Here are a few questions that are commonly asked with regard to marriage and family therapy and counselling.

Welcome to The Institute of Family Living
An Association of Individual, Marriage, Couple and Family Counsellors

FAQ, Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is marriage and family therapy?

A: At the Institute of Family Living (IFL), our therapists work from a “family systems” approach, whether with individuals who have no living or close family members, or with a large extended family with close and ongoing ties with each other. We believe that regardless of any specific situation, both genetic and social factors are involved in making people who they are. It is important to understand such things as birth order, socio-economic class, family relationships, family values (both spoken and unspoken), health histories, education, past and present relationships, and personal worldviews in order to provide a full context for whatever issue has brought an individual, a couple, or a family to see a therapist. There are many challenges in marriage that must be faced clearly and honestly by both partners, and similar challenges arise in less formal couple relationships as well. Marriage and family therapy seeks to identify, then help to heal, the wounds that human life can bring.

Q: Psychiatrists, psychologists, psychotherapists, social workers, marriage and family therapists – I’m confused by all these terms. What are the differences and similarities among them?

A: While the general terms “therapist” and “counsellor” may apply to any mental health care provider, and while all such providers may address such common problems as depression, grief, anxiety, and stress, there are key differences in training and approach.

A psychiatrist is a medical doctor who has trained in general medicine, then specialized in psychiatry. As a Fellow of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada, a psychiatrist must follow a code of professional standards and participate in a continuing education program in order to maintain his or her certification. Psychiatrists generally see patients as individuals and are not often trained in family dynamics. IFL has a consulting psychiatrist.

A GP psychotherapist is also a medical doctor, but with several years of training in psychotherapy. She or he may belong to the General Practice Psychotherapy Association in addition to the College of Physicians and Surgeons. The GPPA requires its members to have a minimum of 90 hours formal training, 1,000 hours of paid work in psychotherapy, plus a combination of 50 hours of continuing education and individual/group support work every year. IFL’s GP psychotherapists are highly trained and experienced counsellors.

[Note: Only psychiatrists and GP psychotherapists may prescribe medication. Their services are paid for by provincial health insurance plans. At IFL, our GP psychotherapists’ services are reserved for clients whose family incomes are below Canada’s “poverty line.”]

Registered Psychotherapist, RPs, are accountable to CRPO for the quality of care they provide and for their professional conduct. Only individuals who are registered with CRPO are able to use the title "psychotherapist", "Registered Psychotherapist" or any abbreviation or variation thereof in any language, or to hold themself out as qualified to practise as a psychotherapist in Ontario (no matter what title they use).

Clinical Psychologists are required by the province of Ontario to hold a Ph.D. degree in Psychology. This allows them to use the title “Doctor,” even though they are not medical doctors. As part of their training, psychologists must complete a year of supervised experience, followed by a rigorous exam. Psychologists are licensed by the province and are required to follow a set of standards and a code of ethics set down by the College of Psychologists . Continuing education is also required. IFL’s psychologists have specialized in family, child, and adolescent psychology.

Registered Social Workers hold master’s or doctoral degrees in social work, which consists of theory and practical field work in such areas as child welfare, community development, or gerontology. Social work degrees are accredited by the Canadian Association of Schools of Social Work, and registration with the Ontario College of Social Workers is required. A clinical social worker may work in a social service agency or be in private practice. IFL's mediation consultant is a Registered Social Worker.

Registered Marriage and Family Therapists (RMFTs) are members of the Ontario Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (OAMFT), a division of the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT). Accreditation requires at least a master’s degree in a counselling program, plus a minimum 1,000 hours of clinical supervised therapy/counselling work. Sex therapists registered with AAMFT/OAMFT require additional psychotherapy training and supervised work. IFL’s RMFTs are also members of the Canadian Registry of Marriage and Family Therapists and are experienced couple and family therapists.

Q: What is mediation?

A: When a couple is considering separation, a number of issues arise, ranging from financial decisions to the parenting of children, if any. A trained and experienced mediator is often helpful in such cases, focusing on reasonable compromise rather than the adversarial positions that opposing lawyers often assume. Former couples who have worked together, with a mediator’s encouragement and help, on fair financial arrangements and parenting plans for their children, have a mutually-agreed-to program that has been created just for their particular needs and circumstances. Mediators work together with the couple’s lawyers to ensure that costs are kept to a minimum while all legal requirements are satisfied.

Q: What services does IFL offer?

A: Psychotherapy, psychological assessments, mediation, consultation, and supervision. Our therapists also give training workshops, and frequently speak to interested groups about family structures and dynamics.

Q: Who are therapists accountable to?

IFL therapists are all accountable to their individual professions’ and colleges' code of ethics. As well, our therapists are sensitive to issues of gender, race, and socio-economic factors, and work with a systemic and holistic perspective.

Q: You say that IFL’s therapists work from “Christian and Jewish faith traditions.” Do I have to be Christian or Jewish to seek therapy there?

A: Not at all. While many of IFL’s clients are seeking faith-based counselling, many are not. We work with people from diverse cultural and religious backgrounds. We do not proselytize or judge people’s spirituality. As a matter of policy, IFL therapists work respectfully with their clients’ belief systems and faith communities.

Q: What happens if I miss an appointment, or cancel it late?

A: You must notify your therapist at least 24 hours before the appointment, or 72 hours over the weekend, or you will be charged for the missed appointment. Your therapist may waive the charge if he or she so chooses.

Q: Can I have therapy done over the Internet?

A: Not at IFL. All our professional associations (and common sense) require that therapists know their clients personally, that they work with them in such a way that body language, tone of voice, and interaction with other family members can be observed directly by the therapist. Therefore, therapy must take place in a neutral setting such as IFL’s offices. After a therapist and a client know each other well enough, certain issues may be dealt with by telephone. The Internet can be used to make an initial contact with IFL, or to request an appointment, but the medium is far too impersonal and far too vulnerable to breaches in confidentiality to be appropriate for therapy.

Q: Speaking of confidentiality ...

A: It is our highest value. The Institute has a formal Privacy Policy which protects the personal information of all our clients, and is compliant with the Privacy legislation. Your private issues are safe with your therapist, who may discuss your case with a supervisor or with other therapists but will never use your name. The telephone receptionist has signed an agreement to keep confidential matters confidential. Your personal information can only be released when you have given your written permission. There are a few exceptions to this rule, such as when a life may be in danger or when child abuse is an issue. Then we are mandated by law to report it.

Q: What do your services cost, and how may I pay for them?

A: Standard fees for therapy among IFL Associates range between $90.00 and $160.00 per hour (including HST); Clinical Psychologist fees are set down by their professional College. The fee for mediation is $150 per hour, or about ½ of what a lawyer charges. Clients who see one of our medical psychotherapist pay nothing, but their services are offered only to low-income people who cannot otherwise afford therapy. Each therapist has the ability to negotiate lower hourly rates with their clients, if they so choose, and such a discussion may be part of a first meeting.

Therapists accept cash and cheques. A bill will be rendered at each meeting, and clients are expected to pay for each session before they leave their therapist's office.

Our Associates serve the greater Toronto community both virtually and in person, with offices throughout the city.

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