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Learn more about therapy

If you’re thinking about starting therapy, you’re not alone. This guide is designed to help you get started.

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Frequently asked therapy questions

What are the different designations of therapists and counsellors?

Psychiatrists, psychologists and social workers are the three primary types of therapists in the province of British Columbia regulated by law. Regulated counsellors and therapists have education and training requirements, and they are certified and overseen by regulatory bodies called colleges.

Psychotherapists, counsellors or counselling therapists are not overseen by law in British Columbia—regulations are coming soon in BC for the title of Counselling Therapist. In the meantime, credible counselling therapists will belong to self-governed professional associations.

In fact, regulations for the title of psychotherapist or counselling therapist vary province-to-province so it’s always important to ensure you’re receiving counselling from a credible practitioner in your region. You could also receive psychotherapy or counselling therapy from a psychologist or social worker.

Counselling Therapists

When looking for counsellors in Vancouver, look for certified practitioners with credentials such as Registered Clinical Counsellor (RCC) or Certified Clinical Counsellor (CCC). There are other trusted credentials in British Columbia for counselling therapists—take some time to review them and their requirements if you come across other certifications. First Session carefully vets all therapists and counsellors to ensure they meet requirements in their region and are certified by the correct legal or credible self-governing bodies.

Social Workers

It’s a common misconception that social workers only work in hospital or community service settings. However, Registered Social Workers are counsellors and can provide counselling therapy—meaning you can book counselling directly with social workers in Vancouver, including on First Session. Registered Social Workers (RSW) have a bachelor’s degree or master’s degree (MSW). Registered Clinical Social Workers (RCSW) have at least a master’s degree as well as additional training and certification that allows them to diagnose mental health disorders using the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-5). You’ll find Registered Social Workers in Vancouver listed on First Session.

Psychologists

Educated at a PhD level, psychologists can also diagnose mental illnesses and disorders, but they cannot prescribe medication. Those with the title of “psychology associate” will have a master’s degree. Psychologists in Vancouver sometimes continue to work in academia and research, or they might work directly with clients for counselling therapy. They will approach counselling with their academic and scientific viewpoint on human behaviour and cognition (how our brains work).

Psychiatrists

Psychiatrists hold a medical degree, they can diagnose medical disorders and prescribe medication. They are most typically seen via doctor’s referral.

You can book counselling appointments on First Session with social workers, psychologists and certified counselling therapists in Vancouver.

What are therapy or counselling insurance coverage and payment options?

“How much does therapy or counselling cost?” is often one of the first questions that come to people’s minds when they’re thinking about counselling.

In general, counselling can run anywhere from $50 to $300+ per session, and sessions are usually an hour. The counsellor’s title, level of education and years of experience will impact their session fees. For example, new counselling therapists may charge around $50 per session, but a psychologist who holds a PhD and has 10 years of experience may charge closer to the $200 to $350 range. Some counsellors offer a reduced rate in certain cases. 

If you’re in BC, there are unfortunately not a lot of options for counselling covered by provincial healthcare plans (MSP). Generally, visits to the family doctor or psychiatrist for medication (via doctor referral) or accessing mental health services after entering a clinic or hospital setting will be covered by MSP. The provincial government does have a resources page available with a number of affordable and accessible mental health care options.

Your out-of-pocket costs can be significantly reduced if you have therapy and counselling coverage by workplace insurance benefits. Every workplace package and policy is different, so it’s best to check your benefits booklet or speak to the provider directly to fully understand your coverage and how to file claims. Usually a certain amount of each session is covered up to a maximum dollar amount, and you’ll pay up front and submit your receipt as a claim for reimbursement later.

If you’re seeking therapy or counselling and you do not have workplace benefits but need assistance, there are affordable and sliding scale counselling options offered by some (not all) counsellors. This may allow you to pay lower rates if you are facing financial hardship.

What types of appointments can you book with therapists and counsellors?

You can book virtual or in-person counselling by getting in touch directly with a counsellor’s office, or you can easily book counselling appointments through First Session

When you choose to book in-person counselling in Vancouver, you could see your counsellor in a variety of settings. Ask them about the space in which they practice. You could be going to their home office, to an office space shared with other counsellors, or a different kind of private office. Online counselling in Vancouver lets you meet with counsellors on your phone, computer, or tablet. For online meetings, your counsellor may have a specific digital platform they prefer, or you might connect with them on Google Meet, Zoom or another tool.

There are also 24/7 free counselling hotlines, such as HeretoHelp. Most likely, you’ll speak with a Registered Nurse (RN) and they’ll offer talk therapy over the phone or direct you to additional resources. These calls are completely confidential.

If you’re not totally sure a counsellor is right for you, consider doing a free counselling consultation in Vancouver. While not all counsellors offer these, it’s a good way to assess whether or not you’d like to work with a specific counsellor. Either way, First Session includes video interviews with all of our partner counsellors to help you get introduced to them before booking an appointment.

Who can book appointments with therapists and counsellors?

Anyone is able to book an appointment with a therapist or counsellor in BC. You can book appointments for yourself for individual therapy to chat one-on-one with a counsellor. If you’d like to seek counselling for you and your partner, or tackle issues with your whole family, you might search for couples therapy in Vancouver or family therapy in Vancouver

You can also browse counsellors on First Session in the following categories:

There are also quickly growing practices for historically underrepresented demographics. A counsellor will be trained for, or belong to, a particular community; they’re trained to understand challenges and obstacles particular to that group. With First Session, you can search using filters for terms such as LGBTQ2IA+ therapy in Vancouver or BIPOC therapy in Vancouver

What mental health problems can therapists and counsellors treat?

We know that many of those who visit First Session are looking for anxiety therapy in Vancouver or depression therapy in Vancouver. If you’re not sure where to start, try thinking about the other reasons you’re seeking counselling. For instance, you may be struggling with the loss of a loved one, so you’ll start by searching for grief therapy in Vancouver. Through the counselling process, it’s common to uncover new information about yourself to better target your needs along the way.

Some other popular specialization categories on First Session include: 

How can therapists and counsellors treat mental health issues?

Modality is the word for the techniques or methods a counsellor might use during your sessions. Most counsellors will draw from a few different core modalities. You should always feel free to ask them how they intend to approach your sessions and to explain these techniques to you. Two major modality categories are: cognitive (mind) and somatic (body).

Under the cognitive or talk therapy umbrella is CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) When you start CBT therapy in Vancouver, a counsellor will help you understand distorted thinking patterns and how those distortions inspire certain behaviours and emotions. CBT typically takes place over a set number of appointments and often involves journaling or “homework” between sessions.

Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) is an iteration of CBT and other psychotherapy techniques. DBT therapy in Vancouver is often ideal for those who engage in impulsive behaviour, have self-destructive habits or have a higher emotional response to life’s challenges. “Dialectical” in this case means two truths existing at once—I am having a hard time and I am working on this every day. People who benefit from DBT tend to need to move away from “all-or-nothing” thinking that can prompt intense emotional responses. DBT often involves group counselling.

Somatic therapy in Vancouver addresses the ways in which our bodies respond to stress. When we’re in danger, we go into a fight, flight or freeze response. When we’re stressed for long periods of time, we can become stuck in these modes and it can put a lot of (sometimes unconscious) duress on our minds and bodies. Once you start connecting the way your body reacts to your feelings and stressors, you can start to learn how to be more aware and move out of that “danger zone”. This will help calm the nervous system and your mind.

Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) falls under the somatic therapy umbrella, and is rooted heavily in neuroscience. EMDR therapy in Vancouver involves the counsellor helping their client or patient identify and recall specific traumatic memories while guiding their eyes through movements, such as with a pen or finger. Traumatic memories can cause unwanted symptoms such as anxiety or panic, and this could be totally unconscious to us. In theory, EMDR allows our brain to make new connections to a memory to reprogram, or process, that memory. EMDR was originally developed to treat PTSD.