Dr. Agatha Murray
Frequently Asked Questions
What's the difference between psychologists, psychiatrists, and counsellors?
Psychologists have graduate-level training (Master's or PhD) in a specific branch of psychology, for example, counselling; their main treatment modality is "talk therapy" and behavioural interventions (such as cognitive-behavioural therapy) and they do not prescribe medication. Psychologists' services are generally not covered by the public health care system.
Psychiatrists are medical doctors with expertise in mental health. They are allowed to prescribe medication, and this tends to be their main treatment modality. In Canada, psychiatrists' services are paid for by the public health care system. To see a psychiatrist, you typically need a referral from a family doctor or access through a hospital-based program.
Anyone who provides counselling can call themselves a counsellor as it is not currently a regulated title in Alberta. It is in your best interest to seek out someone who is a member of a regulatory body that provides registration or licensing (such as the College of Alberta Psychologists), because this indicates the provider has met defined standards of training and must follow certain practice guidelines, and you have recourse in the event you ever wish to make a formal complaint.
Do I need a doctor's referral to see a psychologist? Does a doctor's referral cover the fee?
You do not need a doctor's referral to receive services, and having one does not cover the fee unless this is required by your insurance plan for coverage.
Is everything I say in counselling confidential?
Most but not all information shared with a psychologist is confidential. The exceptions include imminent risk to safety, and child abuse or neglect. The detailed confidentiality policy will be explained prior to the start of counselling services.
What should I be prepared to do in counselling?
Your role in counselling is to come to appointments ready to talk about your concerns in an open and honest way. You may also get "homework" tasks assigned between sessions, and the more effort you put into these tasks, the better your outcome is likely to be. You are welcome to take notes in counselling sessions to help you remember what we talked about.
What will happen in the first appointment?
You will be asked to fill out forms asking for your contact information and your written consent to receive counselling. As part of this process, I will explain important details related to counselling services, such as the confidentiality policy. (For virtual therapy services done by video or phone, these forms will be emailed to you ahead of the first appointment.)
I will invite you to tell me some general information about yourself, so that I can get to know you better. We will then talk about the presenting problem or the reason why you are seeking counselling. After gathering this information, we usually have a conversation about your goals for counselling (what do you hope to achieve?) and create a plan for getting there. If there's time, we will start talking about the issues more in-depth or I may teach you strategies relevant to your problem.
How long does therapy take?
This is highly individual and depends on many factors, such as the presenting problem and your preferences. Some clients want to address a particular issue as quickly as possible; some prefer a longer therapy process for exploration or support. You may wish to consider ahead of time how much time, energy, and financial resources you wish to invest into therapy.
In general, the average course of therapy in my practice is between 5 and 15 sessions, with each session being 50 minutes long and spaced out by 2 to 4 weeks.