What Does an Anxiety Counsellor Do? (With Skills and Salary)

Updated January 26, 2023

The counselling profession can be an incredibly gratifying experience, especially when dealing with anxiety disorders. Anxiety counsellors equip themselves with valuable skills that help them improve the emotional wellbeing of a large population. Understanding what anxiety counsellors do helps you decide whether you can pursue a career in this field. In this article, we answer the question, "What does an anxiety counsellor do?", explore five steps to become an anxiety counsellor, highlight how much they earn, outline the skills you may require in the field, and discuss the typical work settings of anxiety counsellors.

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What does an anxiety counsellor do?

If you're wondering "What does an anxiety counsellor do?", these professionals, also known as anxiety therapists, typically diagnose, control, and help ease symptoms of anxiety disorders. Many people experience anxiety on different occasions, while for some, the symptoms of anxiety can linger on for an extended period. Anxiety may become a cause of concern when you're overly anxious about a routine situation that doesn't need such a reaction. Anxiety counsellors can explain whether your anxiety levels are normal and identify effective techniques to use if you need intervention. Some of the anxiety disorders that these counsellors deal with include:

  • Generalized anxiety disorder

  • Social anxiety disorder

  • Incapacitating phobias

  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

  • Panic attacks

  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder

These disorders can have devastating effects on the psychological and even physical well-being of an individual if left untreated. For this reason, the services of an anxiety therapist are invaluable. These professionals may apply different approaches to treat such disorders. Their techniques include:

Cognitive behavioural therapy

Anxiety counsellors mainly employ this kind of therapy because studies have proven it to be effective in treating many anxiety disorders. In this type of therapy, counsellors help clients replace negative thoughts with positive ones, as thoughts can affect how they feel about a situation. The technique comprises two major components, cognitive therapy and behavioural therapy.

Cognitive behavioural therapy, or CBT, involves observing how pessimistic thoughts can lead to anxiety. Behavioural therapy instead evaluates how you may react to situations that cause anxiety. For a person suffering from anxiety disorders, negative thoughts can cause fear, which may lead to anxiety. For this reason, counsellors often use CBT to correct such beliefs and help their patients respond positively to anxiety triggers.

Group therapy

Some people can talk freely about stressful situations when they're in a group setting. Anxiety counsellors may apply group therapy to help people suffering from anxiety, as they're likely to feel comforted if they share a common problem. In this kind of therapy, those in the group can help one another cope with their anxiety. The therapy can encourage individuals to explore their emotions, communicate with others, and build self-confidence while learning more about themselves.


This is a long-term form of therapy that anxiety therapists can employ to help ease fears that might lead to anxiety in their clients. The therapist aims to build a professional relationship with their patient over a long period to understand how the patient's past may have affected their present behaviour. This knowledge may even help the therapist reduce their anxiety over what might happen in the future.

Exposure therapy

This is a mental method of treating anxiety disorders that involves exposing a patient to a situation that frightens them or an object that triggers their anxiety. For example, an anxiety therapist may gradually expose a patient that is anxious about height to different height levels until they respond calmly. The nature and length of the exposure may depend on the initial assessment of the symptoms, the patient's response, and other needs of the patient.


Anxiety counsellors sometimes combine psychotherapy with medication to treat anxiety disorders. A patient may use these drugs under strict supervision of their therapist, and the counsellor may administer them, depending on the severity of the anxiety. The medication might not treat the anxiety immediately, but can still help lighten the symptoms.

Related: COVID-19 and Your Job: Tips and Actions to Consider

How to become an anxiety counsellor in 5 steps

You can follow these five steps to become an anxiety counsellor:

1. Earn a relevant bachelor's degree

Pursuing a bachelor's degree in counselling psychology or a related course is typically the first and most crucial step toward becoming an anxiety counsellor. It typically takes four years to complete a Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science degree course in Canada. Your undergraduate courses may teach you specific techniques, discuss human development, and help you develop counselling skills.

2. Pursue a master's degree

Once you've successfully completed your undergraduate studies, you can enrol for a master's degree in psychology or counselling. This is typically a two-year course that allows you to choose an area of specialty. Here, you can choose to specialize in anxiety counselling to learn more about anxiety disorders. To practise as a certified anxiety counsellor in Canada, a master's degree is a requirement.

3. Complete an internship program

A graduate internship program can help you gain practical experience under the supervision of a licensed counsellor. To complete a master's program in the field, they might also ask that you complete a graduate internship experience. This can also help you decide whether you want to specialize in anxiety counselling as it exposes you to real cases.

Related: How to Become a Canadian Certified Counsellor?

4. Get a CCPA certification

The Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association (CCPA) is a professional body that issues certifications to qualified counsellors to start clinical practice. After completing your relevant education and internship programs, you can apply for a certification in your field of study. Once you earn the certificate, you can display it in your clinic where clients can view it and confirm your accreditation.

5. Pass licensing examination

To get a practising license, the requirements are completing a relevant bachelor's and master's degree, completing graduate and postgraduate internship programs, earning a suitable certification, and completing the specific amount of counselling practice hours that are mandatory in your province. To register as a certified counsellor, you may write a registration exam that proves your competency in the practice. The exam is the Canadian Professional Standard for Counselling and Psychotherapy, or CPSC Entry to Practice Competency Assessment.

Read more: Finding Internships and Internship Alternatives During COVID-19

What skills does an anxiety counsellor require?

Here are some essential skills that employers look out for when hiring an anxiety therapist:

  • Communication skills: Anxiety counsellors require exceptional verbal communication skills to interview clients. Knowing how to speak to patients calmly can help you make them feel comfortable.

  • Empathy: To offer the best services, you may require the ability to empathize with your client. This skill involves recognizing and understanding your client's feelings.

  • Problem-solving skills: Given that anxiety counsellors help clients with various issues, they may require a range of problem-solving techniques. They can apply the techniques promptly to help ensure their patients move forward.

  • Observation skills: Observation skills can help you examine your client's body language and facial expressions when interacting with them. This skill helps you identify particular behaviours to determine how best to help them.

  • Confidentiality: This is the core value of counselling practice that enables clients to share sensitive information with you without fear. This being part of the code of ethics in the profession, clients can trust you to keep the information you share confidential.

  • Listening skills: Anxiety counsellors pay attention when their clients are talking. They allow clients to express themselves without interruption and respond appropriately.

  • Interpersonal skills: Anxiety counsellors offer their services to a group of people and individual clients. They may work with a client for a long time, so having the capability to nurture relationships is essential.

  • Patience: Patience is paramount when working with clients, as it can take a variable amount of time before you may see tangible results. This skill can help you remain positive and encourage clients to improve.

  • Emotional stability: Anxiety counsellors work with patients with various issues. Having the ability to cope with hearing about others' traumatic experiences is important.

Read more: Interpersonal Skills: Definitions and Examples

How much does an anxiety counsellor earn?

The national average salary of an anxiety counsellor is $40,839 per year. Anxiety counsellors practising in some cities, including Ottawa, Belleville, Toronto, and Winnipeg, may earn more than the average salary. The highest paid are those in Ottawa, who earn $44,775 per year.

Read more: How to Negotiate Salary (With Examples)

Where does an anxiety counsellor work?

Anxiety counsellors mostly offer their services in an office setting where they can attend to their clients privately. Those employed in institutions typically have fixed working hours, but counsellors who venture into private practice may have flexible working hours depending on scheduled appointments. These professionals can find jobs in a range of work settings that include:

  • Child guidance centres

  • Nursing homes

  • Rehabilitation centres

  • Group therapy practice

  • Mental health facilities

  • Hospitals

  • Correctional facilities

  • Private practice, with the option of online treatment

  • Employee assistance programs

  • Pain clinics

  • Private offices

Please note that none of the companies, institutions, or organizations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed. Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at time of writing. Salaries‌ ‌may‌ ‌‌vary‌‌ ‌depending‌ ‌on‌ ‌the‌ ‌hiring‌ ‌organization‌ ‌and‌ ‌a‌ ‌candidate's‌ ‌experience,‌ ‌academic‌ background‌, ‌and‌ ‌location.‌

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