Rob Shaw: B.C. moving toward regulating therapists and counsellors

Rob Shaw: B.C. moving toward regulating therapists and counsellors
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The B.C. government is moving towards regulating thousands of therapists and counsellors, which could, for the first time, put minimum standards in place for education and ethics in the profession.

Health Minister Adrian Dix said 4,600 practitioners in the psychotherapy field could be designated as health professionals after a 30-day public consultation, which would be the first step toward creating a regulatory college to oversee standards, public complaints and disciplinary processes.

B.C. already regulates psychologists and psychiatrists. However, therapists and counsellors currently face no minimum training and no public accountability through an independent complaint or discipline process. Regulation would address both.

BC Green leader Sonia Furstenau has been calling on the government to make the change for years.

“It creates protections for the public, so the public can know that if they’re going to a counsellor, that that counsellor is regulated, that there is an oversight body, and that that counsellor is adhering to rules, regulations, and ethics,” she said.

“That’s really critical.”

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Regulation is also a first step toward one day covering the cost of mental health services under government’s medical services plan, said Furstenau.

“We need the province to really step into its role as a regulator,” she said.

“For that MSP coverage to be expanded to counsellors, they need to be regulated.”

The move is welcomed by the Federation of Association of Counselling Therapists of B.C., which represents 11 counselling agencies whose members are voluntary.

“It’s great to have some movement toward regulation,” said chair Nicole Le Bihan. “It does feel like a first step, because it’s just about designating psychotherapy as a healthcare profession. It doesn’t give us any clear answers on what will happen after that.”

Dix said after the consultation period, cabinet would have to make an order to designate the profession, and then begin the process of working with its members to craft a regulatory college structure.

Le Bihan said many in psychotherapy are supportive of the idea, as long as it allows for a base level of training that can then be built upon by those who specialize in therapies involving art, music, speech and in areas like family and marriage counselling.

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