Operational Bulletin 509 – March 14, 2013

This section contains policy, procedures and guidance used by IRCC staff. It is posted on the department’s website as a courtesy to stakeholders.

OB 509 is now expired (since it is outdated). Recipients may find guidance on short-term counselling (formerly known as crisis counselling) in the Policy and Functional Guide for Support Services. This document can be accessed in the resources section of iCARE.

Settlement Program – Crisis Counselling Within Support Services


A new definition of ‘crisis counselling’ for the Settlement Program differentiates this type of counselling from both the general counselling provided as part of information and orientation activities and from social or psychological counselling provided by health care or social service networks. For the Settlement Program, crisis counselling is a service which provides advice and support to clients who encounter problems and crises while adjusting to life in Canada. In these cases, staff in service provider organizations (SPOs) will identify the client’s needs and determine the appropriate type of service or resource for referral.


Program officers and SPOs note a need for clearer guidance on what constitutes crisis counselling as it relates to client mental well-being, as well as a better understanding of the overall scope and nature of counselling and referral services.


The 2010 Immigration Settlement Assistance Program evaluation indicated that there was uncertainty among SPOs regarding the extent of service expected under crisis counselling services (also known previously as para-counselling and solution-focused counselling). Crisis counselling provides advice and support to clients who encounter problems and crises while adjusting to life in Canada, when these problemsprevent them from taking advantage of other settlement services. As one of the Settlement Program support services, it is short-term and can include the identification of the client’s needs, basic advice and support, as well as determination of the appropriate type of service or resource for referral to aid in resolution of their difficulties.

  • Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) does not fund in-depth social or psychological counselling of a kind normally provided by existing health and social service systems. Clients in need should be referred to these agencies.
  • Crisis counselling is a support service and is subject to the Support Services Expenditure Control Policy.
  • Crisis counselling should be considered distinct from generalized counselling that is provided as part of other Settlement Program streams (e.g., Information and Orientation). Costs for generalized counselling should be coded against the stream associated with the service being offered.

The ultimate objective is for the service provider to provide basic advice to clients who encounter problems while adjusting to life in Canada, and to successfully bridge these clients to appropriate mainstream services (e.g., professional counselling services, peer networks and support groups) where necessary. CIC funds referral activities as part of crisis counselling. Funding is not provided for client accompaniment to referral appointments except in cases involving vulnerable clients or vulnerable-client initiatives.  

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