Many clients would like to know about the educational and professional background of Clinical Counsellors. Given the broad range of mental health services and service providers, it is not surprising that there may be some confusion and that a lot of people are unsure which standards apply to certain mental health professionals.
Clinical Counsellors are mental health service providers who met specific educational criteria and practice in compliance with rigorous professional and ethical standards. Their work is closely monitored and regulated by professional organizations and other regulatory authorities. It may be difficult to address every aspect of training and daily work, but there are certain and practice elements that apply in most, if not, all cases:
1. Clinical Counsellors have to complete a Masters's or a Ph.D. Program in the field of psychology, counselling or social work from an accredited post-secondary institution. UBC, SFU, University of Victoria, Adler University and other BC schools with well-established departments of clinical psychology offer some of the most comprehensive graduate programs in counselling psychology.
2. A Clinical Counsellor is a member in good standing of a provincial / Canadian professional association. For example, in BC, most clinical counsellors are registered with the BCACC (https://bc-counsellors.org) and identify themselves as Registered Clinical Counsellors (RCCs). Alternatively, counsellors may register with CCPA (https://www.ccpa-accp.ca) as Canadian Clinical Counsellor (CCCs).
3. The services of a Clinical Counsellor are often covered by extended healthcare benefits providers (e.g. Blue Cross, Sunlife, Manulife etc). Check with your insurance company if you can submit invoices for counselling services offered by Registered Clinical Counsellors or Canadian Clinical Counsellors.
4. Clinical Counselors often have additional training in well-known treatment modalities, such as CBT, DBT, EFT, Gottman couples counselling, Family Systems therapy, Gestalt, IFS, etc. Most professional counsellors combine a few modalities in their practice to better serve their clients.
5. Clinical Counsellors undergo regular supervision and participate in continuous education programs on a regular basis. Learning is an ongoing process in the mental health field. It is crucial for any professional to meet with colleagues and gain new skills.
6. Clinical Counsellors know ethical standards and follow the ethical guidelines of their professional association. The purpose of ethical standards is to keep clients and practitioners safe and maintain the highest quality of service.
7. Clinical Counsellors leverage evidence-based methods and techniques. Modern professional counselling has a strong scientific foundation, aligned with the latest developments in medicine, biology, sociology and other relevant disciplines.
8. Professional counsellors offer their clients clear terms of services and provide informed consent forms prior to treatment. It is very important to know in advance what to expect and how the treatment process would look like.
9. Professional counsellors do not promise a "quick fix"; and do not provide direct advice on major life decisions. Counsellors' role is to encourage the client to carefully evaluate their own needs, dreams and values, and initiate the change towards the desired future. Counsellors can help clients in building better coping mechanisms and learning certain skills that will enable clients to achieve their goals.
10. Professional counsellors provide services relevant to their field of expertise and know the limits of their qualification. If a case is beyond their limits and requires a different level of education, experience or type of support, professional counsellors provide references and additional resources to their clients.