how do i choose a counsellor?

First of all, it is important to recognize that counsellors are just people. Some counsellors will feel like they are a better fit for you than others because of things like their personality, style of counselling, and the the way they see client problems.  You can get a feel for that from websites, but it won't be until you are sitting in front of them before you can get a better sense of who they are.

Since you are paying for a counsellors' services, and trusting them with you, I would encourage you to interview them before committing to meet with them on a regular basis.  Some counsellors offer a free telephone consult, or a reduced rate session so that you can take the time to do this.  Research has shown that the primary factor to success in counselling is the relationship between the counsellor and the client.  So if you are not comfortable, you are probably just going to waste a lot of time and money without a lot of results. If for any reason you do not feel comfortable, find another counsellor.

So what should you ask?  You might want to ask questions about their qualifications (what level of education do they have, where did they go to school, how many years of experience do they have, are they registered with a association such as BCACC or CCPA), along with practical questions (how much do they charge, how long are sessions, do they bill to insurance companies such as CVAP, ICBC or WorkSafe, how do they take payment). Also, if you are seeking a counsellor who uses a specific kind of therapeutic approach (e.g. CBT, EMDR, OEI, art therapy, etc.) you will want to ask about their specific training in the approach as many of these require additional training to a Masters degree.

You may also want to ask about their counselling style (for instance, are they really directive or do they collaborate with you; do they do a lot of teaching skills or do they focus on processing feelings, etc.).  The answer to this question will tell you a lot about what you can expect from the counsellor in your work together. Another way to ask this would be to tell the counsellor about what problems you are experiencing and ask for an idea of how they would approach these issues.