What is a Canadian Certified Counsellor?

When you’re looking to start a new relationship with a counselling therapist in Canada, the many designations can be very confusing. At Nightingale Counselling and Research, we have counsellors with different credentials including RCC, CCC, RSW, and Masters students/interns. In this article we’ll introduce the Canadian Certified Counsellor (CCC) designation.

Why are there so many counselling designations in the first place?

There are several reasons why there are so many confusing designations for people who provide therapy services in Canada. The result is a large array of titles including RCC, CCC, RSW, RP, RPC, and more! Let’s investigate the big picture to help get an understanding of the lay of the land.

The main reasons for the variety of counselling designations are these:

  1. In Canada, health care is provincially regulated. And when it comes to mental health care, not all provinces have fully regulated the practice and introduced Colleges. Therefore there are both regulated and unregulated provinces. Regulated provinces have a more streamlined naming convention for people who provide therapy and the name is legally protected, which means that it is against the law for someone who is not authorized to use the title to claim it. To read more about Nightingale work in Ontario, read here. And to read the CCPA statement on inter-provincial care, please see the following: Inter Provincial Practice.

  2. In Canada, people practice therapy from numerous different points of view and levels of education. So, even where psychotherapy is regulated, people might still seek counselling service from a therapist, a social worker, a psychologist, or a psychiatrist. These have their own differences from each other. See our article on these differences here.

Who certifies CCC Counselling in Canada?

Among counselling therapists, there are a number of government regulated Colleges and independent credentialing services. These services step in to fill the gap in protecting mental health care in places where the provincial governments do not provide adequate guidance.

In 1986, the Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association (CCPA) established just such a credentialing service for its members. This is “Canadian Certified Counsellors: National Certification Program for Professional Counsellors.”

The CCPA was in a strong position to offer a credentialing service, having been founded in 1965. It initially named the Canadian Society for Guidance and Counselling (SCOC). The CCPA is an active leader in Canadian counselling:

  • Promoting the profession and fighting stigmatization,
  • Linking the many mental health organizations in Canada together,
  • Initiate policies that encourage accessible, responsible, inclusive counselling,
  • Offer continuing education member services.


The CCPA is a trustworthy body that can help Canadian therapy clients be reassured that their counsellors work is to the highest ethical and evidence based standard. 

How do therapists become a Canadian Certified Counsellor? What are the qualifications of a CCC?

Most CCCs will have spent about 7 years in schooling and training to become certified. As written in the Certification Guide published by the CCPA, “Obtaining the CCC designation requires a comprehensive application demonstrating that an applicant’s qualifications align with CCPA requirements as set forth by the Certification Committee, Board of Directors and Executive Committee.” 

CCCs will have completed undergraduate and masters degrees, passed ethical exams, and concluded a formally supervised internship working in a clinic with clients. They will have recommendations from a variety of superiors throughout this process, including instructors, supervisors, colleagues, and mentors.

More information about this rigorous process can be found in the CCPA Guide to Certification.

How do I verify my counselling therapist’s designation if they are a CCC?

All CCCs will have a membership number which can be requested by the client. It may even be framed and hung on their wall!

In addition, clients can check with the CCPA to ensure that the membership is valid, with an active membership fulfilling the duties of maintaining their good standing. One of the benefits of seeing a counsellor as part of a group counselling firm such as Nightingale Counselling and Research is that we do this work for you: unlike seeing an individual practitioner, perhaps online, and having to vet their insurances, professional memberships, etc., on your own, you can trust a larger organization, who does their regular due diligence that their therapists maintain active memberships across all the requirements of being a registered therapist in Canada.

How do CCCs compare to other designations, such as RCC, MSW, CRPO, etc?

The main points of comparison are the following:

  • Masters Level: CCC counsellors have a Master’s degree in psychology, similar to the requirements for regulated practitioners in other Colleges and credentialing programs. They do not need a more advanced degree such as a Ph.D or Psy.D as Registered Psychologists or Psychiatrists must have. At Nightingale Counselling and Research, we recommend the Master’s level for all client-facing mental health work, where it is available. We hire only Master’s level counsellors.
  • Counselling First: CCCs are similar to RCCs in that their first priority is counselling therapy. They do not primarily do diagnostics, provide medicine, or intervene in the social community of the client. At Nightingale Counselling and Research, we recommend that people who have concerns about problems in living first go to a “Counselling First” practitioner, because there is high probabilities of good outcomes with much lower “side effects” than we see with other interventions

Are Canadian Certified Counsellors covered by insurance?

In our experience, CCCs are likely to be covered under most private and public insurance programs. If you’ve found a counsellor that you would like to work with, it’s always a good practice to ask their administration team for details on your specific insurer. Canadians pay for their counselling through a large number of insurers, and there are no mandatory policies in Canada about which designations must be covered by specific plans.

Nightingale’s administration and intake team will happily walk you through the process of assessing which counsellors best fit your insurance benefits.

What kind of issues can a Canadian Certified Counsellor help with?

CCCs are true counsellors in the sense that they have a focus on individual and family level systems that contribute to your problems in living and understand how to use the techniques of counselling therapy to create change in those systems towards helping you feel better. These forms of healing and helping are largely safe and side-effect free, and Nightingale recommends this approach as the first step in seeking symptom relief. You can consider a CCC as your first point of contact if you are having issues with:

  • Relationships to self and others
  • Difficulty and school or work
  • Low confidence, harsh self criticism, imposter syndrome
  • Depression and anxiety symptoms
  • Trauma experiences
  • ADHD
  • Many more…

CCCs at Nightingale Counselling and Research have access to a large team of support colleagues and have the capacity to help you with referral processes in addition to the care they can themselves provide.


What are the benefits of seeing a Canadian Certified Counsellor?  

In comparison to getting care from a Medical Doctor, a Psychiatrist, or a Psychologist, the benefits of seeing a CCC are numerous. First, they are frequently available! In Canada, where access to mental health care is getting increasingly difficult, the waitlists for other care providers are growing into the years. CCCs at Nightingale Counselling and Research are ready to help now. Second, we can experience extremely positive outcomes from CCC-based therapy without the side effects of diagnostic labels and pharmacological regimes.