Finding a Therapist

Finding a therapist is easy. Finding a good therapist who can help you with what you need is more difficult.

The most common way people find a therapist is through the recommendations of friends, a physician, or family members. If someone you know has had a good experience with someone, it would be worthwhile for you to check that person out. However, it does not follow that because someone you know had a good experience with a therapist you will too. That therapist may not have experience with and knowledge about what you are going through. They may not do the kind of therapy that is going to be most suited for you. You may feel more comfortable with a male or with a female therapist.

The single most important aspect of finding a therapist with whom you can work is finding one with whom you feel comfortable. The quality of the relationship you build with a therapist is one of the greatest predictors of success in therapy. This means you need to meet the person and have an appointment with them. Then ask yourself: how did I feel with that person? Did I feel they understood what I was saying? Did I feel like I can trust them? Did they seem to have a knowledge of the problem that I was talking about? If you can answer yes to these questions, then probably that person is right for you.

My Work

If you come to see me and we have not met, I will give you an initial appointment for a reduced rate, or a half hour session for free. That will give you a sense of who I am, and more important, how we would work together.

There are also practical indicators that you might want to look at when choosing a therapist. These include:

  1. Their training and certification.
  2. How much experience, and what kind, do they have.
  3. Whether they have had complaints registered against them (and if they have, how have they been resolved? Complaints can be malicious and spurious as well as well founded).
  4. The kinds of therapy they do.
  5. What kind of payment schemes they have? Are they covered by insurance or Employee Assistance Programmes, do they have sliding scale fees (fees that are based on someone’s ability to pay).

My personal belief, and this is backed up by research is that the above questions are not as important as the relationship question. It does not matter what tricks or training someone has, if you do not like or trust someone, then that person is probably not for you.

If you have met a therapist, and felt uncomfortable, it can be important for you to stop and think about what it is that made you feel that way. If they asked you questions that hit “too close to home,” or they asked you questions you didn’t want to think about, what you may be reacting to is the issues in you, and not the person who asked you. Only you can decide that. A good therapist will ask you questions that help you look inside yourself, and sometimes you might not like what you see at first. That is part of why you go for therapy. If someone were to simply tell you what you already know, or want to hear, that person is not going to be of help to you. It takes some honesty from yourself about yourself.

At the same time, therapy is often about helping someone feel better about themselves or more confident. Although you may hear something about yourself, or discover something about yourself that you do not like, that is part of what you will work on—changing and feeling better about yourself. Acceptance of the self, with all of the imperfections that you may feel, and knowing that it is all right to be you, is one of the major goals of therapy. Everyone has things they don’t like about themselves, or that they fear is inside them. Usually their fears are worse than the reality. You know this about others—but maybe not about yourself. It is hard to be your own mirror and confessor.

Types of Therapists and Training

There are many different paths to becoming a therapist, and many different certifications that people can obtain. In fact, in British Columbia, you don’t need any training to call yourself a counselor or therapist and “hang out your shingle.”

The various paths can be divided into two basic paths that people follow to become therapists: either university/college or "other” training. University graduates for the most part have doctorates or masters degrees. They are usually trained in a broad spectrum of techniques and theories.

“Other” training would be from institutes or training schools. They generally focus on one type or orientation to therapy, or one type of technique of helping. These trainings can last from a few months, to a few years. If someone says they have training from a certain school or institute, ask them about the training—how many hours, spread out over how much time, and what is the certification credentials and process?

After people have been working as a therapist for several years, their experience becomes more important in some ways than their training. They should have been continually updating their skills and knowledge, reading journals, and consulting with peers and colleagues. Although they have different backgrounds, they may work in the same manner, using the same techniques and orientation .

Registered Social Workers

In B.C. a Registered Social Worker must have a Bachelor's Degree in Social Work (BSW). This means four years of university training. MSW credential requires at least 5 years of university training. A registereed  Social Worker must have a minimum of 700 hours of social work experience which meets standards approved by the board (, and must be registered with the College of Social Workers of B.C.. You can work for many years as a Social Worker and not register. Often people register only when they go into private practice(as opposed to working in hospitals or clinics).

My Work

I am a registered Social Worker. I registered in 1996, although I have been working and counselling since I received my Masters Degree in Social Work in 1980 after seven years of university and post graduate level courses. I have taken courses and seminars continually over the years since I graduated. They have kept me current in different areas, expanded my knowledge base, and given me new skills of assessment and treatment.

Registered Clinical Counselors

Registered Clinical Counsellors will hold a relevant Masters’ Degree (counselling, clinical or educational psychology, pastoral counselling, marital and family counselling, clinical social work, psychiatric nursing, and applied behavioral sciences). They are registered with the Clinical Counselors Association.

Registered Psychologists

A Registered Psychologist usually has a doctorate in psychology which would mean seven or more years of university. They are registered with the College of Psychologists of British Columbia.


A psychiatrist is a medical doctor who has specialized in psychiatry. They are the only clinical resource at this point who are allowed to prescribe medication such as antidepressants. They are also the only ones covered by the B.C. Medical Services Plan (MSP). Because of that, their wait lists can be long, and they use a psychopharmacological approach (using medications) more often than actually doing counselling on a week to week basis. You need a doctor’s referral to see a psychiatrist. If your doctor does refer you to a psychiatrist, find out why, as opposed to another type of therapist.


There is a wide variety of institutes and training through which people become therapists. These include Gestalt Institute, Integrative Body Psychotherapy, Alexander Technique, Hypnotherapy, and so on. Some are more reliable and reputable than others. Some of the graduates are excellent professional therapists, and some are not.

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Tel: 604-874-7764
Fax: 604-874-7725

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