Clinical counsellor and psychotherapists are essentially the same thing. They use therapeutic skills grounded in mental health evidence-based research to help people relieve emotional pain, learn new skills, and gain insights from certain concerns such as trauma, career, relationships, identity, and addiction to name a few. Currently, the province of British Columbia has not established a College to regulate counsellors. However, there are three major registering bodies for counsellors in BC: BC Association of Clinical Counsellors (BCACC), the Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association (CCPA), and the BC Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (BCAMFT). A counsellor registered to one of these professional organizations will have at least a Master’s degree in the field of psychology, have met rigorous standards for internships, and adhere to a code of ethics.
In BC, Registered Psychologists (R.Psych) are regulated by the College of Psychologists of British Columbia and will have either a PhD or a PsyD. In addition to clinical counselling, psychologists are specifically trained in the development of research and the administration of specialized psychological tests and assessments. They may also diagnose and treat mental illness. While they may have training in the uses of medication for mental illness, they do not prescribe medication.
A psychiatrist is someone who has a degree in medicine (a medical doctor) and has specialized training in diagnosing and treating mental illness, emotional disorders, and behavioural issues. They may prescribe medication and, in BC, are licensed and regulated by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of BC.
‘Therapist’ is an umbrella term for someone who is skilled in some form of therapy. This could mean a massage therapist, physiotherapist, or applicable to any of the aforementioned terms.
Counselling is unique in that you can go for whatever reason. Need someone to be in the room with you while doing homework for encouragement? Sure! Want to celebrate something in your life with your counsellor? Go for it! Need emotional support? Absolutely! What this means is that finding the right counsellor for you is important as the therapeutic alliance is perhaps the most influential factor in effective therapy
As a guide, the American Psychological Association offer these symptoms as signals for finding a mental health professional: feelings of hopelessness; deep and lasting depression; self-destructive behaviour, such as substance misuse; disruptive fears; sudden mood shifts; thoughts of suicide; complusive rituals, such as hand washing; sexual difficulties; hearing voices or seeing things that other do not experience. However, you do not need to be experiencing any of these to go to counselling.
Therapeutic modalities are the model(s) through which your counsellor understands people and can use its subsequent techniques. Every person has a unique story, meaning counselling cannot be a “cookie-cutter” approach. For this reason, many counsellors generally adhere to a couple of modalities but incorporate and blend other models to fit the client’s needs to create a holistic approach.
Mia mainly uses existential analysis and trauma therapy as her base understanding of people; she blends the theories and techniques from expressive therapies, mindfulness, parts work, and somatic therapies to help clients achieve their goals.
Before your first session, make sure that the intake form is completed to a level that you are comfortable sharing and that you have carefully read the informed consent and signed it. Other than that, come to your first session exactly as you are. Do not worry if you feel that you might have too little or too much to talk about.
The first session is generally quite open ended as you and your counsellor will get to know each other. Your counsellor will provide you with space to ask questions about the forms, the process, etc. and you may discuss your counselling goals. Your counsellor may ask some questions about you, which you can choose to answer or not. It is completely normal and understandable if you are feeling nervous for your first session; your counsellor will go at a pace that is comfortable for you.
Counselling is a unique space just for you; sometimes, adding another person can change the feel or dynamic to that space. While it is generally not practiced for a person who is receiving individual counselling to bring someone with them, it is encouraged for you to bring this up with your counsellor to be able to discuss your options.
Most extended health benefits will cover a registered clinical counsellor (RCC); however, some may only cover a registered social worker or psychologist. It would be a good idea to check with your insurance provider to see what they cover and how much.
It is general practice for sessions to take place once a week; however, you can discuss with your counsellor a schedule that would suit your needs. How many counselling sessions are needed is quite dependent on your goals and each person. For issues that can be worked through in short-term counselling, you can generally expect 6-10 sessions. For more extensive or specialized care, you can usually assume 6 months to a year. However, there is no right or wrong time frame to be in counselling and ultimately, you decide the length of time. You can think of it like your physical health: regular check-ups are helpful and healthy, but sometimes you need more intensive care when you’re feeling sick.
Regular 50 minute sessions are $140 per session, regular 80 minute sessions are $210, and half an hour check-ins are $75. Due to COVID-19, prices have temporarily been reduced to $125 for 50 minutes and $185 for 80 minutes. Sliding fee is offered but is limited.
Privacy and confidentiality is of the utmost importance as it is foundational to be able to establish safety. Clinical counsellors have a duty to adhere to their ethical code of confidentiality in accordance with The Personal Information Protection Act, which means private and personal information will not be released to third parties without your written consent. All information is double password protected on secure online servers based in Canada (JANE App). Any paper based information is kept behind double locks when unattended. Online sessions are encrypted and password protected. In all cases, physical safety will be the number one priority, meaning there may be situations where there are limits to confidentiality:
1) If there is reasonable cause to believe a child or a vulnerable person is being abused and is in need of protection.
2) If a judge issues a court order (subpoena), a search warrant, or if the counsellor is subpoenaed as a witness in court,
3) If a client indicates that they may be at risk for harming themselves, or harming another identified person, or a danger to others (ex: They are not fit to operate a vehicle but insist on driving).