Sunday, 18 March 2012

Affordable Counselling

At Matthew Gardner Counselling, we are passionate about helping people.

We believe that everyone would benefit from counselling. Counselling can and should function as preventative medicine for the mind, heart, body and spirit. In a perfect world, we would all see a counsellor as regularly as we see our doctor for a check-up, the dental hygienist for a cleaning, or the mechanic for a tune-up. This would lead to significant decreases in mental health issues, addictions, divorce, homelessness, suicide, heart attacks, cancer, disease, bad parenting, unhappiness...the list goes on and on. Millions of dollars and untold suffering would be saved.

We believe that access to counselling is a basic human right: that everyone should have access to this vital and undervalued service, regardless of their income.

Sadly, this is not the case. Counselling, even from a Registered Clinical Counsellor, is not covered by medicare, nor even by many extended health packages. Most RCCs charge $100-120/hour, a rate you probably cannot afford unless you are in the most highly paid section of the population, in which case you are statistically much less likely to need counselling (not because you are 'better' than the rest of us, but because money solves many problems). We think this is discrimination, and it's just plain wrong.

We have decided to play our part in addressing this inequality by offering counselling on a sliding scale, starting at $50/hour. To find out what you would be asked to pay based on your income, check out the Rates page at

If you need help, we will not turn you away. If we are not a good fit for you, we will help you to find someone who is. If you cannot afford our minimum charge, we will help you to find other resources that you can afford, such as Citizen's Counselling Centre,

We offer everyone the exact same high standard of professional counselling, no matter what they pay.

We are not offering counselling on a sliding-scale because we are in any way inferior to the many other counsellors in town. Just check out what people have been writing about us, on the Testimonials page of our website. Most of those reviews came from satisfied clients who paid the full rate.

It is not our intention to under-cut the other RCCs in town. For this reason, we will not extend our reduced rates to anyone who could afford counselling at the regular price. Proof of income will be required. We are not trying to grab a bigger slice of the available counselling pie by driving the price down. We want to make the pie itself bigger, by reaching people who might not otherwise find help.

Part of our mandate is to promote counselling. We will proactively inspire dialogue on the subject, educate people about what counselling actually is, dispel the many myths that keep people from seeking help, and remove the stigma that still, in the 21st century, makes people reluctant to access the very resource they need. If something is wrong with our bodies or cars we do not hesitate to seek help. If something is wrong with our lives, we soldier on, allowing the problem to get bigger and bigger until some crisis forces us to seek help. Why? Because of some seriously out-dated and ignorant cultural notions based on pride, shame, embarrassment and insecurity. We did not generate these destructive fallacies, we inherited them. But they continue to hurt us all, and specifically when we are at our most vulnerable. It is time to let the healing begin.

In the long term, we also intend to address another perceived flaw in the system. In most trades or professions, you get some education, then you apprentice with a company or mentor who teaches you valuable and practical skills, finds you work, offers you feedback and supervision, and pays you an appropriate wage. As skills and experience increase, you make more money and assume more responsibility, until you are ready to be a mentor yourself. In counselling, this system does not operate. There are very few jobs, so many novices are forced to compete in private practice with seasoned veterans, receiving no guidance or supervision. Counsellors and clients alike suffer because of this system.

Our long term vision is to make the counselling pie bigger by serving that large portion of society that would benefit from counselling but cannot afford it, then to funnel that increased demand into a mentoring program that will support, guide and offer supervision to new RCCs who are struggling to make ends meet. We perceive a great unmet need for counselling, and a glut of counsellors who cannot find clients. It is time to help the supply meet the demand, to everyone's benefit.

Who cares? We do!

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