Without a doctor’s referral, you need to access care through the private system, which is not funded by the government. Private mental health services can be expensive. This can be a real barrier to finding good care. While there is no simple answer, there are several different places you can look:Mental health services like counselling or therapy may be covered by your BC Medical Services Plan (MSP) when you access the service through a hospital or mental health clinic. Find your local health authority to learn more about counselling services in your area. HealthLink BC’s Find Services tool and Locator app can also help you find services. You often need a doctor’s referral to access these types of programs.
If you have health benefits at work, ask about your coverage. Some plans will cover a certain number of private counselling or therapy sessions. In addition, a workplace Employee/Family Assistance Plan may offer some services or may refer you to community services.
Some psychologists, clinical counsellors, or other service providers may offer a sliding scale, which means that their costs are based on your income. Try contacting service providers directly to ask if they offer a sliding scale. One private clinic in Vancouver has a good list of lower-cost counselling options in the Vancouver area. For those outside of the Lower Mainland, you can still look at this list and see if any similar organizations might be in your community.
Contact a mental health organization like Anxiety Canada, the Canadian Mental Health Association, BC Schizophrenia Society, Institute of Families for Child and Youth Mental Health, Mood Disorders Association of BC, or Jessie’s Legacy. They may offer services in your area, or they may have local connections that they can refer you to.
You can also email us and we’ll try and give you some recommendations for your community.
Where can I learn more?
- Learn more about different mental health professionals in our Working With Your Doctor for Mental Illnesses info sheet
- Learn more about getting help and the different sources of support including myths and facts
- Learn more about the different places to find help in the article The Right Path for You: Finding your way to and through services in BC
About the author
The Canadian Mental Health Association promotes the mental health of all and supports the resilience and recovery of people experiencing a mental illness through public education, community-based research, advocacy, and direct services. Visit www.cmha.bc.ca.
Q&A is for readers who want to take charge of their well-being, support a friend or loved one, find good help, or just learn more about mental health and substance use. Here, the information and resource experts at HeretoHelp will answer the questions that we’re asked most often. We'll offer tips and information, and we'll connect you with help in BC, Canada. If you have a question you’d like to ask, email us at email@example.com, tweet @heretohelpbc, or log in to HeretoHelp and post a comment on this page.