Working With a Counsellor

There are many types of counsellors offering different approaches. However, the way they work with clients typically follows an established pattern, as described below.

Initial Meetings

To better understand you and offer appropriate treatment, a counsellor usually begins by asking a number of questions about the nature of your issues or challenges, such as how long the problem has been there and what makes it better or worse. Depending on the type of counselling they offer, they may also ask you about your childhood, family history, and/or personal and professional relationships, among others topics.

Some counselling professionals (usually psychologists and psychiatrists) offer a diagnosis, and may use psychological tests to aid in formulating one. It may take one or more sessions to gather sufficient information to complete a diagnosis.

Assessment and Treatment

Once a counsellor has gathered enough information, she or he will discuss the results of their assessment (and/or the diagnosis) with you, and review options to help with your issues. The approach chosen will depend on the counsellor’s theoretical orientation, training, and background, as well as the specifics of your issues or challenges, your goals, and your worldview.

It is important to remember that counselling is a cooperative process. Your being open and willing to implement your counsellor’s suggestions can help maximize the benefits of counselling.


What you discuss with your counsellor is confidential and, with a few important exceptions, cannot be disclosed without your consent. The limits of confidentiality are typically reviewed at the outset of counselling, as they are a crucial part of the informed consent process.

Situations in which the limits to confidentiality may be invoked by your counsellor can include:

  • You are in immediate danger of harming yourself
  • You have disclosed intent to harm someone else (including unprotected sex if you have HIV or other infectious diseases)
  • Any possible abuse of a child or a vulnerable adult
  • You are operating a motor vehicle in an unsafe manner (reported to the Office of the Superintendent of Motor Vehicles, as per the Motor Vehicle Act)
  • Court subpoena or court order of counselling notes
  • If you are a member of a regulated health profession, such as a physician or dentist, and your counsellor comes to believe that your practice poses a risk to the public, she/he is obligated to report this to your College Registrar, as per the Health Professions Act

Record Keeping

Your counsellor will keep brief records of all of your sessions, which include the topics that were discussed and the counselling interventions provided.

Ask Questions

Lastly, you are hiring the services of a counsellor and are entitled to be informed about the details of your counselling. Ask questions and discuss anything that is unclear or of concern.