Telephone and face-to-face counselling and psychotherapy. We do not mark a clear, hard and fast, distinction between counselling and psychotherapy.
An approach to counselling that is relational, non-directive, pays attention to the body, and may involve Experiential Focusing. We work with play and expressive activities when that suits our clients. We are 'Person-Centred Counsellors'.
We will always discuss any new therapeutic activities or changes of direction with you and seek your informed consent to them.
We do not give homework. We never claim to know you better than you know yourself.
Counselling changes lives. It promotes healing, personal growth, and change. Counselling 'works'.
Sometimes, that can involve realisations and recognitions that are initially unwelcome. Sometimes, a person 'in counselling' can feel worse than they did before they started. Counselling can affect relationships and career plans. Often, once change is underway, there is no road back to how things used to be.
Counselling is not something that is 'done to' a client. It is something the client must engage with. They are the one who does most of the 'doing'.
Counsellors do not have a magic wand and not everything can be mended. Some wounds leave scars even when we have worked hard to heal them.
'Informed consent' is an ongoing process not a piece of paper you sign.
When you settle in to counselling with an understanding of what that is all about, then you are consenting to begin counselling. In part, understanding comes through conversation with your counsellor. In part, it can be gained by reading about what the counsellor is offering, how they work, and what their 'policies' are.
Informed consent needs to be revisited as counselling develops. Consenting to begin counselling does not mean consenting to particular ways of working together that are introduced during the journey. A way to think of this is that informed consent is not just a process, it is an ongoing conversation.
How long will it take?
Whatever we wish, there is no simple or stock answer. We have seen remarkable shifts in a handful of sessions. We have known clients entirely satisfied with their achievement after a few weeks. We have also worked with some clients over several years.
Roughly speaking, the 'deeper' the experiences that are causing difficulty, and the earlier in life they started, the longer counselling may take. It can also make a difference how long we lived with those experiences before 'dealing with them'. But these aren't hard and fast rules.
Something else affecting time is the 'onion effect'. Suppose you seek counselling because something really unpleasant is happening at work. Dealing with it, you begin looking at your personal relationships and moving back through your life... You find there are layers. You have the 'right counsellor'. You keep working.
Of course, you might decide that the onion can stay just as it is for now. Sometimes people return to counselling after a considerable time.
How long are counselling sessions and how often do they take place?
That depends upon the client.
There is no good reason why a 'counselling hour' should be 50 minutes or even 60 minutes. We encourage each client to determine their session-lengths for themselves. If you need two hours, or a whole morning, we will seek to accommodate you. And if you only need 40 minutes, we will accommodate that.
Most people find weekly meetings work best, but some find it helpful to speak more frequently. Some find fortnightly works for them.
What about emergencies?
We are not an emergency service, and short notice appointments can sometimes be difficult. However, we do seek to meet the needs of our clients, and your counsellor will discuss their availability with you.
How much will it cost?
We negotiate an hourly rate with each client that takes account of their personal circumstances and the price of counselling in their area. We then charge for time actually spent together.
So—given 60 minutes in an hour—we divide the hourly rate by 60 to get the cost per minute. We then multiply that by the minutes spent together in a session. 50 minutes counselling only costs 50 minutes. 90 minutes counselling costs 90 minutes.
If a client's personal circumstances change, or if they find they need more time with their counsellor than initially expected, we are always prepared to revisit that hourly rate.
Counselling is how we earn our living, and we receive no charitable or other funding. Therefore, we are unable to offer free or low-cost counselling.
What about cancellations?
Please do give us as much notice as possible if you need to cancel. If cancellations are made with less than 24hrs notice, we may charge for an hour's time.
Clinical record keeping practices vary a lot. Some counsellors find that extensive clinical records help their work. Some counsellors find that such records actually get in the way. We keep minimal records unless clients have a good reason for wishing us to do otherwise. Do discuss this with your counsellor if it is something of concern to you.
All paper records are kept secure. All electronic records are encrypted.
Unless clients have good reason for us not to, we will keep our records securely for several years beyond the cessation of the counselling relationship. In the case of minors, we will keep the records for at least three years past their majority.
If you need a copy of your clinical record, or information pertaining to it, please discuss this with your counsellor.
Confidentiality is essential to counselling. What most of us need to talk about and work with is not anything we want generally shared. At Peraford, we view protecting our clients' confidentiality as a necessary and non-negotiable part of our work together.
However, there can be legal and ethical circumstances that require any counsellor to break confidentiality. For example, there is a legal duty to report when another adult (not the client) is at imminent risk of serious harm or risk and when a child is in need of protection. Counsellors are also required under the Child, Family and Community Service Act to report self-destructive or aggressive behaviour on the part of a child.
It is, in practice, impossible for a counsellor to maintain client confidentiality in face of a legal requirement or a clear duty to share information. However, wherever possible, we would discuss the possible need to break confidentiality with a client before doing so. If you think that things you need to discuss may enter this territory, please do raise that concern.
In BC, a child is someone under the age of 19. Elsewhere in Canada, for example Alberta, the age of majority is 18.
Under the Infants Act and the common law, a child with sufficient capacity to make their own decisions is empowered to give consent to clinical counselling without the need for additional consent from a parent or guardian. Such a child is called a mature minor.
A child with sufficient capacity is also legally empowered to insist upon confidentiality, or choose to disclose personal information, irrespective of the wishes of a parent or guardian except when they are in need of protection. This has important consequences for counsellors and for parents and guardians. In most situations, it would be a breach of a mature minor’s confidence for their counsellor to share that child’s clinical information with a third-party—including parents or guardians—unless permitted to do so by the client or explicitly required to do so by law.
We are happy to offer couple, relationship, and marriage counselling. However, we have no interest in being drawn into legal disputes, court work, or 'parent wars'. If a client or ex-client does seek to involve us in such matters, we will co-operate only to the minimum extent of our professional and legal obligation.
Sometimes, when there is abuse within a relationship, counselling itself becomes a further reason for abusive behaviour. If we believe that couple counselling is making an abusive situation worse for one of the partners, we will decline to work further with the couple. Our reasons will be made plain to all parties involved.
If you are unhappy with any aspect of your counselling and the service we provide, we do encourage you to discuss it with your counsellor. Our approach to conflict is to bring it into the open, seek to understand the other person's perspective, and pursue mutual understanding and resolution. However, if all else fails, as members of BCACC we are subject to its Complaints Process.
The information here provides a framework for a counselling agreement, but you may well have questions, and there will be things to discuss with your counsellor. Please do not hesitate to ask about anything you feel unsure about.
If there is anything you and your counsellor decide or make an agreement about, and you would like a written record of that, we will be happy to provide it.