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The landscape regarding counselling is rapidly evolving. Currently, the only provinces in Canada where counselling and/or psychotherapy are regulated are Quebec, Ontario, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and New-Brunswick. Alberta has passed legislation to create a College of Counselling Therapy. It is anticipated that the Alberta College will open in 2021. There is however a great deal of activity ongoing in other provinces. CCPA will continue to update this section of our website as the status of regulation changes in each province.

Credentialing/licensing/registration/certification is a provincial responsibility in Canada. Although in most provinces counselling and psychotherapy are not regulated, many employers will look for certified counsellors as this will demonstrate that they are professionals that are ruled by a code of ethics, a standard of practice, a disciplinary procedure and that they will have to update their skills regularly to maintain their certification.

Who are Counsellors?

Definition of counselling

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.

Counselling 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 of counsellors is to provide an opportunity for people to work towards living more satisfyingly and resourcefully. Counselling relationships will vary according to need but 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.

From 2008 to 2010, the Project Working Group (PWG) on Labour Mobility, funded by HRSDC, has conducted research related to titles, definitions and scopes of practice for the counselling profession in Canada and around the world. 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, a nationally validated definition of counselling and scope of practice for the profession was produced.

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
  • psychotherapist
  • mental health therapist
  • clinical counsellor
  • career counsellor
  • conseiller/conseillère d’orientation
  • vocational guidance counsellor
  • marriage and family therapist
  • orienteur
  • orienteur professionnel
  • psychoeducateur

In May 2011, the CCPA Board of Directors passed a motion to adopt for use by CCPA the nationally validated definition and scope of practice for the counselling and psychotherapy professions as determined by the 2010 survey of counsellors and psychotherapists in Canada conducted by the Project Working Group of the National Symposium Project.

Scope of Practice

The counselling 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.