VATI is committed to providing an educational experience that cultivates student creativity, self-awareness, and therapeutic competence. We aim to train art therapists who are active members of the art therapy community, and good ambassadors to the larger community.


Founded in 1982 as a non-profit society and charitable organization, the institute has been accredited by the Private Training Institutions Branch (PTIB), formerly the Private Career Training Institutions Agency of British Columbia (PCTIA) – since 1998.

VATI is committed to providing an educational experience that cultivates student creativity, self-awareness, and therapeutic competence. We aim to train art therapists who are active members of the art therapy community, and good ambassadors to the larger community.

We achieve our goals by training the student at a graduate level in a way that challenges the student to grow intellectually, and professionally. VATI offers coursework that is delivered by a diverse and accomplished faculty. This allows the students to develop a solid understanding of current theory and practice in the field. Students must successfully complete classroom-based coursework, experiential learning exercises, 700 hours of clinical placement, and a final project to graduate.

Secondarily, the Institute provides art therapy as a service to the community-at-large via student practicum placements. Students are placed at agencies, schools, and hospitals throughout the Lower Mainland. Our clinical placement students gather their required hours while offering this valuable service to the community.

VATI follows the guidelines for training established by the Canadian and British Columbia art therapy associations. As well, VATI is recognized by the College of Registered Psychotherapists of Ontario (CRPO) as an approved training program; graduates can become members of the CRPO upon completion of the VATI diploma.


The Vancouver Art Therapy Institute (VATI) is a recognized training facility by the Canadian Art Therapy Association. At VATI we train art therapists using a meta-theoretical, client centered approach. Although VATI acknowledges the historical foundation of the Institute and of the field of art therapy as being psychology-focused and psychodynamic in approach, we have expanded our foundation to include contemporary theories and approaches from a much broader paradigm.

Our curriculum challenges students to advance their therapeutic values and practical approaches through different lenses. We incorporate psychotherapy, anthropology, sociology, aesthetic theory, social action and critical theory to encourage students to become more aware of themselves, and their clients, in the therapeutic frame. Our students see how social policy and theory affect human beings, and whole communities through their clinical placement experiences.

By focusing on training professionals through a practical approach, our program brings together theory and practice of arts-based psychotherapy in the following ways:

  • By engaging in their own art journey, students gain a personal understanding of the power of the creative process.
  • Through clinical placement experience in community students gain familiarity with a wide variety of client groups.
  • Through the study of advancing research and theory in the field, students integrate both experiential and theoretical appreciation of art therapy.
  • Students are well prepared for professional therapeutic practice with a strong ethical foundation.

The emphasis is on promoting therapeutic relationships with clients as well as contributing to a multi-disciplinary approach to mental health.


The Vancouver Art Therapy Institute was originally founded on the principles and teachings of Toronto psychiatrist, Dr. Martin A. Fischer.

Fischer (1914–1992) first used art therapy in the 1940s when he was working with adults who had psychiatric challenges and subsequently ran art therapy groups for the same client population. VATI was established in 1982 as a non-profit society and charitable organization.

Art therapy has proliferated and expanded beyond its early psychoanalytic roots, as art therapists have increased the number of theoretical lenses through which they perceive the practice of art therapy. VATI instructors are interested in offering our students the opportunity to explore art therapy from a broad perspective; this includes how art therapy evolved in tandem with the major orientations in psychology and psychotherapy, current trends in art therapy including postmodern thinking in relation to art therapy (i.e., narrative therapy, constructionism, etc.) as well as the emergence of a theory that is indigenous to the arts.

The first 20 years after inception focused on the development of the full-time program, gaining recognition in the community at large. The student practicum placements and resulting work of the graduates have contributed to the growing reputation of the institute as well at art therapy as a unique form of treatment. As a result, a job market for art therapists continues to grow, as art therapists are making inroads with a broad range of client populations and within various clinical and community-based settings.

MAY 1998
In May 1998, the institute was among the first private educational institutions in British Columbia to receive Accreditation from the Private Career Training Institutions Agency of British Columbia, now known as the Private Training Institutions Branch (PTIB).

In 2001, the Vancouver Art Therapy Institute (VATI) entered into a collaborative relationship with Athabasca University, with VATI providing the Art Therapy specialization for the MC:AT designation. The first cohort of the MC:AT program started in January 2003 with the final cohort finishing in 2022. For more information about our current program offerings and our continuing relationship with AU, please see Program Streams (affiliation agreement).

JULY 2002
In July 2002 the first cohort of the Advanced Diploma program was initiated. This is a distance learning program for people who have a Master’s degree; they include social workers, counsellors, therapists, school counsellors, educators, and practicing artists. Many of the students come to incorporate art therapy into their current practice thereby infusing something new and powerful; others come in order to make a career change and in the process, find themselves changed through their active engagement with the arts.

MAY 2010
In May 2010, VATI moved to our lovely new location on Granville Island.

2022, 40th Anniversary

We are pleased to share our anniversary collage (40 images for 40 years!) in celebration of the 40 years that VATI has been training art therapists!

While we did not plan for this, we had exactly 40 submissions from graduates of our school (thank you to all who participated!). It was wonderful to receive these images and to hear from so many of our graduates over the years!

vati 40 years



1575 Johnston Street (Granville Island)
Vancouver, British Columbia
Canada V6H 3R9
Phone: 604-681-8284
Fax: 604-331-8262