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Chasing adventure & living mindfully while parenting through mental illness


Low-Cost Counselling Options in the Lower Mainland

Low-Cost Counselling Options in the Lower Mainland

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The best thing I ever did for my mental health was a year DBT therapy. The year-long, intensive program basically rewired my brain. I went from being emotionally volatile and sabotaging my school, employment, and relationships to being able to maintain part time work, part time school, and be in a stable relationship. But there is no doubt that the intensity and cost of DBT are prohibitive to many. So what is a parent on a budget to do?

Therapy is a strong bulwark against relapse. Studies consistently show that the best treatment for depression and anxiety is a combination of medication and psychotherapy. Medication, even when it is a long term solution versus a temporary treatment, can only do so much. Therapy helps retrain your mind to undo the habits that troublesome chemistry has ingrained.

Unfortunately, self-referred counseling is not covered under BC's provincial medical plan. If you get a referral from a GP (provided you even have a regular family doctor), you are probably looking at a long wait time for programs. I am not going to hijack this post with why that is a problem. Head over to the Canadian Mental Health Association of BC to learn more facts about mental health in BC. Until we fix that, here are some low-cost counselling options.

As a disclaimer, I have not had experiences with any of these therapists, and some have restrictions on what types of clients they will take. If you have specific therapy needs, such as therapy after a legal, Worksafe, or ICBC incident, be sure to state that and make sure the clinics will be able to accommodate that type of extra paperwork. I have also focused this list on services where you meet in person with an individual practitioner. I may do a post in the future on group, online, and telephone services, as those are excellent options for busy parents as well.

Family Services of Greater Vancouver

FSGV offers an income-based sliding scale for counselling. If you make greater than 60,000 gross, cost is $120 per individual and $125 per couple/family. If you make under $15,000 a year, appointments are $30. Learn more about sliding scale pricing on the FSGV website. Admittedly, this doesn't reflect true cost of living in the Lower Mainland, but I don't blame FSGV.

Moving Forward Family Services

MFFS offers counselling with Clinical Counsellors for $50 per person or $65 per couple out of Vancouver, Surrey, White Rock, or Abbotsford. If this is still too much of a financial barrier, they offer graduate level interns (a 4-5 week wait, but sometimes up to 12 weeks) out of their Surrey location for $20 a session.

Mood Disorders Association of BC

The MDABC offers individual counselling, Group Therapy, and Wellness Workshops. Their counselling prices are $80 for a session fully certified counsellor and $50 for a session with an intern. Their group therapy programs are $400 for 8 weeks, so about half the price of individual counselling if you'd be going weekly. They have lower cost and sometimes free workshops as well. They do book up fairly quickly, so keep an eye on the MDABC website.

Living Systems Counselling

Living Systems offers counselling with interns at their Vancouver, North Vancouver, and New Westminster locations. They employ the Bowen Family Systems Theory, which views the family unit as a living system, and approaches counselling practice from that perspective. You should learn more about Bowen Theory to decide if they method may be applicable to your situation. Living Systems charges on a sliding scale ($15-50).

No Fear Counselling

No Fear Counselling offers appointments with intern counselors at a rate of $65 per session. They also have appointments with practicum students for $40 a session. They have low cost couselors located in Vancouver and Burnaby, and will soon have options in Surrey and Pitt Meadows. There is currently no waitlist for appointments,and they offer a wide range of treatment styles.

ProChoices Therapy

ProChoices Therapy offers by-donation therapy and is founded on feminist and social justice values. This means they are committed to safe, non-judgmental space, and that their therapists work to decenter power and collaborate with clients. The minimum donation is $20 per session. They are a learning collective, which means their therapists are practicum students learning Feminist Narrative Therapy. Because they have limited resources, they are not able to take on clients who are experiencing physical violence, active suicidal behavior or ideation, or having experiences others cannot witness (such as hallucinations or delusions). They do accept clients of all all walks of life, genders, sexualities, races, ethnicities, cultures, abilities, classes, religions etc. They currently have a 3 - 5 month waitlist.

Oak Counselling Services Society

Oak Counselling Services Society is a volunteer-run non-profit society that provides counseling on a sliding scale fee schedule. Appointments range from $10 to $110, depending on your family income and whether it is single, couple, or family with a child. An intake coordinator will match you with a counselor based on your needs and what your therapy goals are. Wait time for an appointment is approximately 6 months.

Psychology Schools

You can always access therapy through local Masters and Doctorate programs in Clinical Counselling. You will meet with a student intern supervised by a professional counsellor. In Vancouver, there are programs at UBC (Psychology Clinic, Scarfe Counselling, and their New Westminster campus ), SFU, and the Adler Centre.


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