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What are counselling and psychotherapy?

Counselling is a process that focuses on the client’s concerns and difficulties. Counselling involves both the client and a trained professional, such as counsellor, psychologist. In this process, the counsellor or the psychologist and the client will work together to increase the client’s self-awareness, to find his/her internal strength & resource, so that he/she will make effective changes and improve his/her way of living.

Psychotherapy contains all the elements of counselling. The difference between them is that psychotherapy is more in depth. Psychotherapist focuses more on the client’s internal development and collaborates with the client to explore his/her preconscious and unconscious mind. As a result, the changes the client made are more profound and long lasting.

What are counsellor, psychologist, and psychiatrist?

In BC, counsellor is a trained professional who has obtained at least the Master’s degree in psychology from a recognized institution. Psychologist is a trained professional who has obtained the Doctor’s degree in psychology from a recognized institution. Counsellors and psychologists are trained to provide counselling and/or psychotherapy services. Normally, psychologists charge 50% higher than counsellors. Psychiatrist is a trained physician specialized in treating mental illness. Normally, the psychiatrist doesn’t provide counselling or psychotherapy services, but he/she can proscribe medications to the patients. The services provided by a psychiatrist are covered under MSP.

How can I know if I need medication?

If you are suffering from severe conditions such as severe depression or anxiety, you may benefit from medication. You can discuss it with your physician or psychiatrist.

Do counselling and psychotherapy work?

Research evidence about the effectiveness of counselling and psychotherapy overall is relatively unambiguous: counselling does work. For a wide range of types of psychological distress, both subjective client reports and more objective measurements indicate that counselling and psychotherapy are effective, both in the short term and over longer time periods.

What factors should I consider when I look for a counsellor?

Research shows that counsellor’s individual differences affect the effectiveness of the therapy. When you look for a counsellor, you need to consider the following:

  • The counsellor’s qualification, such as if he/she is a Registered Clinical Counsellor (RCC), or Canadian Certified Counsellor (CCC), or Registered Social Worker (RSW), or Registered Marriage and Family Therapist (RMFT), etc. If the person is not well trained, he/she may do harm to you. That means that your condition may get worse as the result of the therapy.
  • The counsellor’s professional integrity. That means the counsellor won’t exaggerate the effect of the therapy for the purpose only to keep you.
  • You like the counsellor and want to work with him/her.
  • The counsellor’s therapeutic orientation and his/her ability to adjust his/her approach to suit your needs.

Who will know that I am in therapy?

Nobody knows unless you volunteer your information to others. The content of the therapy and your personal information are kept strictly confidential.

Do only “crazy” people need counselling and/or psychotherapy?

As human beings, we all face difficulties in life from time to time, such as job loss, sudden death in the family, relationship problems, family issues, career choices, and so on. If you feel too stressful or these difficulties start to interfere with your life, seeking professional help from a trained counsellor or psychologist would be beneficial.

Do only “weak” people need counselling and/or psychotherapy?

Quite the contrary, the counselling and psychotherapy process requires the client to actively self-reflect and self-examine and make necessary and new changes. It takes courage and intelligence. Having worked with hundreds of clients, I am constantly amazed at how smart and courageous they are.

Who can benefit from counselling and psychotherapy?

  • Anybody who is or has been experiencing some difficulties(including emotional), or abuse, and commit to make changes and actively involved in the counselling process can benefit from it. If you have the following concerns, I encourage you to seek some professional help.
  • Feel depressed, sad, low, hopeless, helpless, and don’t understand why or what to change the way you feel
  • Feel anxious or fearful
  • Have no purpose or direction in your life and feel lost
  • Have suicidal thoughts or want to harm yourself
  • Going through a personal or professional transition, such as career change, moving to a new area or country, etc.
  • Feel stressful due to work, school, family or financial problems and your daily life has become a burden to you
  • Is or has been a victim of abuse, whether physical, emotional, or mental
  • Have difficulties in controlling yourself, and say or do things you regret later
  • Have lost someone close to you such as your partner, family members, or a good friend, and feel you cannot go on with your life
  • Argue with your partner and almost never result in an efficient compromise
  • In the process of ending a relationship or divorcing

How can I best benefit from counselling and psychotherapy?

If you use the following guideline to actively involve in the counseling process, I believe you will get the best result out of the therapy.

  • Arrive on time and make effort to attend each scheduled session
  • Work with your counsellor collaboratively and establish goals in each session
  • Give thoughts to what you would like to discuss during each session
  • Be willing to explore new possibilities within or outside the sessions
  • Complete the assigned homework
  • Discuss with your counsellor if the counselling and/or psychotherapy is not helpful to you


What will I expect in the counselling process?

When we make the initial contact on the phone, you can tell me your concerns and I will discuss with you to decide if I can help you. If I believe that I can help you and you agree to see me, then we will make an appointment.

In your first appointment, I will make an assessment based on the information you give to me. In general, if you are in crisis or feeling suicidal, I will focus on insisting you to handle your crisis or make interventions to help you to battle your suicidal thoughts. If you are not in crisis, I normally will work with you to come up some therapy goals so that we can work together to achieve them. I will also ask you about your background and your family background so that I can best understand you. 

In the following sessions, I will make different interventions and use different counselling approaches to help you to achieve your therapy goals. When I believe that you have achieved your therapy goals, I will suggest terminating the therapy or we can work on your new goals if you have other goals.

Can I decide to terminate the therapy?

Absolutely, you can quit the therapy at any time. If you decide to quit, I encourage you to discuss with me the reason why you want to quit so that I can assist you to get what you want such as refer you to another counsellor or to other professionals.

According to my experience, some clients tend to quit therapy when they just start to get better. Actually, this is not the best time to stop therapy. If you keep going and achieve your therapy goals, you will find out you are in a much better place.

How many sessions should I attend?

It depends. If your situation is not serious and you make active effort to explore new possibilities, your therapy will be quite brief. It might only take a few sessions, and then you are done! If your situation is serious and you have been living in this situation for a long time, it will take longer time. In general, the average therapy sessions number is 8 - 20 sessions.