Where Does Online Counselling Take Place?

Posted by: Brian Dosenberger on January 26, 2012 10:29 am

As an online counselling session begins I welcome them to my office and familiarize the client with my office and environment that is not visible via the VoIP technologies. Licensing bodies in Canada have a daunting task in front of them determining counsellors’ use of online counselling. Where does the counselling session occur?

My insurance stipulates that I am covered to conduct therapy that occurs within the provincial boundaries of which I am registered. So this leads to the question, where does online counselling occur?  I could argue that the internet is the taxi, train, or jet plane that brings the client to my office. Others could argue that if my client is in Ontario and I (the therapist) am in Alberta, the therapy occurs in Ontario.  The third argument, suggests that the counselling session occurs in neither the counsellors office nor the client’s home but rather a virtual space where counsellor and client meet in the middle. I know for a fact that I would be in big trouble with my licensing body if I flew to Ontario and conducted a counselling session. Having stated this fact, I have to truly believe that the counselling session I conduct occur in my own province to ethically see clients outside of my province. What is the evidence and how can we determine that the appointment occurs at the counsellor’s office? Basically, because the client schedules an appointment with the counsellor, determines that the client is coming to the appointment as opposed to the counsellor coming to their residence.

The majority of websites providing online counselling operate on the opinion that the client is visiting the counsellors’ office. However, there are others that require clients to search a database for someone in their own province or state. I believe it is the individual counsellors’ responsibility to know the boundaries they can practice in according to their licensing body and insurance coverage. Stating this leads us back to our original question. Where does the counselling occur? If the counselling occurs in the counsellors office, then the counsellor has never left the province in which there are licensed to practice and are within their rights to see a client from another province. Using my original example, I am not flying to Ontario to conduct a therapy session, which I believe we would all agree, would not be within my licensing or insurance boundaries. However, using another scenario may change some opinions. Let’s suggest I conduct an online counselling session while on holidays in Cancun with a client in Alberta. Can I do this? How can licensing bodies determine where the counsellor’s office is? Am I essentially stating that I am licensed and insured to see clients in Mexico? There are numerous scenarios that would cloud the boundaries of online counselling. What is our opinion?

Brian Dosenberger is the founder of OnlineTherapyCompany.com.

The opinions expressed in this blog are solely my own and do not reflect the opinion of CCPA.

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

2 comments on “Where Does Online Counselling Take Place?”

  1. Dr. Mike says:

    Hi Brian,

    Most of your concerns are not new and have already been addressed by the online counselling industry. Before you take your business and your website live, I highly encourage you to seek the advice of a lawyer who specialises in online therapy.


    Our online counselling team.

    1. Brian says:

      Hi Dr. Mike thanks for your comment,

      My blog was not intended to highlight my concerns, rather they were intended to generate conversation. I encourage you to visit my website when it is launched.



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