When your therapist is a social worker

At Cadence, many of our counsellors, as well as our Clinical Director, are trained and qualified as social workers. Social work is a wide profession encompassing many roles. Therapy is just one of the many skills that social workers have, and just one of the many professions social workers find themselves in. In many provinces and all of the US, it is common for Social Workers to provide therapy. They do this under a variety of titles and with many different sets of rules to abide by, depending on their geographical location. Here in British Columbia, people looking for counselling often do not understand the different therapist designations and do not understand some of the advantages of having a social worker as their therapist.

Who can provide therapy in BC?

The answer to this question is changing fast. Right now in BC the terms “counsellor” and “therapist” are not protected. This means that anyone can represent themselves as a counsellor or therapist, set up a business, and begin charging clients for their services. However, there is a movement to change the laws so to protect the term “counsellor” so that only qualified, educated practitioners can use the term. You can read about the proposed legislation here:https://factbc.org

As it stands, only clinicians registered with the BC Association of Clinical Counsellors can use the title Registered Clinical Counsellor. An RCC is a master's level practitioner with a comprehensive educational requirement. To remain in good standing with the BC Association of Clinical Counsellors an RCC must complete yearly continuing education to remain current with their profession.

A Social Worker is a health professional governed in BC by the College of Social Workers. With few exceptions, they must have a degree in Social Work from a recognized institution and pass an exam to become registered. Many Social Workers in private practice in BC have a Master'sdegree, although some have a Bachelor's in Social Work. As a profession, Registered Social Workers (RSWs) are permitted to provide counselling therapy in private practice, as well as agency and healthcare settings.

Registrants with the BC College of Social Workers are also able to pursue permission to use the title Registered Clinical Social Worker. A BC RCSW has completed rigorous mental health education and has a great deal of verified experience working in a mental health setting in a clinical capacity. They have passed a separate exam qualifying them to diagnose mental health conditions using the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders). Both RSWs and RCSWs are permitted to provide therapy in BC in private practice.

Why chose a Social Worker?

So much of what makes a successful therapeutic relationship boils down to the rapport between the counsellor and the client. Regardless of education, training and theoretical orientation, studies show that counselling works best when the humans involved have a good relationship.*In light of this, we recognize that a therapist's training and designation are only one component of a good therapy outcome.

Social work education and theory ground themselves in a thorough understanding of the person in the environment. This means that while many disciplines tend to locate the problems and issues between the ears of the person experiencing them, a social worker is trained to consider the entire societal, cultural and familial context in which the client finds themselves. This is why many social work therapists describe their work using terms such as feminist, anti-oppressive, gender-affirming and trauma-informed; we recognize the impact of the greater environment on all people, not just our clients. We include ourselves in the commitment to social justice and strive to bring this value into the therapy room.

As therapists, we are aware of power dynamics and how they may impact a client’s feelings of safety in the relationship. Ideally, we have examined our own privilege and our own areas of oppression; we have done this hard work in an effort to bring transparency and authenticity to the work we do.

When your therapist is a social worker, they can likely help you link your individual experiences with the greater societal context. What does this mean in practice? Of course, every practitioner is different. However, a social worker therapist is more likely to understand that any struggle a client is experiencing will be profoundly affected by their social location, their experience of the world, and the options available to them because of those complex factors. We recognize that gender, sexual orientation, race and socio-economic status shape an individual’s experience, opportunities and worldview in complex and intersecting ways. This means that therapy cannot be boiled down to just “changing one’s thoughts”. Instead, the entire complex web of how the client fits with their environment must be considered.