Understanding the letters at the end of a therapist's name.

Updated: Jul 31, 2021

"Should I choose a therapist who's an MSW? Or a CCC? What the heck does any of this mean?!"

This is a really important question that sparks a lot of confusion for anyone shopping around for a therapist. Sadly, in BC today, any one can call themselves a "counsellor" or "therapist" because they aren't legally protected terms here. So, before you commit to therapy with me or someone else, be sure to familiarize yourself with these definitions in order to determine which counsellor is the best fit for you!

Education

In Canada, there are several educational routes to becoming a therapist, namely: Having a Bachelor's, Master's, or Doctorate level of education.

  • A therapist with their Bachelor's Degree (BA, BSc, BSW) is typically suited for a style of short-term supportive listening, where the client is not processing traumatic experiences; but instead, is primarily needing a space to get from point A to B.

  • A therapist with their Master's Degree (MA, MSc, MSW) is typically more suited for both short-term and long-term counselling and psychotherapy and is equipped with the clinical skills necessary to conceptualize and treat a wide variety of presenting issues.

  • A therapist with their Doctorate Degree (PhD, PsyD, DCP) is typically more suited for clients with serious clinical diagnoses and will typically have greater familiarity with relevant clinical research to inform their practice.


BA/BSc/BSW: Bachelor of Arts, Science, or Social Work. A therapist with their BA/BSc/BSW is typically more suitable for clients looking for less intrusive, shorter-term counselling. While technically legal, a therapist with their BA, BSc, or BSW is typically advised not to do any type of trauma-related work until they have completed at least either a Master's Degree or a professional diploma.


MSW: Master of Social Work. A therapist with their MSW is typically more suitable for clients looking for behavioral-focused counselling therapy; and have a larger focus with at-risk populations.

MEd: Master of Education. A therapist with their MEd is typically more suitable for clients looking for either counselling or psychotherapy; and have a larger focus on practical skills, education, and leadership.


MC: Master of Counselling. A therapist with their MC is typically more suitable for clients looking for either counselling or psychotherapy; and has a larger focus on practice rather than research.


MAMFT: Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy. A therapist with their MAMFT is typically more suitable for couples and family therapy; and have a larger focus on practice, research, and trained to work with couples, families and individuals from a systemic/relational perspective.

MACP: Master of Arts in Counselling Psychology. A therapist with their MACP is typically more suitable for clients looking for either counselling or psychotherapy; and have a larger focus on practice, research, theory and counselling psychology (general practice).


MSc: Master of Science. A therapist with their MSc is typically more suitable for clients with and have a larger focus in research, assessment, and clinical psychology (diagnostic practice).


PhD: Doctor of Philosophy. A therapist with their PhD will have typically completed a master's level degree and be well researched and contain a level of expertise on a specific topic.


PsyD: Doctor of Psychology. A therapist with their PsyD will have typically completed a master's level degree and have obtained advanced clinical skills that can be used in a wide variety of settings.

Professional Association/College

Being certified, registered, or licensed with a professional association or college means that you are representing a standard of therapy where you are held accountable by an ethical code, supervision, and a system which encourages continual professional development. Oftentimes, you can usually correspond professional association/college to level of education.​ Furthermore, for those with extended health benefits, insurance companies will often provide coverage to clients seeking therapy depending on which professional association/college they belong to.


RPC: Registered Professional Counsellor. This designation is only offered to those who have professional membership with the Canadian Professional Counsellors Association (CPCA). In order to have membership here, you must have been taught my an instructor with at least a Master's Degree at an accredited program. This designation represents competency in entry-level core therapeutic skills.


RSW: Registered Social Worker. This designation is only offered to those who have registered with the British Columbia College of Social Workers (BCCSW). In order to have membership here, you must have at least a Bachelor's degree in a social-work related field and complete required Continuing Professional Development hours.


RMFT: Registered Marriage and Family Therapist. This designation is only offered to those who have professional membership with the The Canadian Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (CAMFT). In order to have membership here, you must have at least a master's level degree in a counselling-related field with a course emphasis on couples and family therapy.


CCC: Canadian Certified Counsellor. This designation is only offered to those who have professional membership with the Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association (CCPA). In order to have membership here, you must have at least a master's level degree in a counselling-related field.


RCC: Registered Clinical Counsellor. This designation is only offered to those who have professional membership with the BC Association of Clinical Counsellors (BCACC). In order to have membership here, you must have at least a master's level degree in a counselling-related field.


R. Psych: Registered Psychologist. This designation is only offered to those who are registered with the College of Psychologists of British Columbia (CPBC), which is the highest standard of care in BC today. In order to be registered here, you must have at least a doctorate level degree in a counselling-related field.


Most therapists will positions those letters like this:

  • Sebastian Wingfield, MA, CCC

  • Name of Counsellor, Education, Professional Association

*As a caveat, these definitions are purposed to be general, and are not meant to "totally define" any therapist. Furthermore, these definitions are only applicable to therapists in BC.*

Do you have any feedback/questions on this article? Feel free to leave a comment and let me know. I'd love to continue learning with you :)

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