Choosing a Counsellor
Grief is a universal response to loss. It is
the process that allows us to say goodbye to
what was, and get ready for that which is yet
to come. It involves experiencing normal yet
complex emotions and affects the body, mind
BFO-Toronto is an organization where bereaved
people come together to provide peer support
to other bereaved people. We value the partnership
and support of professionals in our work, as
we continue to believe in the effectiveness
of the self-help/mutual support model. Self-help/mutual
support is a process of sharing common experiences,
situations or problems. Self-help is participatory
in nature and involves getting help, giving
help and learning to help yourself as well as
sharing knowledge and experience. Self-help
initiatives are run by and for the participants
and the primary focus of self-help is emotional
support, practical support and informational
In addition to or instead of accessing peer
support, people who have experienced a significant
loss in their life may benefit from seeking
assistance and support from a mental health
professional. Choosing a counsellor you feel
comfortable with is important and an investment
in your overall health. We hope this guide will
give you some helpful ideas and options to consider
when looking for a counsellor.
Finding a Counsellor
The first step is to decide on who you want.
There are two important factors in selecting
a counsellor. The first is that the counsellor
must be skilled and ethical. The second is that
the counsellor is a good fit, someone you feel
comfortable with, can learn to trust and confide
in. Counselling is a generic term. Psychiatrists,
psychologists, social workers, psychotherapists,
counsellors and some physicians use the term
counselling to describe their work.
Some of the things to consider are: what health
insurance coverage do you have? What is covered
and for how long? What percentage of the fee
is covered? Who will you feel most comfortable
with? Is it important to have a counsellor of
the same sex, sexual orientation, racial or
cultural background and/or one who understands
how these factors may affect your grief?
Psychiatrists are medical doctors
with specialized training in counselling. A
referral is usually needed. GP psychotherapists
are medical doctors trained in counselling.
Only medical doctors can prescribe medication.
Fees are covered through the Ontario Health
Insurance Plan (OHIP).
Psychologists are trained counsellors.
They are not medical doctors. Social Workers
and Counsellors with a Masters Degree in Counselling
Psychology are also trained counsellors. Their
fees are generally not covered by OHIP. Private
Insurance plans may cover all or part of their
fees - consult with your insurance provider
about who may or may not be covered.
Other therapists or counsellors may
have specialized post graduate university training
or have received training and certification
from a private training centre specializing
in a particular method of counselling. Their
fees are not normally covered.
Pastoral counsellors have a divinity
degree and may have a counselling degree or
supervised training. Fees may be charged.
When you have made some decisions, it's time
to find some names. Check the names on this
list. Check with your employer to see if the
Employee Assistance Program can provide someone,
contact Community Information Toronto (211)
or www.211.ca, look in the Blue Book or speak
to your doctor.
Once you have the names of a few counsellors
call them for an interview. Most should be able
to answer these questions free of charge.
Interviewing the Counsellor
During the interview ask the counsellor to explain
in plain language the kind of counselling service
that is practiced. There are a variety of approaches
to counselling. Some will give you clear direction
on problems or concerns. Others will work in
partnership with you. It is important that you
understand how they will work with you as a
bereaved person. While it may be awkward to
question a person in a helping profession, it
is important to ask a number of questions. Here
are some of the questions you might ask.
· What background and experience do
you have? What is your specialty?
· What training and/or experience do
you have in grief and bereavement?
· What kind of counselling do you propose
· How are factors such as sex, sexual
orientation, race and culture considered in
· How will you work with me? How long
will counselling last?
· What will it cost? Will it be covered
by OHIP or private insurance? Is there a sliding
· How much notice do you need for a cancellation?
Is there a charge for missed appointments?
· What hours are available? What happens
when you are not available i.e. vacation?
· How do you evaluate your work? What
supervision do you have (individual/group)?
Trust your instincts and choose someone you
can speak freely to. Choose someone who makes
you feel valued and supported.
Your Relationship with Your Counsellor
Your relationship with your counsellor is professional.
You bring the problem you have to therapy; the
counsellor provides the expertise to help you.
The fit with your counsellor is important. The
relationship with your counsellor should be
caring. In order to help you, your counsellor
needs to be objective. Do not work with someone
if you feel the process isn't working for you.
Contact the counsellor's professional association
or regulatory body if you have a complaint.
Professional Governing Body/Association
Psychiatrist/medical doctor: College
of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario
Psychologist: Ontario Psychological
Association 1-800-268-0069, (416) 961-0069,
Social Workers: Ontario Association
of Social Workers (OASW), (416) 923-4848, www.oasw.org.
to search for individual social workers across
Ontario College of Social Workers and
Social Service Workers (416) 972-9330, www.ocswssw.org
Association of Consultants, Counsellors, Psychometrists
and Psychotherapists 416-298-7333, www.oaccpp.on.ca
Psychotherapists: Ontario Society of
Note: BFO-Toronto does not endorse any
particular method of counselling or individual.
Information from a number of Toronto organizations,
including The AIDS Committee of Toronto, New
Directions and the 519 Community Counselling
Program, was used in compiling this guide. We
acknowledge and thank them.