Common Questions

What is Counselling?

What is Adventure-Based & Experiential Counselling?

What is Somatic Experiencing?


What is Counselling?

…and what is the difference between a counsellor, a psychologist and a psychiatrist?


Currently in Canada, the title “Counsellor” is not protected meaning that anyone can call oneself a counsellor. However, a Registered Clinical Counsellor (RCC) is a member of the B.C. Association of Clinical Counsellors (BCACC) which maintains high standards to ensure clients receive accountable and ethical service. RCCs are qualified professionals who hold a minimum of a Master’s degree in counselling psychology or related studies from an accredited institution.

Registered Clinical Counsellors are required to have advanced education in the following areas:

  • Normal and Abnormal Development

Understanding how humans develop (from pre-birth through childhood and adulthood) is critical for providing support. This includes brain development and how it relates to cognitive, emotional and social abilities across the lifespan.

  • Theory and Practice related to each counselling, personalities and working with groups and families

Having a solid foundation of theory provides a framework for counsellors to choose an appropriate approach for each client’s needs and preferences.

People are social by nature so it’s important for counsellors to also understand family dynamics, group processes and various approaches for working within them.

  • Research

Scientific research should be used to inform and enhance practice. Being able to understand, critically analyze, and even contribute to research are invaluable skills.

  • Ethics

Ethical dilemmas are inevitable in counselling. Abiding by a Code of Ethics and being prepared to handle issues of confidentiality, relationships, and professionalism are important in ensuring safe and respectful practice.

Many Registered Clinical Counsellors can also be expected to have formal education in Social and Cultural Diversity, Chemical Dependency and Substance Use, Assessment and Testing and Career Development.

As defined by the BCACC, a counsellor “assists people experiencing difficulties in relationships, or within themselves, and enhances their growth and well-being, by making use of relational, conversational, somatic, expressive, or educational methods and techniques informed by established counselling and psychotherapeutic theories, research, ethical standards, human diversity, and the range of human traditions.”

Psychologists & Psychiatrists

Psychologists have completed graduate training in psychology (the study of human development, learning, and behavior) and may have specialized in the assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of mental illness, emotional disorders, and behavioral problems. Although they may have training in the uses of medication to treat mental illness, they do not prescribe medication. Psychologists are the only professionals specifically trained and qualified in the development, research, and administration of specialized psychological tests used to assess elements of intelligence or achievement, personality characteristics, mental and emotional disorders, and/or the effects of brain injury.

Psychiatrists have a degree in medicine like your family physician, followed by specialized training in the diagnosis and treatment of mental illness, emotional disorders, and behavioral problems. They may more often choose to prescribe medication in the treatment of difficulties. Their fees are covered by the Medical Services Plan, but there can be long waiting lists to be seen on referral. (From the British Columbia Psychological Association.)

How is Counselling paid for?

Although counselling fees are not covered under the BC Medical Services Plan, a Registered Clinical Counsellor can be an approved provider for many extended health plans (e.g. Pacific Blue Cross, Great West Life), Employee Assistance Programs, the Crime Victim Assistance Program and other health benefits programs.

Pro bono services are offered on a limited basis. If finances are a barrier, please ask about these options.

How long does Counselling take?

There is no fixed amount of time that is guaranteed to resolve particular problems. Counselling is very much focused on you and you decide for yourself what your goals are and when you are ready to finish counselling. Some people choose to finish, take a break, or return to counselling at another time. It is entirely your decision.