The goal of professional regulation is to reduce the risk of harm to the public while maximizing the well-being of clients who are seeking counselling and/or psychotherapy services. Professional regulatory bodies are required in law to protect and promote the public interest by regulating the profession’s practice. This ensures that the public can expect a certain level of professional standards from all professionals who are regulated, regardless of location.
Counselling/psychotherapy is the skilled and principled use of relationship to facilitate self-knowledge, emotional acceptance and growth and the optimal development of personal resources. The overall aim is to provide an opportunity for people to work towards living more satisfyingly and resourcefully. While the relationship will vary according to need, it may be concerned with developmental issues, addressing and resolving specific problems, making decisions, coping with crisis, developing personal insights and knowledge, working through feelings of inner conflict or improving relationships with others.
It is not possible to make a generally accepted distinction between counselling and psychotherapy. There are well founded traditions which use the terms interchangeably and others which distinguish between them. If there are differences, then they relate more to the individual psychotherapist’s or counsellor’s training and interests and to the setting in which they work, rather than to any intrinsic difference in the two activities.
A psychotherapist working in a hospital is likely to be more concerned with severe psychological disorders than with the wider range of problems about which it is appropriate to consult a counsellor. In private practice, however, a psychotherapist is more likely to accept clients whose need is less severe. Similarly, in private practice a counsellor’s work will overlap with that of a psychotherapist. Those counsellors, however, who work for voluntary agencies or in educational settings such as schools and colleges usually concentrate more on the ‘everyday’ problems and difficulties of life than on the more severe psychological disorders. Many are qualified to offer therapeutic work which in any other context would be called psychotherapy.
Professional Titles for Counsellors/Psychotherapists
From 2008 to 2010, the Project Working Group (PWG) on Labour Mobility, funded by HRSDC, conducted research related to titles, definitions and scopes of practice for the counselling/psychotherapy profession in Canada and around the world. Results from primary research with Canadian practitioners across the country confirmed clear understanding of the generic term “counselling profession” as being inclusive of more than 70 professional titles including those listed below:
- counselling therapist
- mental health therapist
- clinical counsellor
- career counsellor
- vocational guidance counsellor
- marriage and family therapist
Based on this research and a pan-Canadian survey of practitioners working in diverse settings such as private practice, schools, universities, agencies, and health care, in May 2011, the CCPA Board of Directors passed a motion to adopt for use by CCPA a nationally validated definition of counselling and scope of practice for the counselling/psychotherapy profession.
Definition of Counselling/Psychotherapy
Counselling is a relational process based upon the ethical use of specific professional competencies to facilitate human change. Counselling addresses wellness, relationships, personal growth, career development, mental health, and psychological illness or distress.
The counselling process is characterized by the application of recognized cognitive, affective, expressive, somatic, spiritual, developmental, behavioural, learning, and systemic principles.
Scope of Practice
The counselling/psychotherapy profession:
- Is attentive to and responds to diversity and inclusiveness;
- Works in the best interest of individuals, couples, families, groups, organizations,
- Works in the domains of cognition, emotion, expression, somatics, human development, behaviour, learning, and interactive systems;
- Promotes mental health by developing and enhancing:
- personal, relational, sexual, career, and spiritual growth and well-being,
- personal awareness and resources,
- decision-making and problem-solving;
- Remediates or provides treatment for disorders in cognitive, behavioural, interpersonal, and emotional functioning;
- Applies specific and recognized evaluation and assessment methods;
- May also include supervision, education, training, consultation, research, diagnosis, and referral.
The landscape of the counselling/psychotherapy profession is rapidly evolving. Regulation is a provincial responsibility in Canada. Despite using different professional titles of ‘Psychotherapist ‘and ‘Counselling Therapist’ in different regulated provinces, these professions share similar scopes of practice, standards for professional preparation, continuing education requirements, code of ethics, and standards of practice.
In unregulated provinces/territories, CCPA’s Canadian Certified Counsellor (CCC) demonstrates qualifications and certification criteria that parallel the requirements of the regulated titles of Psychotherapist and Counselling Therapist in regulated provinces. These criteria include adherence to a code of ethics and standard of practice, a disciplinary procedure, and requirements to update their skills regularly to maintain their certification.
Provinces/Territories in RED currently regulate the profession of Counselling Therapy: Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island. Alberta is regulated, but the college still needs to be proclaimed.
Provinces/Territories in ORANGE currently regulate the profession of Psychotherapy: Ontario and Quebec.
Provinces/Territories in BLUE are currently unregulated or in the process of regulation.
*YT, NT and NU are not seeking regulation currently.
Click on each province to learn more about the regulatory status or activities underway:
Practitioners moving from one province or territory to another must understand and comply with any practice requirements where they are relocating. To learn more about inter-provincial practice, click here.
In Canada, regulation of a profession is the responsibility of provincial and territorial governments. With respect to the regulation of counselling/psychotherapy thus far, it has been the Ministries of Health that have been involved in the regulatory process because they view these professional activities as health services and those who provide them as health professionals.
The process by which regulation occurs can be different from province to province. For example, in British Columbia a regulatory body (known as a College) can be formed by an Order in Council – i.e. no new legislation is needed. In New Brunswick a private member’s bill had to be developed and introduced. In Ontario a new piece of legislation to regulate psychotherapy was introduced under the umbrella of the Ontario Regulated Health Professions Act.
In Canada, there is a national legislative statute entitled Canadian Free Trade Agreement (CFTA). All provinces and territories and the federal government are signatories to this Agreement. It mandates practices and policy with respect to the movement of services, products and people within Canada. Chapter 7 of the CFTA includes provisions to support the national mobility of all workers in Canada including those in the professions.
Currently there are six provinces in Canada that have legislation: PEI, QC, ON, NB, NS and Alberta (College is awaiting proclamation).
Each of the Provinces of Saskatchewan, British Columbia, Manitoba, Alberta, and Newfoundland have a federation of associations of counsellors and therapists (FACT) which are advocating for the regulation of counselling therapists and are doing the necessary work to be ready when it happens.
Activity protection protects and restricts the professional activity that can only be provided by regulated health professionals authorized to do so.
Title protection protects and restricts the use of the professional titles of Registered or Licensed Counselling Therapists and Registered Psychotherapists. This means that it is illegal to use these protected titles unless the user is a member of the provincial regulatory college in which they reside.
Both title and activity protection inform the members of the community in which professionals with these protected titles choose to practice that they have acquired these titles by virtue of their having the professional qualifications to do so. Also, that these qualifications were evaluated and approved by an independent college of regulators with the legal obligation to do so.
Professional associations focus on the practitioner.
A professional association’s mandate is to advocate for the profession, provide ongoing learning opportunities, increase awareness and recognition of the association and represent the needs of its members.
The focus of a regulatory college is on public protection from potential harm of practitioners.
College membership + Association membership = Best practice
Colleges and professional associations have two distinct and separate functions. Colleges exist to serve and protect the interests of the public, the consumers of services, while professional associations exist to serve the interests of its members and the profession, the providers of services.
There are clear benefits to retaining membership in your professional association after joining the new College. CCPA will:
- advocate on behalf of the profession;
- provide liability insurance, and;
- be an excellent source of information for you if the laws and regulations regarding the profession change. CCPA will help you interpret these changes and will lobby the government if the changes adversely affect your practice or public protection.
Statutory regulation is a provincial matter and every province has approached regulation differently.
Since the nineties, CCPA has been actively involved in regulation, supporting each province financially and/or with human resources to move the regulation quest forward. In fact, CCPA has established a fund (The Legislative Support Fund) to which provinces can apply for funding to support their regulation activities.
CCPA helped to found FACT-NL, wrote the application for regulation and is currently in active discussions with the NL Ministry of Health regarding the application. FACT-NL has come to rely on CCPA as the source of information on what is happening across the country. This then influences the government with regard to policy.
CCPA assisted in answering the information requirements of the government and once regulation started to move forward in 2020, actively supported the PEI regulation team and attended meetings with the senior policy advisor responsible for the regulations. CCPA has provided financial support to PEI during its pursuit of regulation.
CCPA was an active member in assisting the New Brunswick team over the finish line to proclamation. CCPA also provided financial support.
CCPA belonged to the Ontario Alliance of Mental Health Practitioners and took a leadership role in discussions with the Ontario government from the inception of the legislation to the proclamation of the College. Because the ON process was very detailed, CCPA held 14 workshops around ON to assist ON practitioners in completing their applications and also supplied telephone support to those practitioners who had unusual qualifications. CCPA also provided financial support to the Alliance.
CCPA has been actively involved in the group seeking regulation in Manitoba. In order to align with groups around the country, CCPA influenced the Manitoba group to rebrand their efforts as FACT-Manitoba. CCPA was involved in completing the application, answering government questions, the public consultation process, responding to the public consultation process and assisting in research to answer questions which will be posed at the public hearings. CCPA attended meetings with the Ministry of Health to support the FACT-Manitoba team. CCPA provides financial support to FACT-Manitoba.
CCPA founded FACT-SK and wrote the application required by the government. CCPA organized meetings of FACT-SK, responded to government queries and organized letter writing campaigns to the government.
CCPA assisted in the foundation of FACT-AB and has supported the regulation cause in Alberta with financial resources, and human resources.
CCPA has been a member of the various groups seeking regulation in BC. CCPA’s involvement started in the nineties with the first application to the government. CCPA has been actively supporting FACT-BC and has been a member of many of the committees that established the competency profile and the registration regulations that will be suggested to the government when that time comes. CCPA has also attended government meetings and has been a source of information for the government with regard to how regulation occurred in other provinces. In that sense, financial and human resources have been provided.
Throughout its activities, CCPA has worked at the provincial level to support the various groups seeking regulation. Once regulation is achieved, CCPA remains as a support to practitioners in the province by organizing provincial alliances. One such example is PRPA (The Partnership of Registered Psychotherapists Associations).
When the Colleges in other provinces formed, they had a special application route for anyone who is already regulated in another province. In fact, this is required because of the Canadian Free Trade Agreement. The new College in BC will most likely establish such a route. The timing of all of this is not known at this time.