Vancouver Association for Survivors of Torture

Formed in:  1987
Communities served:  

Adult refugees and other newcomers to Canada who have endured torture, trauma and political violence.

Funding Stream:

Community Counselling Fund

What This Grantee Is Doing for Community Counselling

VAST assists refugees and other newcomers who have endured torture, trauma and political violence through counselling, documentation, education, and referrals. CAI's Community Counselling Fund supports VAST to expand their individual and group counselling services to newcomers and survivors of torture - a program that has been in operation since 1986.

VAST’s counselling program has some core beliefs: healing happens in community; healing is an act of resistance; and that healing journeys are supported by those we meet along the way. Their team of Registered Clinical Counsellors, as well as their Psychologist and Psychiatrist and Social Workers, use a variety of culturally relevant, neurobiology-informed, and trauma-focused counselling methods. Individually and in groups, VAST favours therapeutic modalities that draw on the findings of neuroscience, tapping on the wisdom of the body to heal trauma. This evidence- based approach to trauma healing takes place in community.

VAST's trauma counselling services are tailored for refugees and other forced migrants. Trauma sources are state violence, persecution, displacement, socially- produced sources, gender-based violence, and war. The VAST team is trained and comfortable using the following therapeutic modalities: Sensorimotor Psychotherapy, Somatic Experiencing, Focusing Oriented, Dialectical Behavioural Therapy, Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, EMDR, Nature-based therapy, and Expressive Arts Therapy.

VAST reaches more than 800 people each year through their counselling services, and provides capacity building training to more than 3000 staff of settlement agencies, and city institutions serving newcomer survivors.


"While the Health Authorities in BC recognize the need to support newcomers who arrive in BC [as survivors of war, torture, trauma, political violence, and institutional oppression], the depth of trauma-informed training, cross-cultural sensitivity, community-based healing, and first-language services that are needed to provide the help needed are not often present within their institutions or funding arrangements. VAST, like many of the 150 members of the International Rehabilitation Council for Victims of Torture around the world, has always struggled to fill the gap with a mix of public and private funders. With the CCF funding, we have been able to hire more team members, for longer hours, with more experience, and with better language and cultural skills. The impact on our community of clients is enormous."


2610 Victoria Dr, Vancouver, BC V5N 4L2
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