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  • Writer's pictureMyriame Lyons

Counselling Therapy With A Registered Social Worker

Updated: Apr 10


Accessing the world of counselling can be a daunting task. If you are feeling anxious or stuck in a rut, the last thing you want is confusion and uncertainty about who to reach out to for support. Luckily we’ve written this blog to help you streamline this process and get the help you deserve asap.

In British Columbia (BC) most people know that they can access counselling therapy through a Registered Psychologist (R.Psych), a Registered Clinical Counsellor (RCC) or Canadian Certified Counsellor (CCC). Fewer know that they can also receive therapy from a Registered Social Worker (RSW).

Accessing services from Registered Social Workers in private practice

Have you ever been placed on a counselling waitlist? Like many people right now, therapy is virtually inaccessible. This is not ideal; especially when you are in need of that service now. We’re with you. And we hate waitlists too. We believe that when people reach out for counselling therapy-which is already a vulnerable step to take-that counselling should be available to them as soon as possible. One way of reducing your wait time for counselling is considering to work with a Registered Social Worker (RSW).

RSWs are widely known to work in the public sector. If you’ve recently been diagnosed with a chronic illness, you might be familiar with social work services through your specialist’s clinic. Public sector RSWs can have many roles, such as counsellors, facilitators, care coordinators, patient advocates, program managers, mediators, educators, and community development consultants. When working with clients, RSWs use a strengths-based systems lens to address psycho-emotional and social issues that affect well-being.


When entering private practice, many Registered Social Workers (RSWs) will focus their work in counselling therapy. Similar to a Registered Clinical Counsellor (RCC) or Canadian Certified Counsellors (CCC), a RSW in private practice will get extra education, training and certification to be able to offer counselling in an area of health that they are passionate about, like chronic illnesses.

Unlike accessing social work services in the public sector, when working with a RSW in private practice you will most likely have to pay out of pocket for the services, and if available to you, get reimbursement through your extended health provider. As a client accessing counselling, you might consider working with a RSW as they are just as qualified to support you through your healing journey.

Why is coverage for counselling therapy so hard?

Counselling can be a tricky health service to access. For one, extended health providers (insurance companies) offer a range of benefits packages that employers can choose from, which can or cannot include counselling therapy. The other part of this challenge is that providers can list different healthcare professionals approved to offer counselling services. This means that some benefits packages will only accept counselling claims when offered by Registered Psychologists, Registered Clinical Counsellors or Registered Social Workers.

Extended health providers have been notoriously picky when accepting counselling claims. While inconvenient for some, this rigidity helps clients access certified and registered counsellors who are vetted and approved, which is important in British Columbia since counselling is not a yet regulated profession. This means that anyone - even those without education or registration - can call themselves a counsellor. Scary-we know! In order to maintain a certain standard of care (and to protect you-the client) providers can be more rigid in approving counsellors.

Steps for starting counselling with a Registered Social Worker

When starting counselling, one of the first things to check is your benefits package. Make sure your package includes counselling therapy (or psychotherapy). If it doesn’t - definitely advocate to your employer to make that change. If it does include counselling therapy, check the list of approved mental health providers (e.g., Registered Psychologist, Registered Clinical Counsellor, Registered Social Worker). Sometimes calling your insurance provider is the easiest way to figure out which mental health providers are approved.


The next step is going directly to the approved mental health providers directory, such as a provincial association or college, to find a counsellor. In British Columbia there are many counselling associations that list their registered members. Here are a few:

As you search through the different directories, take your time. Each counsellors' profile is unique to them and gives you specific information about their style and approach to counselling. Once you’ve found a counsellor that seems like a good fit, reach out to set up an initial phone consultation or to book a counselling appointment.

Benefits of counselling therapy with a Registered Social Worker


Similar to Registered Clinical Counsellors (RCC), Registered Social Workers (RSWs) who complete either a Bachelor's or Master's degree to qualify for registration with their association, and most will complete a Master's to provide counselling services since most will register with their provincial counselling association. As mentioned, RSWs will also complete specific training in different therapeutic approaches to better support their clients. At Myriame Lyons Counselling and Consulting for instance, our RSW has training in Internal Family Systems (IFS), Accelerated Experiential Dynamic Psychotherapy (AEDP), and Sensorimotor Psychotherapy.

We know taking the first steps to getting support is hard. You are not alone. It takes time to find the energy, the patience and the resources to start counselling. The benefits of starting counselling therapy with a Registered Social Worker (RSW) are many. You can get support from a RSW with difficult life challenges, including mental and physical illness; grief and loss; poverty; discrimination; abuse; addiction; divorce; unemployment; disability and educational problems.

RSWs believe in the dignity and worth of human beings. They promote social fairness and equal access and distribution of resources and opportunities. This means that, where appropriate, RSWs can help you learn to advocate for your health and wellness- whether that is with your medical professionals and specialists, or with the judicial system. Working with a RSW can also be helpful in learning new tools and strategies to navigate life challenges, like building a mindfulness practice, practicing stress management strategies, and learning to acknowledge and validate emotions.

Registered Social Work FAQs

Do Social Workers make good therapists?

Social workers (or Registered Social Workers) make excellent therapists. Like other therapists practicing in BC, social workers spend several years training, working as student counsellors and being supervised by experienced experts in the field. They are also strong advocates, can connect you to local resources and help you develop a circle of support.

Can you be a counsellor with a Social Work degree?

Social workers train for different roles. They can work in community organization, policy, advocacy, and counselling, to list a few. If you are considering becoming a counsellor, you most certainly can get there with a social work degree. After completing a Bachelor’s of Social Work (BSW), which is a four-year program that qualifies individuals for entry-level positions, some individuals pursue a Master’s of Social Work (MSW). A MSW is a two-year advanced degree program that allows individuals to work in clinical settings, like counselling.

Do I need a referral to see a Social Worker in private practice?

Similar to accessing counselling with a Registered Clinical Counsellor (RCC) or Canadian Certified Counsellor (CCC), people wanting counselling therapy with a Registered Social Worker (RSW) do not need a referral. In a way it is a self-referral process, where you look up a RSW in the directory of your provincial social work college, and make contact with the worker that you feel would be a good fit.

Are Social Work Services in private practice covered by public or private healthcare?

Many extended benefits packages and private health plans cover social work services. Check with your provider to see if that is the case. Social workers in private practice are not covered by public healthcare, but can help you find publicly funded services that can support you in different ways.

If social work is not currently covered in your extended health plan, request that it be added. You can use this letter to insurance companies as a launching point. Depending on your health needs, you may also be eligible to access the services of a social worker through a public provider, like a hospital, or community health center.


Get Counselling in BC from a Registered Social Worker

We know taking the first step to getting support is hard. Thank you for being here. “Shopping around” for a counsellor is normal, and it can take some time to find the right one. If you feel a tad bit curious about our counselling therapy offered by a Registered Social Worker, please reach out to us for a free 15 minute phone consultation.

Stay strong,


Founder and Counsellor


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