mental healthThis is the fourth in a contributor column by Zoe Lauckner. Check back next issue for the latest in mental health issues.

Seeking counselling services is a big deal—it takes strength, determination, and a willingness to be vulnerable and open about your life. It means you’re experiencing some struggle that you recognize you need support for.

Counsellors practice in a wide variety of styles, or theoretical orientations, meaning that the way they view their role as a counsellor, you as the client, and the work that goes into the helping process, will differ depending on their orientation. The types of orientations are endless, from classical psychoanalysis to cognitive behavioural and art therapy—there really is someone for everyone. It’s uncommon to find a therapist who practices from one orientation only, as most contemporary therapists consider themselves “integrative,” meaning they utilize a number of techniques from a variety of approaches. At the very least, an effective counsellor should be flexible and open to trying techniques that fit you. Finding someone who practices primarily in a style that is in line with your values, beliefs, and goals is the strongest determinant of treatment outcomes. The client-therapist relationship is a key agent in the change process, and to get the most out of therapy, here are some things to consider before choosing a therapist.

One of the most important questions is: What do you want to get out of therapy? If you have particular goals in mind, that’s great. Some orientations are more client-directed, meaning that the therapist puts the responsibility on the client to identify their own goals and generally decide the direction of the therapeutic process. The therapist is there to act as a guide or fellow traveller, but ultimately you’re the one steering the ship. Approaches that share a humanist perspective, such as person-centred, existential, and brief solution-focused therapies, all fit into this category, as they all consider the client as the expert. If you’re someone who works better with firm direction and homework activities, you might want to consider finding a therapist who works within a behavioural framework, such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), where the therapist acts as more of a teacher. Types of art and narrative therapy also bring different focuses on healing through creative processes.

Finances are worth considering, as we are all students on a budget. Private counselling ranges from $80 to $150, and the extended health plan through VIU covers only $300 per year for psychologists. But don’t fret, there are many options. The VIU Counselling Department offers brief solution-focused counselling to VIU students, up to five sessions per term, free of charge. The department’s practitioners have a wide variety of experience and utilize a number of techniques within their counselling, drawn from cognitive behavioural therapy, eye movement and desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), art therapy, and more. Despite the different approaches, the counsellors still practice from a brief solution-focused foundation, which looks at client’s immediate goals and desired outcomes rather than on symptoms or diagnoses. With an emphasis on the present and future, the VIU service is a good option for students on a budget who are seeking assistance moving forward in productive ways. For more information on the counsellors available through VIU, visit their biographies online.

It is also worth a mention that Discovery Youth and Family Substance Use Services, located in Nanaimo, is accessible to “anyone in the community directly or indirectly negatively impacted by substance use” and is free of charge. You can find out more about their services by visiting Lastly, the Island Integrated Counselling Society offers counselling services on a sliding scale, from $1 to $120 based on financial ability. They provide an amazing service and deserve kudos for all they do for the community. Check them out at

Stay sane(ish) VIU! Until next time…