Here you will find definitions for many of the most regularly used terms associated with counselling/psychotherapy.


Accreditation implies the setting of minimal standards which training programs must meet. In order to become accredited, a counsellor education program must fulfill certain requirements or standards with regard to institutional settings, program mission and objectives, program content, practicum experiences, student selection and advising, faculty qualifications and workload, program governance, instructional support, and self-evaluation.

Establishing the client’s condition at the beginning of and throughout the therapeutic relationship.


The initial set up of the therapist/client relationship so that each party is clear of their role within the therapy sessions, and the professional limits that are created.


Certification implies recognition that individuals have met minimal professional standards to practice independently as a counsellor. In order to be certified, counsellors must meet certain levels of education and training in counselling, they must follow the code of ethics, and they are held accountable to show competent and ethical performance in practice. Certification is different from regulation. Registered counsellors have met the requirements to be members of a provincial regulatory college in Canada. Canadian Certified Counsellor (CCC) certification represents a successful evaluation of a member's qualification to practice.

The person who makes the appointment to see the therapist.

The CCPA Code of Ethics serves as a guide to the professional conduct of all of its members. A full copy of the Code of Ethics can be found at

A commitment is required from the client for the hard work and emotional or psychic pain that can be involved in  working through of issues. Appointments need to be kept and time keeping is important. Therapists will also make a commitment to ensure and maintain their practices.

All discussions that take place between a therapist and a client are treated with respect and discretion. An agreement is usually made during the first session about confidentiality. If exceptional circumstances arise, where there is a need to involve someone else, your consent should be sought for a change in this agreement.

Often referred to as "informed consent", this refers to permission that is freely given by the client to the therapist.

The contract is the initial agreement between the client and the therapist. Practical considerations that need to be confirmed include: appointment time, location, cost of session and duration of appointment. A written contract is the best idea, because you can go back and look it over if situations arise in the sessions that you are unsure of. You should feel free to ask questions about the therapist’s professional background.

Counselling and psychotherapy are umbrella terms that cover a range of therapies. They are delivered by trained practitioners who work with people over a short or long term to help them bring about effective change, and to stabilize or enhance their wellbeing.


The sharing of information by the client to the therapist. Under specific circumstances, a therapist may need to disclose information to another, but this would be discussed at the beginning of the sessions. In most situations, your permission will be sought before this happens.

Distance learning is training that has been completed online, by phone or by mail.


Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs) provide therapy and other services to employees of organizations. Some are delivered in house, while others are offered by outside agencies. Most offer time limited therapy.

The ‘ending’ refers to the final part of any course of therapy which can occur for many reasons. It is often referred to as the "termination" process. Usually, the specific problem that the client came to therapy for has been resolved. Whatever the reasons for finishing therapy, a proper ending is very important to bring the therapeutic relationship to a satisfactory close.

The summative assessment of the therapy, carried out by the therapist. Many therapists ask for feedback from clients on how they have found the process.


Therapy  conducted in a group setting, which can also be referred to as group therapy.


A life coach works to solve problems and promote life skills, rather than deliver therapy. Whereas some therapy techniques may be non-directive, a life coach can help a person direct their life.

Some forms of therapy do not have a specific end date. In these instances, a client would see their therapist until a conclusion is reached, no matter how long that takes.


Mental wellbeing enables an individual to develop their potential, work productively and creatively, build strong and positive relationships with others, and contribute to their community.

This is another term used to describe the different theoretical approaches to therapy / types of therapy.


A session between one client and one therapist. This term implies that you are meeting face to face.

The provision of contracted counselling over the internet. Sessions are conducted via email, forums (both synchronous and asynchronous), chat rooms/instant messaging, Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP – online telephone services) or some practitioners use webcams so that the client and therapist can see each other during the session. This format of therapy can be beneficial for some clients, especially those who have difficulty in accessing traditional face-to-face services or who would prefer not to use them.


Trainee therapists offer their services voluntarily in return for gaining experience in a therapeutic environment. Clients should be made aware if they are being counselled by a trainee on a placement, however in this situation a therapist should be supervised by a more experienced therapist.

A branch of medicine that treats disorders of the mind. A psychiatrist is medically trained (a fully qualified medical doctor) and can treat and prescribe medication for a range of mental health issues.

The study of mind and behaviour.


The notes a therapist keeps as a record of the sessions. These are usually short factual records of the session that has just taken place and can be used as a memory aid for future sessions.

A potential client can be referred (sent) to a therapist by their doctor. Alternatively, people can refer themselves to therapy if they decide they want to see a private therapist. From time to time, a therapist may suggest a referral to a client.


Short term therapy is usually for a specific problem that may only take a few sessions to address. In a few situations one session may be sufficient.

The CCPA Standards of Practice provide direction and guidelines to enable therapists  to conduct themselves in a professional manner consistent with the CCPA Code of Ethics. A copy can be found at

Supervision is also known as consultative support and is a confidential process undertaken on a regular basis, which allows therapists to discuss their client work with someone else who is experienced in therapy and bound by the same rules of confidentiality. Supervision is designed to maintain adequate standards of therapy to protect and ensure the best interests of clients.


Therapy  that takes place over the phone between a client and therapist.

The relationship between the therapist and the client.

The act of being in counselling or psychotherapy.

This refers to therapy that is designed to last for a specific length of time. This would be contracted for at the beginning of the sessions. Time limited therapy often refers to Solution-focused Therapy and Brief Therapy.