How to choose a niche for your Canadian private practice

Posted by: Julia Smith on October 29, 2020 10:25 am

It can be tempting to advertise as a generalist in private practice. The fear that you won’t get enough clients if you niche (specialize) in one area of counselling can trick you into believing that you must generalize in order to fill up your private practice. If you give in to this scarcity fallacy, you may make decisions about your Canadian private practice that could in fact reduce the number of clients who choose you.

Why It’s Important to Niche

When there are many options, you need to stand out from the crowd. From my experience niching is an excellent way to do this. Though it’s not the only factor, niching showcases your passion and expertise so that your ideal clientele will have an easier time finding and selecting you over other therapists.

How to select a niche in private practice

Questions to ask yourself:

  • What type of cases do you look forward to?
  • What type of cases energize you?
  • What counselling outcomes bring you satisfaction?

I believe that you should go into private practice to do work that you are passionate about and that you find fulfilling. Do not let the fear of not getting enough clients push you into selecting a niche that you don’t like but that you think will get you more clients. Make sure that when you start your private practice you can support yourself financially without any clients so that you will not make decisions based on desperation. If you feel that you are not skilled in the area that you are most passionate about, get more training and find a supervisor that is an expert in that area before advertising.

Types of Niches

Choosing a niche usually involves a:

  • Certain age group
  • Certain problem
  • Certain outcome

A therapeutic approach could also be included in your niche, but from my experience, people choose therapists from the criteria above and are less concerned about your approach. Niches can be very specific or more general. Deciding how specific your niche should be (or if you should have multiple niches) usually depends on how big of a population there is in your town or city. The bigger the city the more specific and focused the niche should be so that you stand out. For example, when I started my private practice in Halifax in 2016, my niche was:

“I help teens who feel weighed down by anxiety and depression build confidence, gain insight, and find happiness.”

This niche fit well for me at the time because I was (and still am) passionate about helping teens. Through previous experiences before starting private practice, I realized that I enjoyed helping teens who were struggling with mental health issues and I loved to see teenagers become confident and happy through therapy with me. I also had experience working for the BC government as a Child and Youth Mental Health Clinician.

However, if I was in a larger city like Toronto, I would have focused my niche even further. Such as:

“I help teens who feel weighed down by depression find happiness”

Or if I was in a small town, I would have added a couple of niches such as:

“I help teens who feel weighed down by depression build confidence and young adults who feel lost find direction”

It can be scary to limit your advertising to one area of counselling. Bur when you niche, more clients will choose you because you’ll stand out as an expert. And don’t fear that niching means you can only counsel a certain population. Just because you niche does not mean that you only have to accept clients who fit your specialization. I have many clients that seek me out who do not fit into my niche(s). They choose me for other reasons. But the main part of my private practice has been built through niching.

Until next time,

Julia

About Julia

Julia Smith, MEd, RCT, CCC, is the owner of Fearless Practice. She specializes in consulting with Canadian counsellors and therapists who want support and guidance with starting an online private practice. She also owns a virtual private practice in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Learn more about her consulting services at www.fearlesspractice.ca!

Disclaimer: The information provided on this blog is for informational purposes only. It is not clinical or consulting advice. E-subscribers and website visitors are receiving general advertising and information about starting a private practice and should not act upon this information without seeking professional consultation.

*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA




*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

Optimizing Psychology Today in Canada

Posted by: Julia Smith on October 5, 2020 4:46 pm

Click here to get your FREE Online Private Practice Checklist

Deciding how to market your Canadian private practice can be a challenge. With so many options that cost time and money, it’s important to be wise. Having tried many different ways to market my private practice, I’ve found that the directory, Psychology Today Canada, has consistently been one of the main ways I get clients. Plus, it only costs $34.95 CAD (tax included) per month! In this article I will show you what to focus on when creating your Psychology Today Canada profile so that you can optimize the service to grow your Canadian private practice.

What to Focus On in Your Psychology Today Canada Profile

Once purchasing your subscription to Psychology Today Canada, you’ll notice that there are sections where you can fill out information about yourself and your private practice.

Personal Statement

  • Speak to your ideal client’s reasons for seeking counselling and the outcomes they want from counselling. People searching for counselling are trying to find a therapist that can help them with what they are struggling with. Talk about those struggles and how you can help people feel better.
  • Don’t focus your statement solely on your qualifications. People want a counsellor that understands what they’re going through as well as someone that can help them. Yes, they want to know that you’re qualified but your personal statement should mainly speak to what your ideal client is experiencing and how you can help them.

Be clear with your prices

Profile Photo

  • Smile. Smiling portrays that you are kind, welcoming, and happy.
  • Have good lighting. Make sure that your photo is bright and that potential clients can see your happy face.
  • Quality. Use a professional photographer to make sure your photo is high resolution and has excellent quality. 
  • Focus on your face. Make sure that the photo focuses on your face. Potential clients want to see the person they will be speaking to so minimize the background in your photo.  

Other Photos

  • Add photos of you counselling someone. People will be curious about what it would be like to have a counselling session with you. So, take some photos with a fake client (a friend or family member) and add them as extra photos on your profile.

Video

  • Just like with the personal statement, speak to what the potential client is struggling with, how you help, and how they will feel once therapy is done.
  • Speak slowly and smile as you talk. This will portray a happy and calm demeanour.

Extra Tips

  • Link to the website button to your booking page. If a potential client has read your personal statement, they do not need to be directed to your home page of your website as they already know who you are and what you do. Instead link the website button to your online booking page so that they can easily book their first appointment.  
  • Target your listing. Make sure to not only target your listing to your area but also two other areas close by. With Psychology Today Canada, you can add two extra targets for free!

Until next time,

Julia

Get MORE Canadian private practice help at:  www.fearlesspractice.ca!

About Julia

Julia Smith, MEd, RCT, CCC, is the owner of Fearless Practice. She specializes in consulting with Canadian counsellors and therapists who want to start a private practice. She also owns a private practice in Halifax, Nova Scotia where she helps teenagers and adults who want to be confident and happy but are feeling weighed down by anxiety, stress, and depression.

Learn more about her consulting services HERE!

Disclaimer: The information provided on this blog is for informational purposes only. It is not clinical or consulting advice. E-subscribers and website visitors are receiving general advertising and information about starting a private practice and should not act upon this information without seeking professional consultation.

*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA




*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

Reflections on Quickly – and Ethically – Moving Online

Posted by: Annelise Lyseng, M.Ed, CCC, R. Psych on May 29, 2020 9:04 am

Before March 2020, I had hoped to eventually take a course to learn more about online counselling in case I ventured into it at a future date. Little did I know that I would soon be plunged unceremoniously into telehealth thanks to the impacts of COVID-19. I am happy to report that it has been a fairly smooth transition, with special thanks to colleagues who researched digital counselling platforms and configured doxy.me and VPN access to our online records management for our team. Here are a few of my key takeaways from the transition to online counselling:

  • Ethics first: For our team, this meant carefully revising our informed consent documents, emergency planning protocols, and intake process. We had to consider the additional risks, particularly around security and privacy, connected to telehealth and communicate these effectively to our current and new clients. I completed several extensive online courses that clearly outlined the ethical and legal considerations of telehealth. This training was invaluable, and I felt more secure in my practice after thoroughly reviewing these unique ethics.
  • Find a community: Amidst the dubious benefits of working from home, such as sweatpants and fridge proximity, I struggled with being physically distanced from my vibrant and supportive team of colleagues. We continue to engage in regular virtual meetings, consultations, and ongoing group chats, which I deeply appreciate. One of the online courses also helped me connect with an online community devoted entirely to practicing online therapy – learning from others and sharing resources has helped immensely with improving confidence and decreasing isolation.
  • Save your sight: For me, this meant ensuring that I’m wearing my blue-light blocking prescription glasses, trying to follow the 20-20-20 rule (every 20 minutes, take 20 seconds to stare at something 20 feet away), calibrating the height of my laptop to find the right angle for looking thoughtfully at clients without straining my neck, and adjusting the lighting in my improvised home office to a comfortable level. I also activated the blue light filter on my laptops and other devices.
  • Reflect and appreciate the old, and new, office: As mentioned, I appreciate my colleagues even more now that we have been distanced. I miss other aspects of the old office – using experiential interventions in session such as a picture card sort task, having access to a large shredding unit for session notes, enjoying a comfortable and devoted counselling space without interruptions from a neighbour’s barking dog or an exuberant toddler, and in general delineating a clear boundary between work and home. However, I have also appreciated aspects of my new office, especially the lack of a commute through rush hour traffic, an ability to prep supper while I’m on my lunch break, and an opportunity to push myself and grow professionally. I am saddened at the circumstances that brought telehealth into my practice, but I am grateful for the privilege that I have in my work and the learning that this has brought into my personal and professional life.
Annelise Lyseng is a registered psychologist at MacEwan University in Edmonton, Alberta.



*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

The Role of Varying Motivations to Counsel

Posted by: Jeff Landine and John Stewart on April 28, 2020 12:55 pm

The impetus for this series of blogs comes, for the most part, from conversations we have had with recent Counselling Program graduates and from our efforts to assist past graduates in the later stages of their careers as they try to navigate the rapidly changing landscape of counsellor regulation. In the interest of transparency, the majority of graduates we know who see counselling as a work role for implementation later in their career, already have a career path established as teachers, nurses, social workers, etc. The majority of students who graduate from our Counselling Program and others that we are familiar with, seek work in a counselling role immediately or go on to pursue more education. It is the small, but perplexing, group of graduates who complete the degree, and then put the counselling role on hold, that we want to consider for this series of blogs. We want to discuss a number of motivations people have for choosing counselling as a profession and to determine if, within these motivations, societal change enables, even demands, continuing work after people retire from other professions to practice counselling therapy.

Most, if not all counsellors, have entered this line of work because they want to help create positive change in the lives of others. But people are able to do that in the relationships they already have in their lives or by volunteering, neither of which requires extensive education and supervised experience, not to mention the expenditure of time and money. It wasn’t too long ago, in fact, that a significant amount of counselling was provided in lay-counsellor roles. The early 20th century saw the emergence of an increased emphasis on the value of all human beings and, coupled with the changes brought on the Industrial Revolution, the need for mental and emotional support increased. The medical community (including psychiatrists and psychologists) were managing the more difficult cases but many people didn’t require that level of service to function normally. So well-intentioned and caring members of public and church communities volunteered to provide a listening ear to those in their community who needed it. Students in the public school system learned who the teacher was in their school that they could go talk to when they had a problem. Pastors provided counselling services to their congregations. Counselling as a profession has grown in the context of historical events such as the Industrial Revolution, the Great Depression and world conflicts. Counselling started becoming professionalized in the 1950s and as a result, it is now possible to combine the motivation to help people with other motivations for becoming a counsellor. The question that persists, like a mosquito in a dark tent, is why individuals are waiting until one professional practice ends to start taking the necessary steps to engage in professional counselling? Perhaps it is a growing awareness of the need for a counselling therapist in their interpersonal sphere. For example, school teachers, social workers and nurses all experience clients who need additional interventions that furthering their educational and professional training enables them to provide.

We have heard a good number of secondary reasons for making the decision to complete the Counselling program that we work in. We have had people apply who are working in other non-helping professions who are seeking more meaningful work. Others are looking for flexibility in their career. For those applicants coming from the school system, many have a desire to keep learning and pushing themselves forward and counselling is the most interesting option. Unlike many other graduate programs, Counselling is typically found in Faculties of Education, which bring opportunities for part-time completion, flexible class scheduling and online course options. For someone looking to increase their education (and pay), these programs are particularly attractive because they don’t require the applicant to quit their current job. Finally, counselling is a profession where life experience is valued, so we often get applicants from people looking for a second career.

There are many viable reasons for starting down the path towards becoming a counsellor and it is not our intention to judge the motivations of people who have considered and are considering counselling as a profession. Social desirability often masks the motivations people have anyways. The decision to “sideline” the counselling role until later in one’s career, however, has ramifications for the individual, counsellor education programs, regulatory bodies and the profession. We will discuss these ramifications in more detail in the next blog.




*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

Working with Animals in Practice

Posted by: Eileen Bona on February 26, 2020 10:26 am

Animal Assisted Interventions (AAIs) are interventions which are based upon the belief that interactions with animals have inherent value for humans on behavioural, cognitive, emotional, physical, psychological, relational and spiritual levels. AAI’s are intended to be carried out by qualified helping professionals who are trained animal handlers working with specially screened, trained and certified animals.

Although there is evidence to support the benefits of partnering with animals in all ways aforementioned and in doing Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT) as a formal medium of therapeutic intervention, there is no standard code of practice in Canada.

As a psychologist who has been working in the field of Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT) for nearly 17 years, I am excited by the momentum AAT is experiencing in Canada. I am contacted daily by Canadians who are exploring the intricacies of integrating animals into their practice and am aware of the current and interested practitioners.

There are several important ethical considerations for including animals in practice and they include the following:

  • Understanding the many terms in the field to determine where your particular practice, skills and knowledge might fit.
  • Staying within your scope of practice.  As many people are attracted to animals in practice, often practitioners are requested to work with those who may not fit into their scope.
  • Researching and attaining thorough training and certification as an animal assisted therapist. Certificates in AAI/T are available at the college level in some provinces in Canada (i.e., Alberta and Quebec) or training and arranging consultation with a credentialed, well known and ethical AAT professional.
  • Ensuring your animal has been screened, tested and certified to work with you in your setting and with your population. Animals have preferences and ‘scopes of practice’ too and these should be discerned before the animal is integrated into practice.
  • Consultations and training with skilled and trustworthy animal trainers or animal behavioral specialists who are cross-trained in AAT are vital to your animal being well prepared for its work and for you as the animal’s handler to be trained in understanding your animal’s communication and stress signals.
  • Garnering advice about working animals’ schedules and the ratio of client/animal interactions is important to the health and well being of the animal and can be attained from these professionals or the AAT professional.
  • Having a regular veterinarian who is knowledgeable about AAT, understands your species/breed and can advise on changes your animal may be experiencing is invaluable for your AAT animal’s health and welfare.
  • It is often necessary to have extended insurance coverage (alongside professional liability insurance) when involving animals in practice. Determining whether both the practitioner and the facility require insurance for the AAT is necessary.
  • Providing a waiver to participants is recommended to ensure fully informed consent for participation in AAT. The waiver should provide details of the AAT as well as a release of reliability for the therapist in the event of any unfortunate events that may occur during the AAT. The waiver requires the signature of the participant or guardians of minors.

It is an exciting time in our AAT field and I look forward to the promise of soon having approved guidelines to direct our practices and one day, a thorough Standards of Practice and Code of Ethics to govern us. Stay tuned for more-detailed Emergent Guidelines for Animals in Practice. In the meantime, I hope this information is helpful.

Eileen Bona
Registered Psychologist
Animal Assisted Therapist
CEO and Executive Director of Dreamcatcher Nature Assisted Therapy
www.dreamcatcherassociation.com



*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

Locating an Appropriate Office Space

Posted by: Grant M. Waldman, MA, CCC, CIAS III on February 19, 2020 3:00 pm

Is it just me or is locating a space to practice one’s craft a journey of trust, faith and patience?  How many of the readers of this blog have had a similar frustrating experience in seeking an appropriate office space for your counselling practice?  When this writer states, “appropriate”, what I mean is: one that has natural light and is not placed in the middle of a building.  It means paying less than $1,000 per month for 100 to 200 square feet of space; or finding a space that is accessible to both seniors and those with special needs. Is it too much to ask to find an office that is within walking distance of a parking lot?

This writer lives in what I would refer to as a “village” even though others prefer to call it a “city”.  I believe that this has something to do with access to more funds.  The relevance of this statement relates to my dilemma with the lack of office space and the cost of office space in a village that is far removed from a big city environment.  How many of you relate to this quandary?

I now understand why many counsellors choose to share an office space with several other practitioners: to share the cost along with other resources; I also understand that this allows for the appropriate cross referral of clients between counsellors with different skill sets.  I now comprehend why it is quite common for many practitioners to work from a home setting, since it allows them to write off a portion of their home and to not have the pressure of additional rental expenses.

Another challenge that this writer has observed, especially in a smaller locale is the number of practitioners.  The word “competition” never crossed my mind when I changed careers from the business realm to the helping domain; and yet, it is becoming more and more apparent that concepts like networking, marketing and communications are all fundamental to setting up a new practice.  I am thankful that I have these transferrable skills from my old career; however, I would simply prefer to focus my energy on helping my clients.

I am curious to hear other tales that ring of persistence, patience and frustration regarding this topic.  I thank you for reading this writer’s concerns.




*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

Nonconformity in Choosing Counselling as a Career

Posted by: Jeff Landine and John Stewart on January 9, 2020 2:02 pm

Typically blogs about career counselling address issues that relate to the delivery of career counselling, for example, the impact of Artificial Intelligence on future jobs and the need to prepare clients for that eventuality.  For the next few entries, however, we are going to shift our attention to the diverse perceptions that exist on the counselling profession and consider motivations to engage in counselling as a career.

We have, combined, over 50 years’ experience working as counsellor educators at the university level and have both been involved, throughout our careers, with national, provincial and local associations whose mandates are to further the profession of counselling. In these roles we have seen countless students through the process of preparation for a career in counselling and have first-hand experience in the processes of legitimizing these students’ positions as professionals by working with certification and licensing boards and committees.

Despite the recent increase in credentialing and professionalization of the counselling role, one constant we have seen is the frequent consideration by these students of their counselling education as preparation for a professional role somewhere down the road. On more than one occasion, I have heard counsellors-in-training refer to their intentions to have this graduate degree in their “back pocket” for use later in life, either when they no longer want to continue with their present work or as a transition into retirement and as a pension supplement. This approach to counselling as a career is surprising, as we don’t see the same approach employed in other professions. Nobody we know gets their Red Seal as a plumber so that they can open a side business in retirement. We don’t know of any B.Ed. graduates who choose not to teach after graduating, deciding instead to wait until later in their career to join the ranks of school teachers. This phenomenon begs the questions, “Why does counselling, more so than other professions, lend itself to be a career of convenience/second thought?” While people might pursue a law degree, for example, without the intention of practicing as a lawyer, the dynamic we are questioning is whether interest in the subject (in this case counselling) will be used as a support in the work being done or not. John completed a vocational Master of Theological Studies degree out of interest (during the latter parts of his career as a professor), with no intention to be employed as a pastor. Unlike these examples, counselling students appear to be intentional in using the counselling preparation they receive for employment purposes later in their career or after having retired from another job.

The history of counselling as a formal profession starts with the emergence of vocational counselling in the late 19th and early 20th centuries (Shepard & Mani, 2014).  The advent of large cities, built around manufacturing and industrialization, created the need for vocational guidance; however, the influx of people to these urban centers resulted in increases in unemployment, poverty, poor working and living conditions and crime. Corresponding to the increase in social problems, support systems typically declined as people moved away from their families and home communities. The development of counselling as a profession in Canada over the ensuing century was largely driven by a vocational focus but the resulting profession has adapted itself to the connection between career and personal difficulties and the increasing need for mental health support. Counselling and psychotherapy now make use of psychological theory and concepts and counsellors today are much better prepared to work with psychopathology in their clients.

In the next few blog entries we will explore the nature of Counselling education, credentialing and employment in an effort to decipher the motivations and career planning that have, in many instances, relegated counselling to a “sideline” or back-up profession.

Shepard, B., & Mani, P. (2014). Career development practice in Canada. Toronto, ON: CERIC Canadian Education and Research Institute for Counselling.



*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

How to Rent a Canadian Counselling Office

Posted by: Julia Smith on November 1, 2019 10:07 am

One of the first things to do when starting a Canadian Private Practice is to find an office space to rent. Renting (or buying) your own office is ideal but for most Canadian counsellors, it is too expensive when beginning private practice.  Luckily, there are many professionals and clinics looking to rent out their offices when they are not using them! Here are two factors to consider in your search for the perfect space:

Location
When searching for office space it is important to consider where it will be located. The main thing to remember is that clients will travel to see a good therapist. However, the more convenient your office space is located… the better.

Many therapists feel that if there is a location with lots of counsellors that they should stay away from that area and find a location that doesn’t have any therapists. But usually, if an area has lots of counsellors, it means that there are lots of people willing to pay for therapy in that area! All of the office spaces that I have rented have been in a city where there are many therapists located. What I have found is that people are more willing to travel to a city to see a therapist than travel from a city to a rural counselling office.

Other things to consider:

Parking
One of the most important considerations is parking! In my first office, there was no parking and clients constantly complained about how difficult it was to find a parking space. This also meant that many clients were late for appointments as it took a long time for them to find parking. So, when searching for an office space… make sure there is parking available!!!!

Air Conditioning
In most provinces, spring/summer (and sometimes fall!) can get VERY HOT! Make sure that the office space you rent from has air conditioning. The last thing you want is to be counselling a client in July when it is 30 degrees Celsius! Clients will appreciate the cool office and the cool air will help you stay focused.

Accessibility
If you want to have the option to counsel all populations it is important to make sure that your office space is wheel chair accessible. Being accessible can also be helpful for clients who are injured (i.e. broken leg). The last thing you want are clients cancelling appointments because your office is not accessible.

Counselling At Your House and/or Online Therapy
Renting an office space will not be an issue if you want to build a private practice at your home or online. There are many legal and ethical considerations for these types of private practices so be sure to check with CCPA and your insurance provider before developing your Canadian private practice.

Starting a Canadian private practice at home or online will save you money but you also might lose clients who only want in-person therapy. I offer both online and in-person counselling and also find it healthy to have an office space that is separate from my personal space.

Rent Price
The price to rent an office depends on what city, province, or town you are located in.  You do not want to be ‘house poor’ when renting space so make sure that you rent is no more than 20% of your income. The three ways that most Canadian offices rent out space are either:

  1. Rent per hour: When a practitioner is not using their office at certain times of the day/night and is looking to rent their office when they are not there.
  2. Rent per day: When a practitioner is not using their office on certain days and is looking to rent their office on those days.
  3. Percentage: Instead of paying rent, a practitioner will take a percentage of your counselling fee. This can be useful at the beginning because you will not have to worry about paying rent. BUT as your business grows… more and more of your money will go towards the practitioner/clinic. For example, if you charge $100 per session and the practitioner takes 30%… every time you see a client you will be paying the practitioner/clinic $30… so the more clients you see… the more money the practitioner/clinic will take. Whereas, if you have a set rental fee, you have the ability to make a lot more money in the long run! The busier your Canadian private practice becomes, the more money YOU will make. Plus, when you raise your prices it will not affect how much rent you are paying.

How to find a space:
The best way to find office space is to start sending out emails to other private practice counsellors in your area and/or health clinics (online advertising services like Kijiji.ca can also be helpful). When starting off, it can be best to just rent a day or couple evenings per week as you build your cliental. A simple sample email could look like:

Hi,

My name is Julia and I am a counsellor that is starting a private practice. I am looking to rent office space and am curious if there are any times during the week or on the weekend when you are not using your office?

Thank you,

Julia

Depending on where you rent, you can then choose to rent more time at the place you are renting from OR find another office space that meets your needs. Start small and grow big!

Happy searching,
Julia

About Julia
Julia Smith, MEd, RCT-C, CCC, is a Canadian private practice consultant who specializes in helping Canadian counsellors and therapists start private practice. She also owns a private practice in Halifax, Nova Scotia where she helps depressed teens build confidence, find happiness, and gain insight.
Click here to get more help with building your Canadian private practice!



*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

Reflections of the Future of AI Technology and its Implementation

Posted by: Jeff Landine and John Stewart on October 25, 2019 2:26 pm

In our last three blogs, we provided a brief overview of the field of Artificial Intelligence and its impact on the world of work along with suggestions to help career counsellors respond to these innovations with their clients.  While predictions suggest a massive immediate impact on the workforce, in this blog, we will discuss some issues that we think need to be addressed before implementation and that may even delay the use of some deep learning technology.

Predictions are that within five years, deep learning machines with the ability to mimic human cognitive functions will take over many thousands of jobs (1). Currently, these new innovations are being used in law enforcement, health care, scientific research and even determining what information we see on Facebook.  Before these deep learning machines are deployed, there are several social policy and legal issues that need to be clarified (2). One issue focuses on the lack of transparency in the development of algorithms (3). Due to the layering of deep learning algorithms, as the machine processes larger volumes of data, the algorithms make connections between layers that help to make more refined decisions. Some developers have voiced concerns over whether the decisions made by these machines can be trusted due to the changes in the algorithms.

This issue of trust raises legal issues that have yet to be resolved by the courts (4). For example, if these machines make biased decisions resulting in a human rights discrimination against a candidate for not being short-listed for a job, the issue of who is responsible is raised. Is it the developer, the owner of the machines, or the machines? We suggest that before implementing such technology, policies and legal statutes need to be in place. For example, “can a machine be a legal entity much like a corporation?” Or, “what standards of security need to be demonstrated by the machines to ensure user privacy of information before they are deployed?” Such decisions and policies will help to prevent unnecessary legal disputes.

Additionally, there are indicators to suggest the public is already leery about robotic-made decisions, and we think this attitude will have a negative impact on bringing newer innovations online until testing demonstrates no biases or weaknesses in deploying them. For example, autonomous cars have been in the media for over a decade. Current research suggests that 94 % of US citizens know about these cars; however, 56% of them indicated they are not ready to ride in such vehicles citing a lack of confidence and trust in robotic decision-making and a mistrust in the general safety of the technology (5).  To change these attitudes, industry has more development and promotional work to do before the public will use this technology.

With smart machines, there is the possibility of collecting large amounts of personal data from users that could be used for nefarious purposes.  For example, one has only to look to Facebook as a social media platform and how foreign agents were able to use it to influence voters in the 2016 US federal election. There was a public outcry concerning the use of information obtained by Cambridge Analytica from millions of Facebook users by political parties to build US voter profiles (6).  At this point, policies are in short supply to protect consumer information and to regulate accountability should breaches be made. With the use of deep learning machines and the possibility of personal data being collected, safeguards are needed to ensure confidentiality and protection.

Career counsellors can play a significant role in dealing with these concerns. They can be advocates for their clients by working on policy development committees concerning the deployment of smart machines in the economy. Career counsellors have ethical guidelines, which regulate the use and storage of their clients’ personal information. These guidelines would help in developing policies around the storage, use and dissemination of information collected by deep learning machines. Career counsellors, through their professional associations, can send briefs to major banks, food retail companies, insurance companies, medical corporations, professional associations, and politicians to express their concerns over the lack of parameters surrounding the use of deep learning machines.  We think these endeavors will help to raise public awareness and develop policies and laws before deep learning machines become.

By Jeff Landine and John Stewart

Sources Used
  1. AI, automation, and the future of work: Ten things to solve for (June 2018). Retrieved on August 26, 2019 at www.mckinsey.com/featured-insights/future-of-work/ai-automation-and-the-future-of-work-ten-things-to-solve-for.
  2. Artificial intelligence and machine learning: Policy paper. Retrieved on August 1, 2019 at www.internetsociety.org/resources/doc/2017.
  3. Gershgorn, D. (2017) AI is now so complex its creators can’t trust why it makes decisions. Retrieved on August 1, 2019 at www.qz.com/1146753.
  4. Beauchemin, H. (2018). Key legal issues in AI. Retrieved on September 19 at https://www.stradigi.ai/blog/the-key-legal-issues-in-ai/#pll_switcher
  5. Smith, A and M. Anderson. Americans’ attitudes toward driverless vehicles. Retrieved on August 1, 2019 at www.pewinternet.org/2017/10/04/americans-attitudes-toward- driverless-vehicles.
  6. Cambridge Analytica and Facebook: The scandal and the fallout so far. Retrieved on August 1, 2019 at www.nytimes.com/2018/04/04/us/politics/cambridge-analytica-scandal fallout.html.



*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

Artificial General Intelligence and its Impact on Jobs

Posted by: Jeff Landine and John Stewart on July 19, 2019 10:57 am

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is typically divided into Artificial Narrow Intelligence (ANI) and Artificial General Intelligence (AGI). In our last blog, we dealt with ANI and its implications in the workplace. In this blog we will deal with AGI.

AGI focuses on developing and using deep artificial neural networks (a set of computer algorithms) to process massive amounts of data in a relatively short time. “Deep” refers to the number of layers of computer algorithms, which permit the computer to form connections between these layers. Because of these connections, computers are essentially able to program themselves after multiple trials of processing different sets of similar data. Once the accuracy and efficiency of the model is determined by humans, it becomes available to those who want competent analyses of information pertinent to operating their business and/or performing their occupation.

Predictions are that many new jobs will be created as the field of AGI develops. To illustrate these predictions, presently six different individuals are typically deployed when using deep learning methods to develop new computer models. The decision-maker secures funding and resources to complete the project. The stakeholder quantifies the business value of a proposed solution. The domain expert gets familiar with the work area and problem to be solved. The data scientist translates business problems into computer tasks. The data engineer determines possible databases to use in simulation; and a systems architect designs the infrastructure, such as servers to handle big data. Within a relatively short time, the number of individuals and specializations needed to develop computer models will increase and result in jobs with new specialized tasks.

The impact of AI on the workplace is anticipated to be swift and impactful. A report from the World Economic Form in 2018 projected that these computer programs are expected to create 133 million new jobs by 2022; however, 75 million jobs are likely be displaced. This leaves a net new jobs creation of 58 million due to growth in AI.  An RBC report suggests that Canada will add 2.4 million new jobs to the workplace in the next four years. However, it also suggests that the current generation of young people are not being prepared for these sweeping changes. Workers will need digital skills, that is, the ability to understand digital items, digital technologies and the Internet fluently.  They will also need human skills such as critical thinking, active listening, social perceptiveness, and complex problem-solving skills for job success.

Career counsellors face three immediate challenges: disseminating labour market information, counselling workers who are displaced, and helping existing workers find retraining or upskilling programs. Part of this challenge is the speed at which these predictions are coming true.  Career counsellors and their professional organizations will need to produce materials to provide clients with significant labour market information related to displacement and innovations in the workplace.  Individuals who lose their jobs often experience low self-esteem, depression, and lack of self-confidence. As well, prolonged periods of unemployment can lead to suicide ideation (Milner, Page & LaMontagne, 2013). Counsellors will need to deal with these issues before they help their clients make workforce changes. Counsellors will need upskilling themselves to understand the tasks being performed in these new jobs, and to assess their clients’ current transferable skills for the new jobs. They need knowledge of available educational programs that offer uptraining. Further, career counsellors need to be familiar with government support programs that can help their clients make workplace transitions.

Despite these dire predictions, we suggest it will be more “yellow light” than red or green. Many Canadian employers are small to midsize businesses and may not have the capital to adopt these AI technologies presently. To deal with these rapidly developing workplace needs, we think there will be local, provincial and national responses, a part of which will provide agencies with the needed help to deliver services.

Suggested Reading

A beginner’s guide to automated machine learning & AI. Retrieved May 27 at https://skymind.ai/wiki/automl-automated-machine-learning-ai.

Chowdhry, Amit. (2018). Artificial intelligence to create 58 million new jobs by 2022, says report. Retrieved May 27 at https://www.forbes.com/sites/amitchowdhry/2018/09/18/artificial-intelligence-to-create-58-million-new-jobs-by-2022-says-report/#14a40f204d4b.

Human intelligence and intuition critical for young people and jobs of the future. Retrieved May 27 at http://www.rbc.com/newsroom/news/2018/20180326-future-skills-rpt.html

Milner, A., Page, A., & LaMontagne, A. D. (2013). Long-term unemployment and suicide: a systematic review and meta-analysis. PloS one8(1), e51333.

Jeff Landine and John Stewart
Faculty of Education, University of New Brunswick, Fredericton, N.B.



*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA