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By Sarah Blackmore

Benefits Coverage & Counselling: How it works in BC

Benefits Coverage & Counselling: How it works in BC
At Peak Resilience we know that not all of our clients have access to benefits to help cover the cost of their counselling sessions (we acknowledge this is a privilege). However, we also know that many of our clients do have access to extended health benefits coverage and it can be challenging to try and figure out how they work. 

What are ‘Benefits’?

First off a note on terminology - sometimes called “employer benefits,” “group benefits,” “health benefits,” or “health insurance,” these plans cover a variety of health services including mental health support. Coverage can vary from plan to plan and some of the terminology in benefits plans can be confusing.

Whether you’re an employee, student, or business owner, benefits plans exist so that you can take care of your health and well-being. These plans typically include services for both physical health - think Dentist, Chiropractor, Physiotherapist (etc.) and mental health, typically with Psychologists and Registered Social Workers listed as services providers. This is because both Social Workers and Psychologists have their own colleges in each province that serve as regulatory bodies to monitor professional activities. 

Can I use my Benefits for counselling? 

So where do Counsellors come in? While most counsellors in BC are currently registered with a professional association like the BC Association for Clinical Counsellors (BCACC) or the Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association (CCPA), there are many who are not. All counsellors at Peak are registered with either a regulatory body such as the College of Social Workers in BC and/or registered with a professional body such as the BCACC or CCPA. 

So what does this mean for extended benefits coverage of counselling sessions with RCC’s? It means that some plans cover RCC’s and unfortunately, some do not. How do you know if your extended benefits plan cover’s counselling sessions with an RCC? This is where you might have to do some digging. If your plan covers sessions with an RCC it should specifically state so – if not, you’ll likely see Psychologists and/or Social Workers listed. 

If you’re having difficulty navigating the jargony language of benefits packages you have the option of connecting with your HR team if you’re an employee or with Student Services if you’re a student. This may or may not be something you’re comfortable with as there’s a certain level of self-disclosure involved (or you could always pose the question as a hypothetical). 

If you find out that RCC’s are not included in your extended benefits plan you can ask for RCC’s to be included given the depth and breadth of qualifications required to be a member of the BC Association of Clinical Counsellors. We have heard anecdotal success of benefits providers including RCC’s into their plan after being asked to do so. Your counsellor would be happy to support this initiative with a supplementary letter if needed. 

What’s Covered?

The typical range of coverage for mental health services in Canada (for both employees and students) is between $500 and $3,000 per year. Plans vary in the % of each session they cover from 50-100% often to a maximum dollar amount. For example, for UBC students (all UBC students are automatically enrolled and the fees are part of student fees), the extended health insurance plan covers up to 100% of mental health practitioner (licensed Psychologist, Registered Clinical Counsellor, licensed psychological associate, or a Registered Social Worker with a Master’s degree) sessions to a maximum of $1,000 per year. 

A Health Spending Account (HAS) also known as a Healthcare Spending Account (HCSA) operates slightly different from traditional benefits plans in that you often have a maximum fund that you can access for the services you actually use and need. For example, you may have an HAS of $1,000 and you can choose where you want to allocate these funds as opposed to only having a certain amount allocated to a certain service (e.g. $500 for physiotherapy, $500 for mental health services etc.).

How do I access my Benefits? 

Okay so now that we’ve covered the gambit of how extended health benefits plans operate – how do you access these funds for counselling? We’ve tried to make this as seamless as possible at Peak Resilience. After every session you are emailed a receipt that has your therapist’s registration number on it (this is the number that follows  your provider’s name). When you submit your claims to your benefits provider you add in this registration number and potentially other such information as the name of the practice (Peak Resilience) and the address

With nearly 70% of Canadians having some sort of health benefits coverage and 44% of Canadian workers reporting mental health issues, it saddens us to know that only 6% of Canadians use their mental health benefits. If you have access to mental health benefits we encourage you to use this resource and take care of yourself. As Counsellors we know how important emotional sustainability is- it’s one of Peak’s core values. That’s why our very own employee benefits coverage includesRCC’s- and you better believe we attend our own therapy too!

If you have any questions about your benefits or coverage, please don’t hesitate to contact us at connect@peak-resilience.com