Frequently Asked Questions

About Paraklesis

How do I register for Paraklesis?

Register for FREE online and receive an E-mail verification of your registration. Registration provides you access to the members only page and affords you the opportunity to set up appointments online, make payments online, or purchase self-enrichment and counselling training courses online.


Which counselling approach is used?

Counselling is done from an integrative approach, recognising the importance of biological (medical), psychological (emotions, cognition and behaviour), social (family and community), and spiritual (faith and religion) factors.

Paraklesis Counselling rejects the notion that there has to be a choice between a psychological and medical approach and believes that a trans-theoretical integrative approach should be followed – integrating theology and psychology.  There is no adherence to any one singular psychological model — the therapeutic model best suited for the client is chosen, and an integrative psycho-therapeutic, biomedical, and spiritual approach is used.

Paraklesis Counselling endeavours to be Christ centred, biblically based, and psychologically sound.

Read more on the Our Approach page

When was Paraklesis Counselling founded?

Paraklesis Counselling was founded in 1992 by Dr Mervin and Hildegard van der Spuy to provide compassionate care-giving with therapeutic excellence. Together they’ve presented the Paraklesis counselling training, self-enrichment courses and seminars. Dr Mervin has provided the professional counselling in his private practice while pursuing his career as a professor of counselling psychology. After retiring from full-time teaching at the end of 2010, Dr Mervin has returned to a part-time private practice and Online Counselling. His counselling training focus has shifted from training professional (Masters-level) counsellors, to equipping and training lay-counsellors and community workers

Read more on the About Us page

What does “Paraklesis” mean?

The concept is derived from the Greek term for the Holy Spirit (Parakletos), the Counsellor, the Helper, the Advocate and Comforter.  The Holy Spirit is the primary Helper (Counsellor) who facilitates spiritual and personal development in people and helps them to grow into wellbeing.

“Parakletos” (Greek), literally means Advocate… one called or sent for to assist another; an advocate, one who pleads the cause of another, one present to render various beneficial service.

We believe that the central and pivotal mode of care-giving is “Paraklesis” – coming alongside.

Emulating this, we want to come alongside people in need.

Read more on the About Paraklesis page.

Admin General

I can’t afford your regular fee. Is a reduced rate or sliding scale available?

A sliding-scale is not used, but Paraklesis Counselling does subsidise from donations received, certain deserving clients who cannot afford the total fee.

What forms of payment are accepted?

Payments can be made by credit card (Amex, Visa, Matercard) and PayPal online or at the session. Debit cards cannot be accepted.  Cash and cheque payments are also accepted at f-2-f session.

No credit will be extended and all payments are due at the f-2-f session and before the online session.

Does my personal information remain confidential with your website?

The Paraklesis website and all the services offered offer the best protection we can online. Please review the Paraklesis Confidentiality and Privacy Policy and please take note of the limitations to confidentiality especially as it relates to online consultations and therapy.

Paraklesis Counselling protects your personal information by making careful security arrangements against such risks as unauthorized access, collection, use, disclosure, or disposal. Security measures have been integrated into the design, implementation, and day-to-day operating practices as part of Paraklesis’ continuing commitment to the protection of personal information it holds.

Please take note: Clients are responsible for the protection of their own privacy as end-user on the computer they use to access the Paraklesis site, send and receive e-mails etc.

* Can I cancel my appointment?

You are responsible to make and keep appointments. If you cannot keep an appointment, please cancel beforehand (F-2-F at least 48 hours beforehand, and online appointments at least 72 hours beforehand) so that we can stop your payment from being processed.

Failure to cancel appointments will result in an administrative cancellation-fee (60% of session) being billed and or the payment being processed.

Refunding payments will incur an administrative fee (including the bank charges to Paraklesis).

What are the office hours of Paraklesis Counselling? – Are there evening or weekend appointments available?

The administrative office is open Monday to Fridays from 9am – 5.00pm. A secretary will take your call and assist you, but Dr Mervin is only available for counselling at the office at selective times (usually two days per week).

Online access to the Paraklesis webpage, blog and self-enrichment courses are available 24/7. In setting up online appointment time-zone differences will be considered.

Appointments will be scheduled in the available time-slots upon receiving an appointment request from you. The latest appointment available is 4.30 pm.

There are NO evening and NO weekend appointments available!

* What services are available?


Dr Mervin offers professional counselling therapy for individuals, couples and families, specialising in helping people with medication related counselling issues.


Paraklesis also offers personal and spiritual enrichment opportunities; marriage, family and relationship courses; lay counsellor training; and counsellor supervision.

What does “confidentiality” mean? – How do I secure the privacy of communications and consults?

Paraklesis Counselling adheres to all the requirements of the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act of Canada (PIPEDA) and to the ethical code requirements for professional counsellors concerning personal information of clients, confidentiality, informed consent, release of information, etc.

Clients are fully informed concerning the confidentiality of their information, why it is being collected and how it will be stored and used. They are informed about the therapists’ duty to inform, and client permission will always be required before any information or reports are released to third parties.

In principle Paraklesis Counselling respects autonomy and fosters self-determination and the right to privacy; adheres to nonmaleficence and the principle to do no harm; covets beneficence and seeks what benefits and promotes well-being;  supports justice and fully committed to fairness; practises fidelity  and accepts the responsibility of trust;  and strives for veracity, coveting truthful honesty and uprightness.

Paraklesis Counselling places client welfare fundamentally and principally first and foremost in all its counselling services and business dealings. Honouring diversity is central to Paraklesis’ efforts to promote wellbeing and to respect the dignity of all clients.

Please review the Paraklesis Confidentiality and Privacy Policy and please take note of the limitations to confidentiality especially as it relates to online consultations and therapy.

What is an Informed Consent form?

Paraklesis Counselling acknowledges the necessity of respect for clients, their autonomy, and their privacy rights. Informed consent is therefore obtained prior to disclosure, and not having consent may be considered malpractice.

In mental health, written contracts for informed consent are commonly referred to as disclosure statements. They disclose to the client information concerning the service that will be provided.

Please review the Paraklesis Counselling Informed Consent Policy and Form.

What is a Healthcare or Mental Health Emergency?

Paraklesis Counselling is committed to the principles of compassionate care and therapeutic excellence, but because of the nature of especially online therapy and therapy in general, we are not able to ensure your safety at all times. It is therefore important for you to know what to do in the event of an emergency or crisis.

Please review the Paraklesis Emergency & Safety Plan

An emergency is a situation where risk to self or others exist.  Only seeking online counselling is insufficient in emergency situations. Please find additional help during any mental health emergency.

  • If you experience a life threatening situation and/or if abused
  • If you have thoughts of hurting or killing yourself
  • If you have thoughts of hurting or killing another person
  • If you have a recent history of suicidal, violent or abusive behaviour
  • If you hold what others may consider unrealistic beliefs (delusions)
  • If you see or hear things that others don’t (hallucinations)
  • If you are currently addicted to, and/or abusing alcohol or drugs

If you are experiencing a life-threatening emergency or crisis:

  • Immediately phone 911
  • Or go directly to the nearest emergency room or hospital
  • You may also contact a crisis or suicide hotline
  • Contact the support person indicated on your anti-suicide contract


What if I’m not sure you can help me with my problem?

If, after browsing the website you still feel uncertain and still have questions about the services offered at Paraklesis Counselling, please feel free to contact us by e-mail or call during office hours and leave e message (we will get back to you).

Dr Mervin will speak to you briefly briefly concerning the questions you might have about the applicability of the services he offers, but he will not be able to engage in therapy or consult with you on your specific issue or problem.

If at any stage during a counselling session you are unsure about the counselling, you have the freedom to terminate the counselling and if required, a referral to another counsellor can be made.

I don’t have childcare. Can I bring my child to my appointment?

No, we do not have childcare available or a separate area where children can play.

There is an office waiting area where a spouse can wait while the other spouse is in session, but it is not a suitable space for smaller children to wait.

When family therapy is involved, we want you to bring the children and this will be arranged beforehand. Family sessions will be held in the larger conference room.

When the focus is on the marriage or the adult individual, we ask that you do not bring your children with to a counselling session.

* Can I see Dr Mervin in the office? (Is face-to-face or in-person counselling available)

Yes, you can submit an appointment request to see Dr Mervin in his counselling office in Calgary, Alberta.

Online Video consultation/therapy is also available.

Do I have to complete the pre-counselling information form?

You are encouraged to have to complete the pre-counselling information form as it will save time in session. You can decide how much information you want to share and questions you feel that don’t apply to you, or questions that you are not ready to answer, can be skipped. All information will be held in confidence.

To assist Dr Mervin to provide the best possible service, please complete the form and supply all relevant information that would make the consultation/counselling more meaningful. Having the information ahead of the session saves valuable time for you in session to focus on your wellbeing.

How do I make an appointment?

You can submit an appointment request online or you can call the Paraklesis office and ask for a call-back (Dr Mervin is not always available to take calls, but all messages are forwarded to him and he will get back to you).

Dr Mervin will contact you per e-mail and/or telephone to set up an appointment.

You might be asked to complete a pre-counselling information form online. You will be asked to accept the terms & conditions and to complete the Informed Consent Form (f-2-f counsellors will be asked to sign the form at the session)

You will receive a reminder e-mail 72 hours before your appointment.

How much does counselling cost? (What are the rates for your services?) (Fees, fee structure, costs)

Registering for the Paraklesis E-Newsletter, and partaking in the counselling discussions on the Paraklesis Blog and Facebook pages are FREE.

The cost of in-office or online counselling services can be reviewed in the Service Fees document.

Fees are payable per session. Face-to-face counselling can be paid at the session (cash, cheque, credit card). Online therapy must be paid on the online secure payment portal (PayPal or Credit Card).

Paraklesis services are not covered by Health Care, but some third-party (medical insurance providers) may cover counselling services or psychotherapy.  Clients will be provided with an invoice/receipt which can be submitted to their insurance provider for possible reimbursement.

Paraklesis is committed to provide an affordable an accessible service to clients.

What is Therapy? What is Psychotherapy? What is Treatment?

There is no generally accepted distinction between counselling and psychotherapy. There are well founded traditions which use the terms interchangeably and others which distinguish between them.

Paraklesis uses the terms interchangeably.

In general, the term “therapy” or “treatment” is associated with the process of healing or recovering. Psychotherapy is mostly an interpersonal and personal process which aims to help people understand and better cope with conditions, emotions or perceptions, and empower them on their path to wellness.

A Therapeutic Relationship exists when a qualified healthcare provider is contracted by a client to provide diagnosis and/or treatment.

What is a Consult? What is Educational or Expert Advice?

Unlike therapy, consults do not include the full counselling process of diagnosis and treatment. Educational consults are like getting an expert’s advice, but without the agreement to diagnose or enter treatment. In most cases, providers of educational consults have no responsibility for case management or follow up.

Dr Mervin provides consultations for clients and other counsellors, often at the request of a family physician, concerning medication related counselling issues.

I’m not a Christian; can I make use of the counselling services provided?

Yes, you do not need to be a Christian to make use of the services provided by Paraklesis. Your own belief-system will be respected and no pressure will be placed on you to become a Christian.

Our value system, believes and worldview will not be forced on you, but you might be made aware of your own underlying worldview – you are therefore encouraged to reflect on your own perspectives as you strive for personal and spiritual growth.

What is meant with “faith based” counselling?

There are many ‘faith based” approaches to counselling — some totally rejecting the integration of psychology and/or totally ’spiritualising’ the counselling, others reduce all counselling to just one aspect , while others have moved to a secular postmodern spirituality.  Paraklesis strives to remain balanced in its faith based integrative approach – recognising the importance of biological (medical), psychological (emotions, cognition and behaviour), social (family and community), and spiritual (faith and religion) factors.

Although Paraklesis is based on a philosophical and theological foundation of faith based counselling and adheres to a Christian worldview, we are respectful of individual’s own faith perspective and understanding our practice is psychologically sound.

What is the difference between a counsellor, therapist, psychologist, and psychiatrist?

Psychiatrists are medical doctors who have specialised in psychiatry and are therefore licensed by their perspective medical boards or colleges to practice medicine, do psychotherapy, and prescribe medication.

Psychologists are mostly PhD clinical professionals (in some countries/states/provinces there are still masters level psychologists) who are licensed by their perspective psychology boards or colleges to practice.

Counsellors are professional therapists, normally requiring at least a masters level academic training. They utilise a variety of healing (therapeutic) methods to help people handle their problems and crisis more growthfully and thus experience healing of their brokenness.  Some countries/ states/ provinces also require counsellors to register with a professional organisation and in some countries/states/provinces the title psychotherapist is restricted to only licensed practitioners. At present there is no licensing board or required registration for psychotherapists in Alberta, Canada and no restrictions on the title.

Is Dr Mervin a licensed psychologist?

No, please note that Dr Mervin is not a licensed psychologist, but a professional counsellor (psychotherapist) and pharmacist who, as professor in counselling psychology, has specialised in pharmacologically informed counselling (psychopharmacology).

His extensive teaching and therapeutic private practice experience uniquely equips him and enables Paraklesis to provide a unique counselling service of excellence.

Can Dr Mervin prescribe medication?

No, all medication has to be prescribed by the client’s family physician and/or psychiatrist.

After a thorough assessment and when requested by the client, Dr Mervin will write a confidential psychopharmacological report for the client that can be faxed, e-mailed, or presented to the doctor.

Linked and posted articles and courses and all Paraklesis published material are intended for educational purposes and for people who are in treatment with a medical/mental health professional. None of these are designed to help you solve mental health problems on your own or make decisions about your medications on your own.

Clients must consult with their family physician or psychiatrist concerning their medication before stopping, starting or changing medication regimen.

What is psychopharmacology?

Paraklesis offers pharmacologically informed counselling, specialising in medication related counselling issues.

Clinical Pharmacology is a bridging discipline, integrating the basic science of pharmacology, which seeks to understand the mechanisms of drug action, and the use of drugs in patients. In Clinical Psychopharmacology, the major concerns are psychiatric disorders and the manner in which the science of pharmacology may be applied to the betterment of the patient in treatment and client in counselling.

Dr Mervin’s unique background as a pharmacist and professor in counselling psychology and his specialisation in teaching psychopharmacology enables Paraklesis to offer pharmacologically informed therapy.

Read More about Psychopharmacology

Online E-Therapy

Can minors make use of the online counselling?

No, you have to be 18 years and older to participate in online counselling.

At this stage online therapy is not available to underage clients. Parents and legal guardians can of course consult online with Dr Mervin about minors in their care  (with the consent of their parents/guardians; underage clients can be seen by Dr Mervin in his counselling office).

Counsellors cannot give the same assurance of confidentiality to minors as they do to other clients because their parents/guardians control their legal rights. Parents/guardians must consent to the counselling on behalf of the minor (divorced parents with joint custody have to both consent).

Although parents/guardians rightfully have access to all information pertaining to the minors’ counselling, they can be requested to voluntarily waive it in favour of providing the minor with some sense of counselling “confidentiality”.

Please note that Dr Mervin does family therapy and works with families, but that young children will be referred to a counsellor/therapist whom specialises in child and play therapy.

How effective is E-therapy / Online-counselling?

Although some in the counselling and psychotherapy community are still questioning the efficacy or non-efficacy of E-therapy or online-counselling, more and more studies are showing that it has a place and can be effective.

The most popular reason for using E-therapy, for the therapist and the client, is the convenience. The online counselling sessions can be conducted from the comfort of the client’s home, and at more convenient times such as in the office after business hours, while away on a trip, or at a friend or family member’s house.

The other great benefit to E-therapy is the cost. Online therapy in general is cheaper – the client pays less and is not required to travel anywhere or having to take time off work.

What is E-therapy, Online-counselling?

E-therapy or online counselling is a viable alternative to traditional psychotherapy. It’s effective, private, and economical. For some people, it’s the only way they can get help from a professional therapist when traditional services are inaccessible.

Dr Mervin’s online services are offered via e-mail exchange, real-time telephone sessions, and real-time video-conferencing/counselling (Skype).

How do I know if e-counselling is for me?

Online counselling is appropriate if you …

  • Have access to high-speed/broadband internet
  • Are comfortable in operating your computer (basic computer skills)
  • Are reasonably familiar with the computer programs
  • Can solve minor problems encountered while using the computer or the Internet
  • Comfortably and regularly use regular e-mail programs (or a web-based email program such as Windows Live, Hotmail, G-Mail or Yahoo mail)
  • Are familiar with
    – attaching files to send
    – opening attached files
    – cut and paste text easely
  • Trust the encrypted and safe online payment system
  • Can succinctly and accurately describe your counselling concern and emotions using text (for e-mail and chat)
  • Are familiar with Internet Skype
  • Have a webcam (required for video counselling)
  • Can keep your online communications confidential (private setting, restricted access to computer, password protected)


Who can register for the Paraklesis Counselling Program?

The Paraklesis Counselling Program is specifically developed for individual caregivers who want to equip themselves as counsellors. If you want to be better prepared for serving as counsellor in your community or church, this training will empower you for your ministry. The training is especially suited for all lay counsellors – pastors, elders, youth workers, community care providers, NGO workers, and anyone who would like to be better equipped.

Counsellor Training is for You …

  • If you are Compassionate about the needs of others
  • If people often seek you out for help
  • If you want to serve as a caregiver/counsellor in your community
  • If you have a teachable spirit
  • If you are prepared to grow and develop
  • If you are already in a care-giving ministry and need specialised training
Is the Paraklesis Training Program accredited?

Yes and no!

Yes, the program is presented at the South African Theological Seminary as a Higher Certificate in Christian Counselling (HCCC) and fully accredited by the Higher Education Board of South Africa.

The program presented online on the Paraklesis Webpage is not an accredited program – it is presented as a self-enrichment training program for lay counsellors (pastors, youth workers, other caregivers, and community care workers) who want to further enrich and equip themselves for their ministry.  The in-house Paraklesis Certificate of Training is presented to those who complete ten of the counselling training modules (courses) successfully.

The Paraklesis Training Program is equivalent to one year study of a Baccalaureate study program and is presented at the same academic standard and with the same academic rigour.  Some of the courses is at the level of second year University courses.

Are the Paraklesis materials (enrichment courses, forms, information sheets etc) copyrighted?

Yes. The contents of the Paraklesis Website and all Paraklesis lectures, course materials, seminars, and training modules are Copyrighted (Copyright © Paraklesis) unless otherwise specified.

All Paraklesis Counselling  services, products and content thereof is provided with the understanding that it will only be used for the purposes indicated, and that it will not be copied or distributed or disclosed to third parties without the expressed written consent of Dr Mervin & Hildegard van der Spuy.

All Rights Reserved.