(This story is sponsored by CounsellingMatch.)
It’s a Wednesday evening and you rush out of the office since you have plans to meet somebody in half an hour.
You’ve seen a photograph of this person before and have read a few paragraphs about them—all of which was provided through a website. From what you’ve read online, they seem like a good fit for you.
As you ride the bus to the nearby meeting location, you wonder what the two of you will talk about.
You arrive right on time and you’re greeted with a friendly handshake and a professional introduction, but you feel like you already know them.
They politely invite you to take a seat on the couch across from them and the initial appointment begins.
CounsellingMatch, headquartered in Vancouver, is a free website that matches users seeking mental health support with qualified and compatible professionals.
In a similar way to how dating apps work to reduce the “blind date” anxiety of meeting someone new, CounsellingMatch aims to make it more comfortable to connect with a counsellor or therapist to confide in.
CounsellingMatch uses the Multimodal Structural Profile Inventory (SPI) as the basis of its personality matching system. Developed by psychology researchers Dr. Clifford N. Lazarus and Dr. Arnold A. Lazarus, the SPI measures various aspects of an individual’s personality.
Their research showed that therapeutic outcomes could improve when there was similarity between counsellor and client on certain of these personality elements. CounsellingMatch applies this principle to the search phase of an individual’s journey to wellness, in hopes of giving them the best possible start to their investment in a professional therapeutic relationship.
Visitors to the site are asked to complete a 35 statement questionnaire, which then generates their profile. Once the personality profile has been completed, users are able to filter their search results by other important factors such as location, treatment modality, and hourly rate. The list of suitable mental health professionals is then ranked based on the user’s profile and preferences.
Like doctors, mental health professionals can specialize in specific issues and disorders. For example, CounsellingMatch users can find practitioners who specifically deal with depression, anxiety, eating disorders, LGBTQ+ issues, and more.
“There are some people that are fortunate to have strong circles of friends, where they might feel comfortable reaching out and saying ‘I’m really struggling, do you know somebody I could talk to?’ It can be a word-of-mouth referral process,” says Yarko Petriw, cofounder at CounsellingMatch, “but there are a lot of people who either don’t have that support network or are uncomfortable discussing their issues publicly, so we hope our site helps reduce the anxiety of finding help for them.”
With Vancouver’s high housing costs and rainy weather, counselling and therapy services are in high demand. But detailed statistics regarding users will remain a mystery as CounsellingMatch prefers not to gather personal information from its users. This ensures client confidentiality.
By tracking site activity, the company has noticed a visible increase in users during the winter season. “It’s a bit of a truism but people say there’s a lot of depression around the holidays and our database confirms that,” says Petriw, “We see more traffic in the winter months.”
This could be caused by family challenges at holiday dinners, overspending on Christmas presents, or loneliness.
All of these triggers, and more, can be discussed with a professional.
“For example, there’s a stigma toward men showing any sort of weakness, let alone weakness in terms of mental health,” says Petriw, “so CounsellingMatch can reduce one potential barrier, whether it’s just a perceived barrier or otherwise, it can help men reach out.”
“We are really trying to open doors for all people so that they can access the help they need,” he adds.
Not only can finding a well-suited match be beneficial to the patient, but it can also reduce the likelihood of practitioners experiencing burnout. On a daily basis, mental health professionals have to tackle emotionally charged and difficult topics.
“Counsellors have told us that if the relationship with the client isn’t working as well as it could be, that can weigh very heavily on them,” says Petriw. “We are hoping to reduce that burnout and help counsellors, psychologists, and therapists end their day feeling as invigorated as they did when they started it.”
Accredited and qualified mental health professionals can also sign up for free (for the first year) to offer their services through the website. After one year, professionals can pay a monthly or annual subscription to maintain their profile on the site.