Counselling can be a very helpful tool for families and children during divorce. This is particularly the case for families experiencing a high conflict separation or divorce, or where two parents are simply not on the same page when it comes to parenting time and parenting decisions.

Parents often have a difficult time choosing a counsellor for their child or family. Parents may have different reasons for seeking counselling. For example, one parent may want a child to have counselling to help them cope with the separation, while the other parent may want family counselling to try and reunite the family.

If parents are having a difficult time creating a parenting schedule, they may look for input from a counsellor. Sometimes a judge will order a section 211 report, to ascertain the children’s views and family dynamics. These are usually called a “Views of the Child Report“.

It can be difficult to know where to start when choosing a counsellor during divorce. There are professionally educated and trained counsellors who are Psychologists, Social Workers, or Clinical Counsellors. However, the terms “counsellor” and “psychotherapist” are not regulated, and anyone can use those terms to sell their services.

On July 25, 2020, CBC reported a story about a Psychotherapist in Kelowna, who had listed questionable degrees on her website. Sharon Pham, a registered psychologist in Alberta, told the CBC “She looked good on the surface, but when you actually dig a little bit deeper, it unravelled”. Ms. Pham began to question the validity of that psychotherapist’s degrees, and found that there was no regulating body to report her concerns to.

“You have all of these people in B.C. that are putting out shingles calling themselves counsellors and they have absolutely no accountability to anybody at all,” said Pham.

For this very reason, we recommend that when choosing a counsellor during divorce, you find a counsellor who is a registered/certified professional. Check their website, verify their areas of practice and expertise, find out what their experience is and how much they charge. It is also a good idea to call a few counsellors and speak with them on the phone, before you arrange an appointment. This way you can get a sense of how they will interact with your child, and whether or not you can open up to them”.

Michael Butterfield says, “When deciding on a child counsellor, it is important to recognize that the purpose is to support the child. Sometimes high conflict parents try to use counsellors to gather evidence or further their agenda. Registered professionals are more likely to be impartial.”

You can start by checking if the counsellor registered with one of the following organizations: BC Association of Clinical Counsellors (BCACC), Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association (CCPA), BC Psychological Association (BCPA), or BC College of Social Workers.

If you are looking for other separation and divorce support in Victoria B.C., there are some free family focused services for you, and other community resources you may find helpful.

Jayne Embree

Jayne holds a Masters Degree in Psychology. She is currently Mr. Butterfield’s Legal Assistant and the Mediation Coordinator at Butterfield Law.