778-678-7776 matthewgardner@shaw.ca

Frequently Asked Questions


What does it mean to be a Registered Clinical Counsellor?

Registered Clinical Counsellors have successfully fulfilled requirements of education, supervision and clinical experience to the satisfaction of the British Columbia Association of Clinical Counsellors. All practising RCC’s must also be fully insured. Some extended medical plans will cover some or all of the costs of counselling ONLY if the counsellor is registered.

Will my medical coverage pay for my counselling sessions with you?

Sadly, medicare does not cover counselling, even from a Registered Clinical Counsellor. Extended medical packages differ considerably. Some offer no coverage for counselling. Some will cover counselling fees from an RCC up to a certain limit. Others insist that you consult a Registered Psychologist. Still others will only cover Counselling received from a specific provider. To be sure, please contact your provider. Victims of crime can apply to the Crime Victim Assistance Program, with whom I am registered. If approved, they will be entirely subsidized for many sessions.

What are your specialities?

In the past, counsellors have tended to favour one type of therapeutic orientation – CBT, for example – and have consequently specialized in helping clients whose issues are known to be effectively treated by that kind of therapy. This is a perfectly valid approach when the client’s issue is clear-cut and unambiguous. If, for instance, you are suffering from a phobia, then I would recommend consulting someone who specializes in treating phobias, who will almost certainly employ some kind of CBT. Many people who seek counselling, however, have issues or symptoms that are much less easy to pin down. And frequently the ‘presenting issue’ – depression for instance – rarely turns out to be the main issue, the root cause. Often, counselling requires a kind of detective work, as counsellor and client work together to excavate the whole picture, discover what is really going on, and formulate a plan of action. In these cases, therapeutic specialization tends to lead to a kind of one-size-fits-all approach, which is less than helpful. When all you have is a hammer, everything starts to look like a nail! For this reason, I prefer not to be a specialist. As explained more fully on the ‘My Approach’ page, I am predominantly a Client-Directed practitioner. This means that I treat every single client as utterly unique, and do my best, with the client’s help, to use the combination of therapeutic strategies that is the best possible fit for that individual’s specific needs, goals, values, personality, circumstances and beliefs.

Having said that, the types of client I most enjoy working with are those who have come to – or are approaching – a point of significant life change, which usually manifests as a crisis, and might be heralded by ‘symptoms’ such as extreme dissatisfaction and unhappiness. I am at my best when given the opportunity to go deep with people.

What type of counselling do you do?

Again, I must stress that my main priority is to find the combination of therapeutic strategies that is the best possible fit for each unique individual I see, and I will persistently elicit feedback from my client until they have taught me how best to serve them.

Having said that, I am always Person-Centered, and naturally adopt an Existential, Humanistic, Holistic and Strengths-Based approach. The specific strategies I most like to use include Solution-Focused, Narrative, and Cognitive-Behavioural Therapies, along with Somatic Experiencing, Attachment Theory, Motivational Interviewing, and the Stages of Change model. For more information on all of these strategies, visit the ‘My Approach’ page.

Why should I see you, rather than another counsellor?

You shouldn’t! Or rather, you should see the counsellor who will be the best possible fit for you. It is a big decision, so take your time. Hopefully, the information I’ve provided on this website, particularly here and on the ‘My Approach’ and ‘About Me’ pages, will give you a good sense of who I am and how I work. If you do decide to come to see me, our first job together will be to decide if I am the right person for you. If not, I will do my best to help you find the practitioner you need.

What are your strengths?

My main strengths as a counsellor are my transparent authenticity and integrity. I find it easy to accept people unconditionally, without any value judgements, perhaps because I come from a higher perspective, a place of love. I bring no ego to the work, and have no agenda other than to meet people where they are and help them in any way I can.

I have always been a good listener, and possess a relaxed, easy-going nature which, combined with a good sense of humour, helps me to build solid relationships with people quickly. I am also naturally calm, strong and grounded, which helps put people at ease. My natural tendency is to be positive, optimistic, dynamic and upbeat, which fosters constructive, solution-focused talk. I am also blessed with a sharp and highly focused mind, which helps to keep my clients on track, avoiding that tendency of many counsellors to talk and listen without really getting anywhere. Without being pushy, I will go as deep with people as they are willing to go.

Perhaps my greatest strength is the sheer depth and breadth of my experience. I have travelled all over the world, experiencing many cultures, and witnessing both heart-breaking hardship and sublime beauty. I have lived in many circumstances, rubbing shoulders with the most over- and under-privileged, and have held down wildly varied jobs, from labourer to teacher to mushroom-picker to author to counsellor. I have read widely and voraciously in the fields of literature, poetry, philosophy, psychology and spirituality. The result of all of this is perspective and – dare I say it – wisdom.

What do you actually do?

My first goal is to make my clients feel safe and comfortable, to create and hold a sacred space in which they can do some deep soul-work. At the same time, I am trying to build a collaborative and cooperative relationship built on trust, openness and mutual respect. Next, I want to hear my client’s story, including their reason for seeking counselling. Much of what I do is listening, but it is far from passive. I want to help my client to achieve focus and clarity, always striving to go deeper and see the bigger picture, fishing for clues, digging for relevant information, identifying blind spots. I am looking for strengths, resources and opportunities. I am also trying, with my client’s help, to figure out the best possible way of helping them. As the story emerges, we set goals, and agree upon strategies for working toward them. After that, counselling can go in as many different directions as there are people.

I cannot cure or change people, I can only help them to help themselves. Consequently, much of the work is done by the client outside of our sessions, and to this end I usually give some kind of ‘home-work’.

How does Counselling help?

Counselling can help in numerous ways, depending on the needs of the client. My job is to clarify those needs, and help the person figure out how best to meet them.

Especially these days – when life is so fast-paced and complex – our thoughts, feelings, hopes and values tend to get tangled up in knots within our minds, hearts and bodies. Bombarded by our own personal life-storm, it is almost impossible to see clearly enough to make sense of our experiences and realize our own full potential. What’s needed is true focus, and that is very hard to achieve alone. Friends and family are great for support, but they tend to offer a lot of advice and opinions, are quick to make assumptions and judgements, limit us with their expectations, pursue their own agendas, and ultimately get tired of hearing us talk about ourselves. None of this is very helpful, especially for a person in crisis.

Using the many skills at my disposal, I can help you:

• untangle your life-knots, so that the many relevant strands of your life situation can be separated and laid out neatly to be worked upon;
• understand each of these life-strands with greater clarity and perspective;
• make a list of priorities;
• set realistic, clear and attainable goals;
• create a plan of action, delineating the steps necessary to attain those goals;
• develop any skills necessary to meet those goals;
• address the deep-rooted obstacles that might be getting in your way;
• heal the deep-seated wounds that still cause you pain;
• recognize and deal with habitual and dysfunctional patterns of thinking.

But this is just the tip of the iceberg. For more information on the ways in which I can help, please visit the ‘My Approach’ page.