Counseling is one of the most promising professions in Canada and many nations worldwide. With the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, the demand for counselors has risen in recent times.
Starting a Counseling Career in Canada
The ideal concept of having a career as a counselor is to get the right and the most updated version of the information that can help you find employment as a practicing counselor. You could choose a counseling career with a specialization in relationships, mental health, rehabilitation or behavioral health, amongst others. This occupation is an ideal one for those who find joy in solving people’s mental health issues.
If you’re looking to apply for a counseling or therapist job in Canada, click here.
United We Care Support Team
What Does a Counselor Do?
Counseling is the process of talking about and working through your mental health problems with a mental health professional, such as a counselor or therapist. Counseling, as the word denotes, is done by a trained counsellor who is an objective mental health professional. You must develop a healthy and trustworthy relationship with your counselor so as to help them effectively diagnose your mental health issues. A counsellor may choose a variety of counseling methodologies to approach your mental health problem, with talk therapy being the most popular approach.
How Much Do Counselors Make in Canada?
You might be wondering whether counselors make good money. The average salary for counselor in Canada is around $70,000 per year. Entry level counselors can be expected to make around $40,000 annually, while experienced counselors can make up to $90,000 per year.
Characteristics of a Good Mental Health Counselor
As a counselor, you’ll come across individuals with a wide array of difficult problems. All of these people hold different behavioral patterns and mannerisms. As a counselor, you should be able to successfully diagnose their issues. Some of these patients could be suffering from depression, stress, insomnia, or OCD. Here are the characteristics of good mental health counselor:
As a professional counselor, you’ll be confronting people from all walks of life with different mentalities. Some may begin talking to you right away, while others would take time to open up about the problems they face. Your communication strategy with each patient would be customized, with the objective of making the patient comfortable enough so they can explain what is really bothering them and how it is affecting their everyday life. This also requires you to be a good listener and keen observer, as your aim should be to understand the mental health issues from the patient’s point of view.
As a counselor, you have to be a problem solver. Therefore, as you talk with the patient, your objective should be to sort out their issues they are facing rather than complicate the situation. It would be best if you were able to help your patients in the most straightforward way possible. In addition to this, you should have expertise in diagnosing mental health issues and disorders.
One crucial aspect of being a counselor is to be empathetic. This means that you should not be stoic or cold towards the patient. Instead, you should be understanding and compassionate. The best way to be empathetic is to place yourself in the shoes of your patients and devise the right solution to their problems.
Another characteristic of being an effective counselor is to be accommodating and flexible. It is a career in which you might be presented with additional responsibilities in order to help the patient deal with their mental health problems. You might have to make impromptu changes to your daily schedule. Patients may cancel, reschedule or even cancel their mental health counseling session. In such cases, you should have patience and make the patient feel at ease at all times.
Mental health counselors should also be culturally-sensitive, and have good knowledge about different cultures and the community they operate in. For example, a counseling psychologist offering counseling services in Canada will have a different mentality and approach to interacting with the local population as compared to a clinical psychologist in India. You must also not be biased towards a particular race or ethnicity.
Good counselors are self-aware and have up-to-date knowledge about their specialty, i.e. relationships, stress, anxiety, bipolar disorder, OCD, etc. This involves taking part in conferences and seminars regularly, being well-read and staying up-to-date with the latest trends in the field of mental health.
Step-By-Step: How to Become a Mental Health Counselor
If you’re looking to become a mental health counselor and choose counseling as a career option, here’s the career path you should follow:
Obtain a Bachelor’s Degree
It would be advantageous to select clinical psychology as a major during grade 12, however you could theoretically be coming from any stream to choose a counseling career. Choose psychology during your undergraduate years in college/university. This could be a B.A. or a B.Sc in Psychology, which is a 3 year course. In addition to this, you should also get hands-on training by being a part of an internship program.
Obtain a Master’s Degree
After completing your bachelor’s degree, you should pursue a master’s degree. This could be M.A. or M.Sc. in Counseling, Psychology or Applied Psychology. This postgraduate course is for 2 years, and you’ll learn about counseling theory and techniques along with choosing an area of specialization. After your master’s degree, you could optionally pursue a one-year diploma course in guidance or counseling.
Obtain a CCPA certification
CCPA is the popular acronym for Canadian Counseling and Psychotherapy Association. This is a national certification program for professional counselors to begin clinical practice. This program certifies a counselor to legally provide counseling services in Canada. This certificate should be posted at your clinic or workplace, where your clients can observe the accreditation.
Obtain State Licensing
You can obtain state licensing by,
- Choosing a counseling specialization
- Have a relevant degree and internship experience
- Take the GRE and apply for graduate programs in Canada
- Opt for an appropriate licensing certification program
- Complete a specified amount of counseling practice hours
- Submit an application for a state license
Finally, you should maintain the license by complying with state and local laws.
Should I Become a Counselor or Therapist in Canada?
Both counselors and psychotherapists are respected mental health experts. A psychotherapist assists patients in dealing with complex mental health issues, whereas counselors are trained to assist patients with specific mental health issues faced in everyday life.
Counseling Job Options in Canada
There are various career options for counselors. Some of the most prominent counseling jobs are:
Mental Health Counselors
A mental health counselor primarily helps patients deal with mental health issues and disorders such as anxiety, depression, stress, substance abuse, trauma, grief, low self-esteem, suicidal tendencies, and many more.
Relationship counselors helps patients with mending or strengthening relationships in their life. This could be friendships, marriages, divorce, family issues, or the struggles associated with coping with loss of a loved one. Relationship counselors help find the root cause of the problem and develop an effective plan for maintaining a healthy relationship.
School Guidance Counselors
A school guidance counselor or career counselor is an in-house counselor who help students deal with their academic and social life. They help and guide students so they can shape their future and career in the best way possible. They also help students manage stress or anxiety associated with school or college life.
A rehabilitation counselor helps clients or patients on various aspects such as personal, vocational or social disabilities. They also help patients with physical and emotional disabilities such as mental illness, addiction, congenital disabilities, accidents and other problems. They help rehabilitate and improve a patient’s quality of life.
A behavioral counselor helps patients with behavior-related issues and behavior disorders such as substance abuse, mental health problems, and other issues. They implement solutions to change the negative behavior into positive behavior, thereby bringing about a positive change in the patient’s life.
A psychologist helps patients understand and deal with their thoughts and emotions. They primarily deal with mental health issues and are also certified to prescribe medication as part of their treatment program to help the patient recover from any ailing mental health disorder.
Are Counselors in Demand in Canada?
Many surveys and studies have shown a rising trend for people choosing counseling as a career. The rise in demand for clinical counselors is partly because of the decrease in personal support for the average person, an increased need for personal development, and rising levels of stress, anxiety & depression caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Not only does this make mental health counseling a demanding profession, but an equally challenging one as well. Therefore, it is essential to be well-trained in order to give patients the help they need and set them on a path to better mental health and well-being.
If you’re looking to apply for a counseling or therapist job in Canada, click here.
United We Care Support Team
What is a Realistic Therapy Private Practice Salary? How Much Money Do Counselors Actually Make?
The dream of private practice for many counselors, therapists, and psychologists is primarily driven by two things: freedom and money. This often means earning at least a $100,000 therapy private practice salary–or more.
Therapists want more freedom and money than typical mental health jobs allow for.
Jobs like non-profits, agencies, community mental health, and college counseling centers.
Yes, these jobs offer “security” in the form of a consistent paycheck, health insurance, and retirement benefits, but they are sorely lacking in terms of freedom and significant financial gain for therapists.
I put “security” in quotation marks because I used to think that having a job provides a lot more security than working for yourself or owning a company–until someone changed my mind.
I told them: “but your business could go downhill at any moment!”
To which they replied: “if you own a business, losing your income usually happens slowly. You can see it coming, and you can do something about it. When you’re employed by someone else, you can lose everything in an instant.”
That changed the way I looked at my own situation and fears as a business owner (I admit, despite being a business owner since 2013 I still fear it all “going away” suddenly).
This person was right. I at least had the opportunity to create more job security within my own business than I could ever have in working for a company. Not to mention, back to my first point, the opportunity for more freedom and more money.
So, what kind of salary can you actually earn as a therapist or counselor in private practice? Let’s run the numbers.
For many private practitioners, their big goal is to earn at least “6-figures” as a salary in their therapy private practice.
But what does that actually mean?
$100,000 in gross revenue?
$100,000 in net profit?
If you want to take home $100,000 in private practice, your gross revenue needs to be at least 30% higher than your goal. This rule of thumb can generally apply to other income goals (e.g., in order to take home (net profit) $200,000 per year, you would need a gross revenue of roughly $260,000).
So, how hard is it to actually generate, for example, $130,000 in gross annual revenue?
If you read my recent post on How to Start Private Practice the Right Way, then you’ve already seen how we work the math and set our fees by “reverse engineering” your net income goal. Here’s the math:
$100,000 gross revenue goal
Add 30% for expenses and taxes, roughly.
$130,000 divided by how many weeks per year you want to work (let’s say 48–that’s taking off 4 weeks per year)
$130,000 / 48 = $2,708.33 generated per week.
Divide that number by how many clients you want to see each week.
$2,708.33 / 15 clients per week = $180.55
So, your fee should be exactly $180.55, if not more, in order to generate your gross income goal of $130,000 annually. See how I did that?
Hopefully you can see that a true 6-figure therapy private practice salary is indeed possible.
Some may be thinking, however, “wow, I could never ‘get away’ with charging $180 in my area.” That may or may not be true, but for the sake of that argument, here’s another possible scenario where you can earn the same income by seeing a few more clients per week:
$2,708.33 / 20 clients per week = a regular session fee of $135.42.
Seem more doable? I hope so.
Let’s run one more scenario together.
Let’s imagine you want to take a bigger bite out of that weekly revenue target of $2,708.33 but you don’t want to raise your fees or see more individual clients. So, instead, you start a therapy group.
You have 7 clients in a weekly group paying $95 each = $760 per week of additional gross revenue.
$2,708.33 – $7760 = $1,948.33 to generate with individual clients
$1,948.33 / 15 individual clients = $129.89 individual session fee.
Not bad, right?
In this scenario, you are still working 20 hours or less per week and taking home at least $100,000 per year.
Clearly, as a solo private practitioner, $100,000 is a realistic and very doable salary goal.
If you want to earn more, consider building an additional (more passive than doing therapy) income stream like an online course, membership site, or ebook to boost your therapy private practice salary:
Or, you may choose to start a group practice:
But what about retirement, health insurance, sick days, etc.?
Being a business owner means you have to create your own benefits that are often included in “traditional” employment.
Unfortunately, through working with over 400 therapists in private practice, I have met too many therapists who are in their 40’s, 50’s and 60’s and have yet to save a single dime for their retirement.
The harsh reality is that NO ONE is going to handle this stuff for you–it is entirely up to you to act responsibly or neglect yours and your family’s future.
So, how much do you really need in order to create your own “benefits?”
Let’s run another scenario:
Health insurance. This is a big one. At the time of this post, I can tell you that I paid roughly $1,000 per month for my wife and I to be on an entry-level Blue Cross Blue Shield PPO plan in North Carolina. When I compared this to the “Obamacare” plans, the prices were just the same, since it is largely contingent upon income level.
In many cases, this can in fact be deducted fully or at least partially as a business expense, which will help you tremendously. Often times, your partner or spouse can also be on the same plan as you.
If you are earning enough to be an S-Corp or are a group practice, you may qualify for better rates when you contract with an insurance company to ensure your entire practice. This, too, often can include your spouse and children, as well as the spouses and children of your employees. In this scenario, you start to operate like a “real” company and as you scale, these costs become more affordable.
A growing alternative to paying for private health care insurance, or going through the Affordable Care Act is enrolling in “health care cost sharing plans,” many of which are religious in affiliation, where you pay out of pocket and are reimbursed at least partially by your plan. This may be a good option for therapists who are generally healthy and require only infrequent visits to the doctor or hospital, etc.
I know at least a few therapists who use this option and seem to like it. To me, the biggest fear or drawback is having to pay out of pocket for everything, and the fear of not getting reimbursed for major expenses.
This is clearly not a comprehensive overview of your healthcare insurance options, so be sure to do more research, ask other therapists in your area what they do for insurance, and make the best decision you can with the information you have.
Whichever health insurance option you choose, it is critical that you include this significant cost as part of your overall private practice budget. Work with an accountant and/or bookkeeper to create and follow a thoughtful budget. I personally love and follow the Profit First accounting method.
The next biggest expense to prepare for is obviously…your future! In other words, your retirement savings.
Again, in a “traditional” job, you may be given the option of a 401k or comparable retirement account that is at least partially funded by your company.
In the case of a self-employed person or business owner, you will want to work closely with a trusted accountant to determine which retirement account structures and options will work best for you and your family.
Regardless of the type of accounts you choose, you need to be more aggressive than you think about saving for retirement!
Here more about my personal thoughts on finance and growing wealth on a recent podcast episode here.
The bottom line is: you need to effectively replace the benefits you would normally receive at a full-time, traditional job. How much you need, exactly, is too personal a question to answer in a blog post–nor am I the person to do it!
By the way, my friend Joe Sanok actually created a very handy “how to leave your job calculator” that you can check out here.
In summary, earning a strong salary of $100,000 per year or more is doable, and is being done by therapists all over the world right now. You can become one of those therapists this year, too.
If you want my help getting there easier and sooner, just head to www.privatepracticeworkshop.com/workwithme
About John: John Clarke, MA, EdS, LPCC, LPC is a Licensed Professional Counselor, entrepreneur and private practice consultant. He has started and grown 5 businesses since 2013, including his group counseling practice that he sold in April 2019. He’s also a drummer, Muay Thai martial arts practitioner and enthusiast, and currently lives in Paris, France for his wife’s job. He loves helping therapists get more clients and grow a better business.