What those letters all mean…


*The following is information directly sourced from the BC Association of Social Workers and the BC Clinical Counselling Association websites:

In B.C., the profession of counselling is not government regulated. Counsellors do not need a licence to practice. Counsellors are not accountable under a code of ethics unless they voluntarily belong to a professional association like the B.C. Association of Clinical Counsellors…

When you see the RCC designation, you will know that the counsellor: 

1. is accountable for ethical practices under our standards of practice and code of ethics.

2. holds a minimum of a master’s degree or equivalent education.

3. has satisfied the clinical experience and supervision requirements that are part of our criteria for membership. 

4. has submitted a clear criminal record check.”

BCCCA, 2017, available at http://bc-counsellors.org/choose-a-counsellor/how-to-choose/


” Registered Social Workers (RSWs) are one of the largest providers of mental health services in North America. With university degrees primarily at the Masters or Doctorate level, they are skilled clinicians who provide counselling and therapy for a wide range of personal, family and work-related problems.

   Many RSWs have undertaken additional credentialing, meeting prerequisites and passing rigorous examinations to become a Registered Clinical Social Worker (RCSW).  A Registered Clinical Social Worker (RCSW) is qualified to utilize the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) in the assessment, diagnosis, treatment and prevention of mental, emotional, behaviour disorders and conditions, for the purpose of providing psychosocial intervention to enhance personal, interpersonal and social functioning.

     Because Canada Revenue Agency recognizes Social work as a health profession, the clinical counselling services of Registered Social Workers are HST exempt. In addition to RSWs, only Psychiatrists and Registered psychologists qualify for exemption.

     Social Work is a is legislated profession governed by a regulatory body, the BC College of Social Workers, and all RSWs must adhere to a strict Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice.

    Note: The Registered Social Workers on BCASW’s roster charge an hourly fee for services. If you have an extended health plan, check to see if your plan provides coverage for the services of RSWs.”

BCASW, 2017, available at http://www.bcasw.org/utility/registered-social-workers-in-private-practice/

What is the difference between counsellors who belong to a college vs. an association?

When your health professional is a member of a college, the college’s mandate is to serve and protect the public interest by regulating the practice of the profession and governing its members.  Colleges also have particular legislation, defining their member’s scope of practice, that members are required to abide by. The mandate of an association is typically to represent the “voice” of a profession.

Which designations will my extended health plan cover?

Some workplace extended health plans will provide coverage for counselling benefits, while others will not.  For those who do, Registered Psychologists are the most commonly covered counselling professionals, while other plans cover Registered Social Workers or Registered Clinical Counsellors (usually not both) and a minority of other credentials.  It’s always very important to check with your HR department which counselling providers you are covered for and to check your yearly maximum of how many sessions will actually be covered.

Many people don’t realize that the terms “counsellor”, “coach”, “therapist” and “psychotherapist” are not regulated in British Columbia.  This means that anyone can refer to themselves this way, even if they have no credentials.