How Insurance Works for Counselling

By Casey Armstrong

April 7, 2022

Since counseling is not covered under BC’s Medical Services Plan (MSP), those seeking counseling through a private practice or practitioner (like Cedarwood Collective), often wonder about payment. Will I have to pay for this out-of-pocket or will this be paid for by insurance?

Do you have extended healthcare benefits?

Well, the first question is this: do you have extended healthcare benefits? Extended health care benefits refer to any medical benefits that offer coverage beyond what is provided by government plans like MSP. . This includes dentistry, the cost of prescriptions, registered massage therapy, optometry, and much more. This also includes mental health services like counselling.

If you have an employer that offers extended healthcare benefits, they most likely sent you a package with all of the information you need to access those benefits. Some people opt-in to extended healthcare benefits and pay directly to the insurance company, and other folks may have access through the First Nations Health Authority. Some accepted insurance plans at Cedarwood Collective are: Pacific Blue Cross, BlueCross BlueSheild, Canada Life (Great-West Life), First Nations Health Authority, Green Shield Canada, LifeWorks (formerly Morneau Shepell), Manulife, Medavie Blue Cross, SunLife, iA Financial Group.

The second question is this: are the services provided by the practitioner you are working with or interested working with covered by your plan? 

How do I know if a counsellor/therapist is covered under my plan?

The answer is this: it depends on a few factors. For one, what types of practitioners are covered under your plan? The plan might say that they include counseling with an RCC and/or CCC, Social Worker (RSW), or a psychologist. These are all registered professionals that would have had to have gone through a process with their association (i.e. BC Psychological Association for psychologists, BC Association for Clinical Counsellors for RCC, and the British Columbia College of Social Workers for RSWs). 

You might be thinking: aren’t all counsellors or therapists registered? In many cases the answer is no, for a few reasons. For one, while psychologists and social workers are regulated in B.C., counsellors and therapists are not. The B.C. Association of Clinical Counsellors offers the RCC designation for those with the appropriate education and who commit to following a code of conduct and standards of practice. The BCACC also has the power to investigate complaints against members. There are also other designations therapists can seek in B.C. or they can practice without designation so there may be therapists who are not covered under your insurance plan. 

Another reason might be because the therapist is still in training and while they are seeking RCC designation, they are still completing practicum or other training requirements. For example, at Cedarwood Collective one of the ways we offer low-to-no cost counselling is through apprentice or intern counsellors. These are individuals who have completed Masters-level coursework and training, but who are completing the practical component of their training under the supervision of an experienced practitioner. Once they complete their practicum, there is still be a waiting period before they can become registered with the BCACC so it is always important to confirm this before proceeding with counselling if you intend to use your extended health coverage.

At Cedarwood, you can easily filter for “insurance-eligible” counsellors if you have coverage. If you don’t, you can search “low-cost” and see if working with one of our intern counsellors feels right for you.

Okay, so have determined that you do have coverage and the practitioner you would like to work with is covered under that plan? Great. That is half the battle but now…

How do I get paid?

So now you have figured out that you can get reimbursed for counselling but you might be wondering how that money will find its way to your bank account.

If you are used to accessing extended health benefits your next question might be: Do they do direct billing? Unlike dentists and optometrists, counsellors cannot direct-bill insurance companies. Instead, you pay for the service up front, then submit your receipt for reimbursement. 

The process will differ slightly for each insurance provider, but if you can set up an online account with your provider, the process is usually quick and painless. You’ll just need the receipt from your session that includes the total cost, the provider’s name, registration number, and to answer a few other simple questions.

If you are feeling overwhelmed and confused when it comes to submitting claims, a good person to contact might be the person from your workplace who provided you with the benefits package in the first place. Most insurance providers also have customer support and online resources that walk you through how to submit a claim.

Casey Armstrong

Casey Armstrong

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