letterboard containing short forms of professional credentials surrounded by a green plant and crayons

In Search of an Art Therapist: What do all these letters mean?!

You’ve begun your search for an art therapist. But the search can be confusing, especially when it seems like every therapist has completely different qualifications and letters after their name. What do they all mean? And what do you want to look for?

I’m going to be honest, as an art therapist this confuses ME! So I’ve made us both a little chart to help summarize the most common post-nominal letters in the art therapy world, along with their meanings.


AbbreviationMeaning Explanation
ATRRegistered Art TherapistThe art therapist has met the American Art Therapy Credentials Board’s standards by completing advanced and specific graduate-level education in art therapy, and supervised, post-graduate art therapy experience working with clients. Canadian art therapists can also apply for this certification.
ATR-BCBoard Certified Art TherapistThis is the highest level of certification offered by the American Art Therapy Credentials Board. It requires the successful completion of a national exam in addition to the ATR requirements. Canadian art therapists can apply for this certification.
DKATIDiploma - Kutenai Art Therapy InstituteThe art therapist completed their graduate training in art therapy at the Kutenai Art Therapy Institute and was awarded a Masters-level graduate diploma.
DTATIDiploma - Toronto Art Therapy Institute The art therapist completed their graduate training in art therapy at the Toronto Art Therapy Institute and was awarded a Masters-level graduate diploma.
DTATI - Cand.Toronto Art Therapy Institute CandidateThe therapist is currently attending the Toronto Art Therapy Institute and/ or completing the requirements to graduate.
DVATIDiploma - Vancouver Art Therapy Institute The art therapist completed their graduate training in art therapy at the Vancouver Art Therapy Institute and was awarded a Masters-level graduate diploma.
MAMasters DegreeThe art therapist completed their graduate training at a university where they were awarded a Master’s Degree. Concordia University offers a Masters in Creative Arts Therapies, and Adler University offers a Masters of Counselling Psychology in Art Therapy.
OATROntario Registered Art Therapist The art therapist has completed the registration process with the Ontario Art Therapy Association and meets their requirements for education, training, supervision, and work experience.
RCATRegistered Canadian Art TherapistThe art therapist has met the education, supervision, post-graduate work experience, and professional development requirements to become registered with the Canadian Art Therapy Association. There’s a directory of art therapists who meet CATA’s educational standards, but are not all RCATs.
RPRegistered PsychotherapistThe therapist is registered with the College of Registered Psychotherapists of Ontario (CRPO). They have met the minimum education, clinical experience, and supervision requirements to register, and they participate in ongoing professional development and quality assurance programs to maintain good standing. The CRPO has an online registry where you can look up details about any psychotherapist in Ontario.
RP - QualifyingRegistered Psychotherapist - QualifyingThe therapist is in the process of becoming registered with the College of Registered Psychotherapists of Ontario. There are education requirements, minimum client contact and supervision hours that must be met, and a final qualifying exam.


white letters inside a white ceramic cup
Photo by SJ Baren


Some art therapist also have qualifications as social workers, certified counsellors, or therapists with other specialties. Here are a few additional abbreviations you may come across as you look for an art therapist:


AbbreviationMeaning Explanation
CCCCanadian Certified CounsellorThe therapist’s qualifications have been evaluated and approved by the Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association. They meet the CCPA’s standards for professional preparation and continuing education.
CPTCertified Play TherapistThe therapist meets the education, training, clinical practice hours, and clinical supervision requirements of the Canadian Association for Play Therapy.
RSWRegistered Social WorkerThe therapist is a Registered Social Worker with the Ontario College of Social Workers and Social Service Workers. There are specific academic and experience requirements in order to become registered. RSW’s are permitted to practice psychotherapy in Ontario.


pink alphabet magnets in a pile
Photo by Jason Leung


Phew! That’s a lot of letters! So, are some letters better than others?

In my opinion, not really! These letters can give you information about the therapist’s education, training, and level of experience.

For example, my post-nominal letters are: DTATI, RP, RCAT. This means that after completing an undergraduate degree, I studied at the Toronto Art Therapy Institute where I earned a graduate diploma in art therapy. I am a Registered Psychotherapist with the CRPO, meaning that I have met all of their training, education, supervision, professional development, and work experience requirements. I am also a Registered Canadian Art Therapist with CATA, which lets you know that I have the appropriate education, training, and experience recommended by our national art therapy association.

For some people, training and experience are important to help them feel confident in the therapist’s abilities.

In general, I have found that the most important factor for successful therapy is finding a good fit.

This means that your preferences, personality, and style fit well with and are complimented by the therapist’s. To be honest, this has nothing to do with credentials. It’s about how your energy meets and mixes with the therapist’s energy. It’s the feeling you get when you walk into their office.


shallow focus photo of couch with side tables
Photo by Sophia Baboolal


I’ll be sharing more about finding a good fit in my next post. For now, if you have questions about any of this or are curious about my style as a therapist, please get in touch for your free introductory meeting.

Written by: Rubi Garyfalakis, DTATI, RP, RCAT


image of letterboard with common post nominal letters for therapists