Bonnie Hall, M. Couns.Registered Clinical Counsellor
A designation of BC Association
of Clinical Counsellors
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a Registered Clinical Counsellor (RCC)?
What is a clinical counsellor, psychotherapist, psychologist, and psychiatrist?
Psychiatrists are medical doctors who can prescribe psychotropic medications. Psychologists have doctorate degrees and may conduct psychological assessments, often using standardized tests and measures. Psychologists are able to diagnose, but they cannot prescribe medications. Master’s level registered clinical counsellors provide counselling services, including psychotherapy, as psychologists do; however, counsellors are not able to diagnose or prescribe medications.
The terms “psychotherapist” and “clinical counsellor” are often used interchangeably in the counselling field. Although technically these terms have different meanings, in practice, psychotherapy and counselling usually refer to the same process. A counsellor/psychotherapist is able to help people understand, cope with, and resolve troublesome emotions, thoughts, and behaviours through a variety of modalities. The promotion of personal growth and development is another important objective of counselling, enabling people to enjoy greater satisfaction in their lives.
Is counselling right for me?
Some people who have never had counselling wonder what counselling can do for them. People come to counselling for a variety of reasons. Many hope to resolve problems they are having in their life circumstances or relationships. Others want to heal from a trauma or overcome troublesome behavioural patterns. Some need support and guidance to help them cope with a difficult transition such as loss or a change in family structure. Still others desire to gain clarity in decision-making, or to find greater life satisfaction.
Some people feel frustrated or ashamed that they are still stuck with the “same old problems” even after a very long time. Others feel surprised and overwhelmed by an unexpected turn of events. In either case, many may find it difficult to take this first step of finding a counsellor. Rest assured that it is normal to feel this way, and know that seeking help when you realize you need it is a sign of resilience, is evidence of self-awareness and good coping skills, and shows you are willing to accept responsibility to change. People asking for help are not “weak” or “pathological;” they are normal people who are struggling with life circumstances, or who want to enhance their lives with the hopes of finding more meaning and fulfillment.
Most people seeking counselling believe they have exhausted their resources: Self-help books, past coping techniques, and friends or family are no longer helpful. A counsellor provides an objective stance, a fresh perspective, and a confidential, safe space in which you will be deeply heard and supported, enabling you to explore issues that may cause you emotional pain. Working with a therapist can help you gain insight and learn new strategies for dealing with life’s challenges.
What are the risks and benefits of counselling?
Most people who are willing to engage in an exploration of their troubles enjoy great benefits from counselling, including a greater understanding about self and others, new ways of coping with problems, improved relationships, and substantial alleviation of distress in life. That being said, there are no guarantees as to what your unique experience will be. Success in counselling depends in large part upon your active participation in the process. This involves open and honest communication in sessions as well as a willingness to employ new behaviours between sessions.
What should I expect in my counselling sessions?
I will also ask you to read and sign a consent form that outlines your rights, the limits of confidentiality, risks and benefits of counselling, and payment policy. I will give you an opportunity to ask any questions you have about these matters.
Psychotherapy sessions are commonly scheduled weekly initially, until clients feel they have made enough progress to space sessions further apart. Whether you attend counselling sessions on a short-term or a long-term basis, maintaining gains you made in therapy is an important phase of the counselling process. Many clients may attend sessions monthly or less frequently for this purpose.
There may be times when I will suggest that you engage in certain activities between sessions, such as reading or trying a new behaviour. Sometimes clients have the mistaken notion that therapists can “fix” them in one or two sessions. While our culture is replete with “experts” who promise easy solutions to life’s challenges, therapy is not a simple remedy that will remove your problems. Engaging in psychotherapy is an active and collaborative process, and success is highly dependent on your readiness and willingness to take responsibility by participating both in and between sessions.
How many sessions will I need?
Is therapy confidential?
- If there is evidence of child abuse or dependant adult or elder abuse, I am required to report this to the appropriate authorities;
- If a client threatens to seriously harm another person, I have a duty to warn the police;
- If I have good reason to believe that you are in imminent danger or harming yourself, I will make every effort to help ensure your safety. However, it may be necessary for me to take additional measures, such as contacting the police, a member of your family, or the crisis center;
- If a court orders me to make your records available, I may be required to disclose the contents of your file to the court. If this happens, I will contact you in order to first discuss and seek alternatives.