. Lectures were delivered in a relaxed fashion, and questions were received with both grace and humour. Expressive art sessions certainly expanded my boundaries! The course work was quite heavy at times but part of that was due to the fact that I was pretty rusty in producing papers. Part of the course involved weekly studio where the students created their own art work. At the beginning of the year there was a session on the internal critic, and since mine has a PhD, I found studio terrifying, but there was a great respect and tolerance to every student, and so over time I relaxed into it.

Practicums form an important part of the course, and it was a delight to work with the elementary school children, and an eye opener to work with adults with HIV and drug addiction problems. I found the application of the theory of art therapy in this way very helpful. There is really no substitute for hands on experience. We had a very helpful supervisory time every week, and I learned from the other students as to how they went about helping children and adults to use art for their own benefit.

The final paper tends to be a bit of a Damocles sword hanging over you in the last months of the course. It is a substantive piece of work, and involves a lot of reading and referencing, and the format is APA which is itself a challenge. The hard work needs to be put in over the summer months, and with support from the mentor, I experienced both relief and delight when I finally held the printed and bound copy in my hand.

On the downside, we had a larger than usual number of students in 2010, and I did find being somewhat spatially squeezed difficult. Using the lecture room to eat at lunchtime was a bugbear of mine, as I found it stuffy when I returned for the afternoon session. There was one or two of the lectures that I did not enjoy, but these were minor issues, and all in all I would definitely recommend this course, not only as a training for art therapy but as a training for life. Artistic ability and age should not be seen as barriers. My advice is to go and find out for yourself! It is a unique experience in the interesting setting of Granville Island in lovely Vancouver.

– Geraldine Prendiville

2009 – CAPETOWN, SOUTH AFRICA

Sascha Archer is a 2009 VATI graduate and Cape Town based art therapist. After graduating from VATI, Sascha began searching for global  opportunities to integrate her passion for world travel, art therapy, diverse cultures, community/humanitarian work and child and family advocacy. This combined with her Cape Town based family brought her to South Africa. In 2010 she spent just under a year as a paid volunteer working for the Community Arts Therapy Programme in and around Cape Town.  For those 10 amazing months, Sascha was able to share her expertise in the area of art therapy to a wide-variety of clientele, all possessing vastly different stories, adversities, and challenges.  Sascha provided one-on-one and group art therapy to children in two township schools, at a boys’ halfway house, to mothers who were HIV+, and also in the Burns Unit, ICU and Oncology Units of the Red Cross Children’s Hospital. Although all her clients touched her tremendously, Sascha’s most notable and life-altering work as an art therapist was with a 12 year-old double arm amputee Burns Unit patient.

William was brought to the Burns Unit after climbing a high voltage power pylon and getting severely electrocuted, tragically resulting in the loss of both of his arms. Brought together despite differences in nationalities, cultures, ages, languages, and life-stories, Sascha and William embarked on a life-altering art therapy and rehabilitation journey that would change the trajectory of both their lives forever.  Introduced to Sascha by a mutual friend, Jo Higgs, owner of Go Trolley Films, was inspired to share William and Sascha’s story on a global scale by creating a 26 minute documentary movie titled, “Driving William”. The story charts the miraculous and inspirational rehabilitation, recovery and reintegration through foot and mouth painting in art therapy sessions with William. “Driving William” has a distributor and has been traveling around the world at screenings, fundraisers, film festivals, on television to raise the money for William’s much needed prosthetic which he received at the end of June, 2012 after the fundraising goal was met.

After falling in love with both Cape Town and the incredibly rewarding work, Sascha accepted a job in 2012 as Co-founder, Head of the Rehabilitation Department, and art therapist of CosMedics Prosthetic Firm in Cape Town. She will also be starting up an NGO division of CosMedics and hopes to eventually provide opportunities for other expressive therapists to do volunteer work and internship opportunities.

– Sascha Archer

2003 – ABBOTSFORD, BC

Since graduating from VATI, I have continued teaching in public schools. The first year, I worked four days a week at a middle school as a learning support teacher, helping students in grade six with difficulties in their classrooms. The following year, I did the same for approximately 200 students in grade seven. I was able to utilize art therapy on an individual basis with several students, addressing issues such as depression, illness, difficulties with siblings, social issues and selective mutism. I also worked with small groups, addressing problems with anxiety, bullying and learning disabilities.

Currently, I am teaching at William A. Fraser Middle School where art therapy has been well received. I work in an integrated setting focusing on the emotional and behavioural needs of students requiring intensive behaviour support. Furthermore, because of the team atmosphere within the school, I am able to use art therapy with other students who are referred for counselling. Various staff members attended an art therapy workshop and have requested another session. Parents have heard about my programme and are requesting art therapy for their children. In addition, school board office personnel, care team members from agencies such as community services and MCFD and our school’s mental health liaison person have all become more knowledgeable and interested in the benefits of art therapy.

I love being an art therapist. Using my skills with students in schools encourages me. Although my dream of being a full time school art therapist may not be realized, I am heartened by my conversations with administrators, learning support teams, school board office staff and mental health system professionals who all express a need for a programme, which helps students, thrive both emotionally and mentally. So, the moral of my story is don’t give up! And don’t be afraid to move on if your message is not accepted. When you find the right place and the right people, art therapy will thrive!

– Liz McKnight

2003 – BRAZIL

It’s been now 2 years since I am back to Brazil and since then I have an Art Therapy private practice that is going really well. People around here do not know much about art therapy so I need to educate them about it. It is good because I need to be always studying and researching. And now I am facing a new challenge, which is to set an art therapy program at a Bilingual (English/Portuguese) school in São Paulo where I am working as a counsellor.

Because they never heard of art therapy and schools around here do not have such a program I am working hard and trying to gain their trust and hopefully I will convince them!  It hasn’t been easy but my own experience as both an art therapist and a client keeps feeding me with confidence to go on an on.

– Maria Azevedo

2003 – USA

After graduating from the Vancouver Art Therapy Institute November 2003, I moved back to my home country and settled in Northern Idaho where finding a practicing Art Therapist would be like finding rare treasure.

I found a job as the Program Coordinator of a local program called Art on the Edge where children and youth living in the shelters of Coeur d’Alene have a safe environment in which to creatively express themselves. We explore art concepts while using art as a tool for learning problem-solving, goal-setting, community values, and increased self-esteem.

Art on the Edge is a program of St. Vincent de Paul and continues to build a great awareness in our community. We function on donations and volunteer help and our annual fundraisers. We hold weekly classes throughout the year and provide a Summer Camp for 60 kids every summer.

I currently am pursuing my ATR and have found someone 30 miles up the road to supervise me. It would be a great pleasure to be able to provide this area with a practicing Art Therapist, especially the children of the community.

–Kendall Lewis

2002 – UNITED KINGDOM

I am lucky enough to find myself in a full-time art therapy position (charity funded) in a deprived area in Plymouth, UK. I work with deprived and traumatised children, African refugees, substance abusers and male survivors of childhood sexual abuse.

It has been a challenge to set up the service single-handed, but I love my job and the people that I meet. Art therapy never ceases to amaze me and every day brings something new for me to learn!

– Shellee Chisholm

2001 – EDMONTON, ALBERTA

Hello! It has been a few years since I graduated from VATI, but in some ways it feels like just yesterday. I was hired as an art therapist at the Cross Cancer Institute in Edmonton, where I have been working for almost five years now. I work in a program called “Arts in Medicine” with adult cancer patients and their family members. I also work with children who have a parent with cancer, or have lost a parent to cancer.

Working with art therapy with these populations is very rewarding. It is through their art that people come to insights about their cancer journey and experience that words have not begun to describe for them. The personal growth and insight many experience working with issues from body image to grief, and end of life issues are immense. Soapstone carving, clay sculpture, photography, collage, and painting are a few examples of some of the art therapy groups that have evolved.

My learning in this setting has been great, and I am still learning. Yes, I am also back taking a Master of Counselling through the CAAP Program, and plan to complete my course work this year. I am in the process of applying for CATA registration, and I hope to start a small art therapy private practice in the near future. Oh, and on a personal note, Kev and I also had a little girl, Kiera, in January, 2004. Life is busy but good! All the best to everyone! Take care!

– Carolyn Husky

2001 – PEMBERTON, BC

My path as an art therapist has been deeply professionally and personally satisfying, meaningful, and challenging. I began working as a crisis counsellor in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside in my second year of the program at VATI, creating art-based life skills groups for women in a drug and alcohol harm reduction program.

After graduating from VATI I began working as an art therapist on a Mental Health Team with a First Nations Band on Vancouver Island. Through this exciting and challenging work, I decided to specialize in child and family practice, and completing a Masters Degree in Child and Youth Care from the University of Victoria. I was particularily curious about therapist resilience in work with trauma survivors. Upon completion of this degree, I accepted employment with the Ministry of Children and Family Development, in Pemberton and Whistler, BC, as a Child and Youth Mental Health Clinician, using art and play therapy with children, youth and families.

I moved to Northern California to marry a lovely man at the beginning of November 2006 and became a stepmother to his 12 year old son. This move has shifted my identity and career tremendously. I am currently in the process of recreating my life in America.

Finding work as a therapist in California, with my credentials, has proved very challenging: neither of my graduate degrees are recognized by the state certifying board. In order to gain licensure as a therapist here, I need to seek further training. I have decided to view this challenge as an opportunity to pursue a Doctoral Degree in Clinical Psychology, specializing in play therapy and ecosystematic child and family practice. I look forward to starting this degree in September 2007.

In recent years I have been exploring a growing curiosity in Expressive Arts and Movement Therapy Practices. To follow this this curiosity I have begun a course studies in Movement-Based Expressive Arts Education and Therapy at Anna and Daria Halprin’s Tamalpa Institute in San Francisco.

I recently accepted employment with River Oak Centre for Children in Sacramento County, working as a Program Services Clinician. In this position, I provide support and counseling for children and youth aged 3 -18 and their families, as well as clinical case management services. In this ecosystemic approach to treatment, I coordinate a multi-disciplinary team of professionals and work with families in community settings (home and school for example) rather than in a clinical office environment.

– Katrina Jenmorri Curry, MA DVATI

2000 – TORONTO, ONTARIO

After graduating from the Vancouver Art Therapy Institute in 2000 I have been passionately working in the area of Women’s Health ever since.

I work at Women’s College Hospital in the Sexual Assault & Domestic Violence Care Centre and the High-Risk Perinatal Unit and also maintain a general private practice one day a week.  I also am a Registered Art Therapist and Certified Focusing-Oriented Psychotherapist.

Because I recognize the importance of replenishing my own creative well, I am actively involved in writing, creating/selling my own artwork and have co-developed an on-line gallery entitled ‘Art Not Violence’ through the Centre for Research in Women’s Health.

– Ann Bayly

1998 – NORTH VANCOUVER, BC

After graduating from VATI, I began my work in a studio space in downtown Vancouver with three other graduate students. We jumped in together to support each other in establishing our individual private practices.  After a wonderful year of learning and growing we went our separate ways and I moved into a studio space in North Vancouver.  I continued to focus on building a private practice while taking contract work to fill in the gaps.  For ten years I worked with the Tri-City Woman’s Resources Centre running groups for women, men and children who suffered from trauma and abuse.  I also worked at Silbury School for highly gifted learners for five years until it closed.  In 2007 I had the amazing opportunity to participate in an international documentary film, WordLoveWorldLove, that took me to Sri Lanka to establish a connection between children in Vancouver and Sri Lanka through the creative process.

It’s been over thirteen years since I’ve had the gift of being in private practice.   I receive referrals from doctors, counsellors, schools, agencies and former clients.  My practice is primarily with children and teens with a focus on issues such as giftedness, self-esteem, anxiety, OCOD, attachment, depression, bullying, family changes, anger management, ADD/ADHD, spirituality and creative expression.  I love what I do and every time I meet a new client I feel blessed to share in their intimate journey. I am constantly in awe of the inherent intelligence of the creative process.

– Erica Krutzen

1996 – MANITOBA

I graduated from VATI in 1996 and returned to Manitoba where I was fortunate to find full time work in Art Therapy! Because I live in rural Manitoba, I was quite sceptical as to whether or not this would happen, but the work was interesting and challenging as I learned much from the Dakota and Ogibway people who I was working with. My private practice, Valley Art Therapy, was opened in 1999 where I have had contracts with Child and Family Services, the Compensation for Victims of Crime Program and I have been priviledged to work as a Supervisor with the Kutenai Art Therapy Insitute.

Because of my Education background, I also wanted to develop an art therapy program in local schools. This became a reality in 1999, when I became a high school counsellor/art therapist. As well, soon afte the school district decided to change their Social Worker position to a therapist position. This became a half-time Art Therapist position when I was hired in 2000. I have been employed in these positions ever since and have also since graduated from the Campus Alberta Master’s of Counselling, Art Therapy Specialization program, become a Registered Canadian Art Therapist and a Certified Canadian Counsellor.

I am currently working half time for the school district as an Itinerant Art Therapist and half time in private practice where I work with two First Nations Communities, have contracts through Child and family Service Agencies and do some EAP work.

Life is full with my work in Art Therapy, my work with CATA as the Secretary, my travels to Supervision — which is one way for me to counter-act the isolation that comes from living in rural areas and my ongoing creative projects.

– Lori Boyko

1994 – COQUITLAM, BC

In 1994 I ventured out on my own as a new art therapist in an industry that had not quite found a level of awareness about our profession yet. Twelve years later my private practice is thriving and so is the profession of art therapy. It has been an amazing journey.  Art therapy has taken me in many directions as a student, teacher, lecturer, and writer.

Being an art therapist has profoundly changed my life. As I see the art therapy process unfold before my eyes every day I can only imagine that it will forever be a part of my professional and personal life.

Someone once said to me. “Everyday I wake up and love going to work” I had always hoped that I would be that person one day, and well, now I am.

– Michelle Oucharek-Deo (BFA, RCAT, BCATR)

1990 – IRELAND

My training at the Vancouver Art Therapy Institute has enabled me to work in a variety of disciplines – psychotherapy, adult education, the arts, community development, social research, project management and marketing – all areas contributing to the well being of people striving to represent their lives and aspirations within a more inclusive society.

Art therapy is an integrated practice, which addresses the expression of potential through a commitment to spontaneous creative activity. It is a medium of communication which illuminates the art of human development. As a career it never ceases to inspire – witnessing the unfolding of growth so vividly through colour, texture and form is a testimony to the capacity of people to generate hope, ideas and discovery.

I am currently bringing together my approach to interdisciplinary art therapy practice through the development of my own business called Groundswell, an art therapy and education service linking culture and nature programs. Groundswell offers psychotherapeutic and arts services to individuals, families, community groups, schools, and statutory agencies using the concept of the garden or nature as a landscape for personal and cultural expression.

– Pamela Whittaker

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