Did you know that anyone in B.C. could call themselves a “counselor” or a “therapist”? If you are looking for help with stress, depression, or anxiety, are adjusting to a separation or divorce, or coping with loss or trauma, you might want to consider these words of advice.
1. Make sure the counselor or therapist has at least a Master’s Degree, in Clinical Psychology, Counselling Psychology, or Family Therapy. The degree should be from a reputable University.
Some people who call themselves counselors only have a Bachelor’s Degree. Bachelor’s Degrees tend to be general in nature. Likewise, some professionals have a Master’s Degree in an unrelated field, but not expertise in assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of mental health concerns.
2. Check to see if they are a registered professional. In order to be registered, the counselor has had to prove that they have adequate education and experience to belong to the professional association. This also means that they are required to hold insurance, and are responsible for certain ethical standards. This also means that there is a built-in complaint process.
In B.C., the two main counseling bodies are the B.C. Association of Clinical Counsellors, and the B.C. College of Psychologists.
3. Call 2 or 3 counsellors and ask them about their experience and how they practice. Some counselors have more or less experience working with children, families, or certain kinds of problems. There are also a myriad number of therapies out there; some are research based and mainstream, some are more “alternative” in nature.
4. “Google” them. This is the equivalent of an easy records check. Although information available on the Internet may not be extensive, it may reassure you that they have some relevant experience in the field. Alternatively, it might send you warning signals if the information on the Internet is not consistent with what they’ve told you.
5. Decide what you are willing to pay for counseling. There is free or low-cost counseling available through government-funded services, and non-profit organizations. However, these programs tend to have long wait lists, a limited number of sessions, and do not give you a choice of counsellors.
Be candid when you ask your counsellor about cost. Consider trying to negotiate a lower price, if you can not afford their posted rates. Check your extended health benefits. Many employer funded health plans include coverage for the services of a Registered Clinical Counsellor or Psychologist.
6. Consider recommendations from friends, family, and other service providers. You might like to put recommended counselors on a short list, but remember that you are the best person to decide whom you want to talk to about the intimate details of your life. Regardless of referral, I suggest you still talk to a few counselors before making an appointment with one.
7. Go with your head and your gut. Don’t schedule an appointment with the first counsellor you speak to who seems nice; check their experience and education. On the other hand, if you find someone who is well qualified, but that you don’t “click” with, keep looking for a good match.