In order to become licensed to provide psychotherapy in Ontario, therapists must complete specific education and training including working under the supervision of a licensed professional.
Before a student can begin working in the field, they have to complete the majority of their training. This means that they have studied different techniques and practiced their skills with their classmates before applying to a site to work as a student counsellor. A supervisor meets with the student and learns about them, their style, personality, goals, and history and when there is a good fit between the supervisor and student, a practicum placement is agreed to.
The Master of Arts in Counselling Psychology at Yorkville University requires students to work at their practicum placement for 30 weeks. Practicum placements provide an opportunity to apply skills gained in school under the supervision of an experienced mentor. Even after completing their practicum, a new therapist will continue to receive regular supervision as they establish themselves in their career. Even very experienced therapists benefit from supervision from others in the field over the course of their careers.
What are the benefits of working with a student counsellor?
A student counsellor has already had extensive training in talk therapy. They have the advantage of learning the most up-to-date theories and approaches available.
Student counsellors tend to have a smaller caseload than independent therapists. They spend significant time on preparation, planning, and other activities.
Office hours are more flexible, as students often have office hours on weekends and in the evenings.
Session fees are often reduced and provided on a sliding scale, which makes talk therapy more affordable.
Student counsellors are supervised during their practicum. The supervisor will closely follow each case, the therapy plan, and provide guidance on an ongoing basis. As a client you will be able to consult with the supervisor if you have any questions or concerns.
Some sources suggest another benefit of working with a student counsellor is that the counsellor is coming to you with a minimum of biases based on past experiences.
What happens when the placement/practicum ends?
When a student counsellor completes their placement, they will move forward in their career, and this may mean moving to another practice or setting up their own independent practice. Clients can choose to continue to work with the counsellor as they establish themselves following the completion of their placement. Near the end of the practicum the student counsellor and supervisor will ensure that each client is aware of their options for ongoing support.
When is a student counsellor not recommended?
It is not recommended to seek services with a student counsellor:
- when a client is in crisis (for instance if there is current risk of self harm or other threat to safety)
- for treatment of an active eating disorder
- for treatment of an active substance abuse disorder
- for treatment of trauma (traumatic events include significant stressors such as violence, sexual violence, witness to death, or situations in which an individual fears death or serious injury; if you are looking for help with experiencing flashbacks or intrusive thoughts of a traumatic event it is not recommended to work with a student counsellor)
New clients will be screened by the supervisor to ensure the client’s needs and goals are an appropriate fit for the student counsellor.