How to Become a Counselor in Canada

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Counseling is one of the most promising professions in Canada and many nations worldwide. With the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, the demand for counselors has risen in recent times.

Starting a Counseling Career in Canada

The ideal concept of having a career as a counselor is to get the right and the most updated version of the information that can help you find employment as a practicing counselor. You could choose a counseling career with a specialization in relationships, mental health, rehabilitation or behavioral health, amongst others. This occupation is an ideal one for those who find joy in solving people’s mental health issues.

What Does a Counselor Do?

Counseling is the process of talking about and working through your mental health problems with a mental health professional, such as a counselor or therapist.  Counseling, as the word denotes, is done by a trained counsellor who is an objective mental health professional. You must develop a healthy and trustworthy relationship with your counselor so as to help them effectively diagnose your mental health issues. A counsellor may choose a variety of counseling methodologies to approach your mental health problem, with talk therapy being the most popular approach.

How Much Do Counselors Make in Canada?

You might be wondering whether counselors make good money. The average salary for counselor in Canada is around $70,000 per year. Entry level counselors can be expected to make around $40,000 annually, while experienced counselors can make up to $90,000 per year.

Characteristics of a Good Mental Health Counselor

As a counselor, you’ll come across individuals with a wide array of difficult problems. All of these people hold different behavioral patterns and mannerisms. As a counselor, you should be able to successfully diagnose their issues. Some of these patients could be suffering from depression, stress, insomnia, or OCD. Here are the characteristics of good mental health counselor:

Communication Skills

As a professional counselor, you’ll be confronting people from all walks of life with different mentalities. Some may begin talking to you right away, while others would take time to open up about the problems they face. Your communication strategy with each patient would be customized, with the objective of making the patient comfortable enough so they can explain what is really bothering them and how it is affecting their everyday life. This also requires you to be a good listener and keen observer, as your aim should be to understand the mental health issues from the patient’s point of view.

Problem-Solving Skills

As a counselor, you have to be a problem solver. Therefore, as you talk with the patient, your objective should be to sort out their issues they are facing rather than complicate the situation. It would be best if you were able to help your patients in the most straightforward way possible. In addition to this, you should have expertise in diagnosing mental health issues and disorders.

Empathy

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One crucial aspect of being a counselor is to be empathetic. This means that you should not be stoic or cold towards the patient. Instead, you should be understanding and compassionate. The best way to be empathetic is to place yourself in the shoes of your patients and devise the right solution to their problems.

Flexibility

Another characteristic of being an effective counselor is to be accommodating and flexible. It is a career in which you might be presented with additional responsibilities in order to help the patient deal with their mental health problems. You might have to make impromptu changes to your daily schedule. Patients may cancel, reschedule or even cancel their mental health counseling session. In such cases, you should have patience and make the patient feel at ease at all times.

Multi-Cultural Sensitivity

Mental health counselors should also be culturally-sensitive, and have good knowledge about different cultures and the community they operate in. For example, a counseling psychologist offering counseling services in Canada will have a different mentality and approach to interacting with the local population as compared to a clinical psychologist in India. You must also not be biased towards a particular race or ethnicity.

Self-Awareness

Good counselors are self-aware and have up-to-date knowledge about their specialty, i.e. relationships, stress, anxiety, bipolar disorder, OCD, etc. This involves taking part in conferences and seminars regularly, being well-read and staying up-to-date with the latest trends in the field of mental health.

Step-By-Step: How to Become a Mental Health Counselor

If you’re looking to become a mental health counselor and choose counseling as a career option, here’s the career path you should follow:

Obtain a Bachelor’s Degree

It would be advantageous to select clinical psychology as a major during grade 12, however you could theoretically be coming from any stream to choose a counseling career. Choose psychology during your undergraduate years in college/university. This could be a B.A. or a B.Sc in Psychology, which is a 3 year course. In addition to this, you should also get hands-on training by being a part of an internship program.

Obtain a Master’s Degree

After completing your bachelor’s degree, you should pursue a master’s degree. This could be M.A. or M.Sc. in Counseling, Psychology or Applied Psychology. This postgraduate course is for 2 years, and you’ll learn about counseling theory and techniques along with choosing an area of specialization. After your master’s degree, you could optionally pursue a one-year diploma course in guidance or counseling.

Obtain a CCPA certification

CCPA is the popular acronym for Canadian Counseling and Psychotherapy Association. This is a national certification program for professional counselors to begin clinical practice. This program certifies a counselor to legally provide counseling services in Canada. This certificate should be posted at your clinic or workplace, where your clients can observe the accreditation.

Obtain State Licensing

You can obtain state licensing by,

  • Choosing a counseling specialization
  • Have a relevant degree and internship experience
  • Take the GRE and apply for graduate programs in Canada
  • Opt for an appropriate licensing certification program
  • Complete a specified amount of counseling practice hours
  • Submit an application for a state license

Finally, you should maintain the license by complying with state and local laws.

Should I Become a Counselor or Therapist in Canada?

Both counselors and psychotherapists are respected mental health experts. A psychotherapist assists patients in dealing with complex mental health issues, whereas counselors are trained to assist patients with specific mental health issues faced in everyday life.

Counseling Job Options in Canada

There are various career options for counselors. Some of the most prominent counseling jobs are:

Mental Health Counselors

A mental health counselor primarily helps patients deal with mental health issues and disorders such as anxiety, depression, stress, substance abuse, trauma, grief, low self-esteem, suicidal tendencies, and many more.

Relationship Counselors

Relationship counselors helps patients with mending or strengthening relationships in their life. This could be friendships, marriages, divorce, family issues, or the struggles associated with coping with loss of a loved one. Relationship counselors help find the root cause of the problem and develop an effective plan for maintaining a healthy relationship.

School Guidance Counselors

A school guidance counselor or career counselor is an in-house counselor who help students deal with their academic and social life. They help and guide students so they can shape their future and career in the best way possible. They also help students manage stress or anxiety associated with school or college life.

Rehabilitation Counselors

A rehabilitation counselor helps clients or patients on various aspects such as personal, vocational or social disabilities. They also help patients with physical and emotional disabilities such as mental illness, addiction, congenital disabilities, accidents and other problems. They help rehabilitate and improve a patient’s quality of life.

Behavioral Counselors

A behavioral counselor helps patients with behavior-related issues and behavior disorders such as substance abuse, mental health problems, and other issues. They implement solutions to change the negative behavior into positive behavior, thereby bringing about a positive change in the patient’s life.

Clinical Psychologists

A psychologist helps patients understand and deal with their thoughts and emotions. They primarily deal with mental health issues and are also certified to prescribe medication as part of their treatment program to help the patient recover from any ailing mental health disorder.

Are Counselors in Demand in Canada?

Many surveys and studies have shown a rising trend for people choosing counseling as a career. The rise in demand for clinical counselors is partly because of the decrease in personal support for the average person, an increased need for personal development, and rising levels of stress, anxiety & depression caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Not only does this make mental health counseling a demanding profession, but an equally challenging one as well. Therefore, it is essential to be well-trained in order to give patients the help they need and set them on a path to better mental health and well-being.

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