How to Understand a Counsellor’s Qualifications and Acronyms


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How to Understand a Counsellor’s Qualifications and Acronyms

It’s a little complicated in the field of Counselling to understand a counsellor’s qualifications and the acronyms that follow their name.

When you go to a hospital or you look for a new family doctor, you don’t have to find out what training the nurses or doctors have. That’s because the system is standardized and organized. You can’t call yourself a doctor if you don’t have doctor qualifications.

If you are looking for a physiotherapist, on the other hand, in order to practice as a physiotherapist in Canada, you must be registered with the appropriate provincial College of Physiotherapists.

Canada is Unregulated

This isn’t true about Counsellors. Currently in most of Canada, the counselling field is unregulated. Meaning that any old ‘joe’ can call themselves a counsellor or therapist (whatever their preferred term is). What does this mean for clients? You guessed it, its an absolute nightmare sifting through counsellor lists. There are so many acronyms RSWs, RPs, CCCs, RTCs, RCCs, RMFTs, MMFTs, RPCs, etc. This list barely scratches the surface. So how are you, the client, supposed to know who’s actually qualified?

Be Savvy, Be Smart

You are the consumer. Therefore, it’s important that you be a savvy and aware client. You need to know who you are getting professional counselling from. And it’s important to ensure the counsellor is professionally trained.

Extended Benefits recognizes that not everyone is qualified; therefore, they only cover the cost of counselling received from, either, a Registered Social Worker (RSW) or Registered Psychologist (RP). A few will also cover RCC (Registered Clinical Counsellors), but this is a lot more rare.

So one way to understand a counsellor’s qualifications and to know if they are trained is to find a counsellor that is recognized nationally in Canada. One of the above is a good rule of thumb. I would also look at their education.

What’s Education Got to do With It?

Understanding a counsellor’s professionally training, can tell you a lot. Currently, if you are a plumber and you want to market yourself as a counsellor, there’s no overarching, unified college that’s going to say “you can’t do that, you aren’t properly trained. As long as the plumber states his training and education, he can call himself a counsellor.

Generally speaking you should consider finding a counsellor with a minimum education of a Masters Education in some kind of field related to counselling. I am a Registered Social Worker, with a Masters in Clinical Social Work. I was trained in counselling and had many practicums in counselling, before finishing grad school. Registered Psychologists have even more training, as they can’t register without a PH’D. RCCs, generally possess a Masters in Psychology, but can’t register as a psychologist, because they don’t have a PH’D. RCCs are qualified and registered through The BC Association of Clinical Counsellors. Another common acronym is CCC (Canadian Certified Counsellor). It’s important to know that each registering body has certain requisites in order for a counsellor to use these letters after their name. If you’re not sure what training is required, then you should go to the registering bodies website and take a look.


You might have seen RTC (Registered Therapeutic Counsellor) after a counsellors name. These counsellors generally don’t have a ton of training, they usually don’t even have a degree (but they might) and they are registered after doing a 6 month diploma is counselling. In my opinion this is somewhat scary. It took me 8 years to become a counsellor and lots of professional training after that to continue to deliver ethical services to my clients.

But, it’s fair game, as you have learned. So it’s your job as the client to figure out how important qualifications are for you and ensure you are getting counselling from someone that knows what they are doing.

Now you see the great dilemma clients face when looking for a professional counsellor or therapist. It’s hard to understand a counsellor’s qualifications and acronyms. I know this article was pretty dry to read, but I hope it helped clear up some confusion and give you a bit more understanding.

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