Dear New,

Yes, the road to becoming a counsellor may seem confusing and even daunting. It was for me as well, when I started my program over 27 years ago. I had many questions: Should I specialize or generalize? Should I treat adults (men, women, or both?), children, or families? Which approach or modality would I prefer, or be good at? Should I specialize in psychodynamic, Rogerian, cognitive-behavioural, sex therapy, etc.?

The journey to become a counsellor is a process requiring you to research adequately to make a decision that is best for you. At most traditional universities, after completing a Bachelor’s (four years), you would apply for, and hopefully, be accepted into, a Master’s program in counselling, which could take anywhere from two to four years (depending on the chosen program). You could then, if you choose, enter a doctoral program in counselling (three or more years).

Essentially, you will begin your education by learning about counselling theory – the history, main contributors to the interventions used today, types of modalities practised, etc. Such theoretical learning is supplemented by experiential learning through roleplay and eventually counselling clients in real life situations (overseen by a supervisor). Once you receive training in various modalities, you can make a decision as to which approach suits you best.

I remember when I began my journey over 27 years ago, most counselling professionals were expected to hold at least a Master’s in the field to be registered by a counselling association. This is not the case anymore. Today, you have other options. In fact, it is possible for you to practice as a qualified counsellor in a fraction of the time.

There are a few colleges offering counselling diploma programs leading to graduates fulfilling the requirements to practice in British Columbia. Stenberg College is one college I’ve worked with to create its Counselling Therapy Diploma Program – a program (please excuse my bias here) educating its students in a wide variety of counselling modalities and interventions – and takes into account cultural diversity in doing so. After completing the 18-month program, students are eligible to be registered by the Canadian Professional Counsellors Association and the Association of Cooperative Counselling Therapists. You may research this program by visiting

I recommend you research programs that work for you – for your interests, your budget, your choice of employment areas. I wish you all the best, my potential future colleague!

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