Q. When should I consider getting help from a trained professional?
A. Nobody is an expert at handling all of life’s challenges and difficulties. Sometimes it just seems that no matter what you try on your own, it just isn’t enough. Consider getting help from a trained professional if any one or more of the following circumstances apply to you:
- You are finding it difficult to carry out everyday activities: for example, you are unable to concentrate on assignments at work, and your job performance is suffering as a result.
- You are concerned about the impact that your feelings have on your physical health.
- Your problems don’t seem to get better despite your efforts and help from family and friends.
- You feel an overwhelming and prolonged sense of sadness and helpless and/or you lack hope.
- Your actions are harmful to yourself or to others (e.g. you drink too much alcohol and become overly aggressive).
- You worry excessively, expect the worst, or are constantly on edge.
Q. How do I find a qualified counsellor?
A. Choosing a counsellor is a highly personal matter. Consider the following when you make your choice:
- Is the counsellor licensed by the province or territory in which he or she practices?
- Has this counsellor helped clients in the past with problems that are similar to your own?
- Do you have a preference for age, gender, ethnicity, religious identification, cultural tradition, etc.?
Once you meet with your counsellor, you should give some thought to the following:
- Does this counsellor understand me?
- Does the treatment plan make sense to me?
- Do I believe that this counsellor can help me?
Q. How do I get the most from my counselling?
A. You will get the most from your counselling if you do the following:
- Communicate openly with your counsellor about the reasons you want help.
- Clearly define your goals at the outset of therapy, in consultation with your counsellor.
- Put effort towards maintaining a good working relationship with your counsellor. For example, keep your appointments, give forethought to what you want to discuss before each session, and do your between-session assignments.
Above all, you should feel comfortable with your counsellor, have a sense of rapport or bonding with them, and believe that they have your best interests in mind. Therapy is a collaborative effort. If you don’t think it’s going well, or you are uncomfortable about any aspect of your therapy, including your counsellor’s behaviour, voice your concerns. You might be able to resolve the issues or you might need to consider working with someone else.
Q. How do I know if my counselling is working?
A. Most people experience a positive response to counselling when it first begins. But if you feel that you are not making noticeable progress after several sessions, you should discuss this with your counsellor. In similar fashion, your counsellor should initiate this conversation with you if they feel that progress is not being attained.
Q. What are the kinds of trained professionals that can provide counselling and/or coaching?
A. There are many types of professionals who provide counselling and/or coaching. They differ in terms of the kinds of problems they counsel and their training background. In addition, counselling practices are regulated in Canada meaning that the requirements and licensure to practice are set by provincial and territorial associations.
- Acoachhelps you attain specific and practical goals or skills.
- Acounselling psychologist, social worker who provides counselling, or clinical counsellorhelps you address specific, emotionally charged issues in your life (e.g. job problems, marriage problems, bereavement issues, anxiety, depression). The more severe issues, such as anxiety, depression, or other mental health issues that meet criteria as a diagnosable mental illness, tend to be treated by licensed psychologists with a specialty in clinical psychology.
- Psychiatristsare medical doctors. They have completed medical school and then taken specialized training in psychiatry. They are qualified to diagnose and treat mental illness, and can prescribe medications for mental illness.
- Other types of counsellors include: Employee Assistance Professionals, Occupational Health nurses, and some healthcare practitioners (e.g. your family doctor).
Q. What should I consider when choosing a therapist?
A. To help choose the right therapist for you, consider asking potential therapists the following:
- Do you have a current license to practice counselling or psychology? What is your educational and professional background?
- What experience do you have with helping people who have concerns like mine?
- How will you know which counselling approach is best for me?
- How will you know if the counselling is working? How will I know?
- What are your fees? Confirm any employer-sponsored benefit entitlement that applies to your situation.
- When are you available for appointments?
- What happens if I need to talk outside of your regular office hours?
- What is your cancellation policy?
- What is your policy on confidentiality and privacy of the information we discuss?
Q. Is one kind of therapy better than another?
A. There are many different kinds of therapy approaches. You might hear terms like “interpersonal”, “cognitive-behavioural”, or “humanistic.” Generally speaking, these terms simply refer to different emphasis put on different aspects of the human experience. In other words, some therapies emphasize your thinking, some emphasize the interactions between people in relationships (e.g. couples, families), and some focus strictly on changing behaviour.
While some therapies may be better for certain kinds of problems than others, for the most part, the differences in effectiveness among therapies is small, if not negligible. This is assumes that the treatment is intended to be therapeutic, is delivered by a well-trained therapist, has a solid rationale, and that there specific actions intended to lead to helpful changes.
One thing that holds true for all effective therapies, regardless of their type, is that therapeutic progress depends on there being good rapport between therapist and client, and a sense of working together towards common goals. A good therapist is going to have an ability to understand you and communicate well with you, and they will be willing to address any issues that might impede your progress including issues that might have to do with themselves and their working relationship with you.
Q. Is there a place for prescription drugs alongside counselling?
A. Medication is sometimes necessary for a person who is in crisis (e.g. severely depressed, unable to function at work or at home, having disturbing and intrusive thoughts that they can’t effectively control). In these cases, medication can help the person get to the point where they can participate in counselling. Usually these medications are only prescribed for a short period of time unless the person is experiencing a chronic or long-standing mental health issue.
If you are able to function fairly well in your day-to-day responsibilities, medication is probably not necessary. Medications don’t help you develop the strategies necessary for dealing with life’s problems whereas counselling teaches new strategies and problem-solving skills.
For more information about counselling and therapy, the following resources may be helpful.
- Canadian Professional Counsellors Association. https://www.cpca-rpc.ca
- Canadian Mental Health Association. www.cmha.ca
- Canadian Counseling and Psychotherapy Association. https://www.ccpa-accp.ca
- The Federation of Associations for Counselling Therapists in B C. https://www.factbc.org
- Counselling Psychology. American Psychological Association. https://www.apa.org/ed/graduate/specialize/counseling.aspx
- Psychology Help Centre. American Psychological Association. https://www.apa.org/helpcenter/
- Who needs counselling? PsychCentral. https://psychcentral.com/lib/who-needs-counseling-10-therapy-myths-dispelled/
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