Dr. Blythe Shephard

Counsellors and Psychotherapists: A Role to Play

     Growing up dividing her time between a remote fishing camp and St. Catharines, Ontario, Dr. Blythe Shepard learned to love rural culture and came to understand its challenges.

     Dr. Blythe Shepard’s rural roots now inform her research in the Faculty of Education, and provide valuable perspective in her role as president of the Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association (CCPA).

     “Over three million Canadian children aged 12–19 are at risk for developing depression,” says Shepard. “Each year, four thousand 15- to 24-year-olds commit suicide, the second leading cause of death for 15- to 19-year-olds. Mental health services are not considered primary healthcare. In rural areas especially, people are struggling to find them.”

     In conjunction with the CCPA Shepard performs intensive studies of the needs of mental health practitioners and their clients, particularly in rural areas. She promotes increased recognition of counsellors and psychotherapists and works with colleagues across the country to establish core competencies and advocate for regulatory bodies in every province. Among other initiatives, she helped develop Canada’s first “Entry to Practice Competency Profile,” chaired the Canadian Certified Counsellor certification committee, and co-developed the Canadian Certified Counsellor Supervisor Certificate.

     “It’s an ethical imperative that people receive supervision throughout their professional lives,” she says. Research shows clinical supervision (defined as feedback and support from more experienced colleagues) strengthens competency; attracts new counsellors to the field; enhances career satisfaction; and prevents burnout, especially among veterans.

     To facilitate training proficient supervisors Shepard designed a course currently hosted online by the University of Ottawa, developed a supervision handbook, and is editing an upcoming textbook.  When her research revealed the primary concern of rural/remote counsellors as accessing more networking and professional development opportunities, she instated teleconferences, webinars, workshops, and informal coffee gatherings. 

      With mental illness affecting one in five Canadians during their lifetimes, there’s a desperate need for timely, cost-effective services. According to Shepard, getting counsellors into schools and rural communities is key. “Counsellors have a broad scope of skills and knowledge. They can work with anxiety, self-esteem, depression, and more, before the issues become severe.” Other professionals are often more specialized, more costly, and less likely to live in remote areas. 

     “Although diagnosis generally falls to psychologists or psychiatrists,” states Shepard, “counsellors and psychotherapists have a role to play, especially in schools. If doctors, nurses, psychologists, psychiatrists, counsellors and psychotherapists work together as multi-disciplinary teams, there’s room for all of us along the mental health continuum.”

Dr. Blythe Shepard has recently had published the first Canadian textbook for career practitioners, Career Development Practice in Canada: Perspectives, Principles, and Professionalism as well as written a national handbook for the supervision of counsellors/psychotherapists.

Writer: Elizabeth McLachlan
Photographer: Rob Olson


For more information contact:

Darcy Tamayose
Communications Officer
Dean's Office
Faculty of Education
(403) 332-4550