Update: recently the Alberta government, after committing to announce legislation relating to counselling in Alberta, has decided not to put forward the proposed legislation for proclamation. The government has stated that they are moving in a different direction. As a result of the uncertainty in Alberta we will be focusing on BC, as it is mo...
Update: recently the Alberta government, after committing to announce legislation relating to counselling in Alberta, has decided not to put forward the proposed legislation for proclamation. The government has stated that they are moving in a different direction. As a result of the uncertainty in Alberta we will be focusing on BC, as it is most likely the next province that will have legislation relating to counselling. See Fact BC to keep updated with BC legislation.
Sheldon Bilsker, HT, RCC - Director, Orca Institute
I am writing this in response to a multitude of inquiries about the upcoming Counsellor Legislation in Alberta and ACTA (Association of Counselling Therapy of Alberta). I own and have been running a designated counselling hypnotherapy school in BC for 35 years. I have been involved in Counsellor legislation intermittently in BC since 1997 and currently sit on the board of FACT BC as president of the International Association of Counselling Hypnotherapists. Fact BC represents 14 counselling associations in BC. In this article, I am expressing my views as well as my school, Orca Institute. I'm not representing any other group. I am also writing this from a BC perspective.
Please note: I am not a lawyer or an expert in Canadian Law. All opinions here are solely my own and do not in any way constitute legal advice.
Brief History of Regulation events in BC
A Brief History of Counsellor Regulation in BC
In 1997 the legislative committee Of the BC Association of Clinical Counsellors met with The Health Professions Council, an independent advisory body established under the Health Professions Act in 1990. One of their mandates was investigating applications from healthcare groups seeking designation as a self-regulated profession. Five different counselling groups applied to the Health Professions Council for designation.
After reviewing the applications and other analyses, the Council decided that the new regulatory model was inappropriate for counsellors. One factor in this decision seems to be the disparity and disagreement between counselling groups. At the same time, it was concluded that there was some risk of harm in counselling being unregulated.
It was recommended that consideration be given to other regulatory systems. More detailed information can be found here. In 2007 the task group for Counsellor regulation was formed. From this group came The Entry to Practice Competency Profile for Counselling Therapists. Fact BC was created in 2014 and took over from the task force to continue its work.
These Core Competencies have been reviewed and refined regularly by FACT BC over the years. As other provinces considered and created legislation relating to counselling therapy, these core competencies have been used as a model. However, it has been interpreted in different ways by different provinces. The provinces with regulations are ON, QC, NB, NS, and AB about to have regulation.
- 1990 Health Professions Council Established
- 1997 legislative committee of BCACC meets with Health Professions Council
- 2007 task group for Counsellor regulation is formed representing seven counselling associations
- 2014 Fact BC is established
- 2020 FACT BC applies to have counselling therapy designated as a regulated health profession
- 2021 the BC health minister replies to the submission that the BC government intends to regulate counsellors but not right now.
The Rationale for recommending joining ACTA
If you are a counselling student or practitioner in BC, Alberta or other provinces without Counsellor regulation and do not have a Masters of counselling or a Counselling Psychology degree, it is advisable to join ACTA. Doing this is especially important if you are a resident of Alberta and want to start a practice or continue practising as a counsellor. However, it is also important if you are a resident of BC or another unregulated province.
The Alberta government appointed ACTA to process new applicant's to the future regulatory College. Once legislation is passed ACTA will become the College of Counselling Therapy of Alberta (CCTA)
There were three routes available, as listed below. The intermediate Route is currently open.
- Expedited Route: Reserved for therapists with the most experience. It is now closed.
- Intermediate Route: reserved for newer therapists and students who meet the requirements.
- Important: The intermediate Route will close precisely two years after Counselor legislation is established.
Regular Route: the regular route will start when the intermediate Route closes. Important: most likely, a Master's degree will be required for entry into the College at this point.
The intermediate Route is the main focus to get into the College. The following is required for entry through that route.
- A counselling skills training diploma program, preferably from a school on the National designated educational institutions list.
- Membership in ACCT or similar Counselling Association.
- 450 hours of Direct Client Contact. Our counselling program provides 200 of those hours, and we have set up options to attain the other 200 hours.
- 750 Currency hours. Currency hours are described as being in the counselling field in any capacity, including as a student. Our training is 770 hours.
- Two letters of reference.
- Vulnerable Sector Police Record Check
There are significant differences between a regulatory College and an association. An association can set standards for its members. It has no jurisdiction outside of the Association. A regulatory College depending on its mandate, is a legal entity. It has jurisdiction throughout the province in its particular field.
It can also exercise jurisdiction in the practice of counselling anywhere in the province and take disciplinary action against current or former members.
Being a member of a regulatory College in that province can allow for job opportunities, referrals, and further extended medical insurance coverage for some clients, although this is not guaranteed.
It is important to note that once a college is established in a particular province, any counselling associations in that province change immediately.
These changes specifically focus on the Association's ability to set standards and titles, which the province would completely take over. In Alberta, the legal title will be "Counselling Therapist." This title would have the same standing as Registered Nurse, Registered Social Worker and Registered Psychologist.
If you live in Alberta, it seems like joining ACTA if you do not have a degree is an obvious choice. However, in BC, it might not be so obvious. Why join ACTA if you live in BC? In actuality, taking an educated guess, BC could start the legislative process for counsellors in about a year or two. BC most likely will have a grandfathering period similar to Alberta, and most counsellors with some experience could probably get in similarly to the Alberta process.
However,…… What if that's not the case. What if BC decides to go directly to the Master's Route? It most likely won't, but no one knows for sure. Government's change. Health ministers change. However, let's say a BC resident joins the Alberta College, and a year later, a Master's degree is required in BC to practice counselling.
Even if they didn't have a Masters' degree, they would still be legally allowed to practice in BC or any other province in Canada. This is made possible by the Labour Mobility section of the Canadian Free-Trade Agreement, which states that if you are a member of a Professional College in a particular field in any province in Canada and you will be allowed to legally practice that profession in any other province in Canada without restriction. This is a federal law.
Orca Institute has created a path to apply for membership, not just into ACCT but also ACTA.
That path consists of:
- Successful completion of the Counselling Skills Diploma Program
- Attaining 250Hrs. of Direct Client Contact (available through Sheldon Bilsker)
- Apply to ACTA ($200.00 application fee and $500.00 once accepted)
If after reading this document you have further questions and/or would like information on our training, please feel free to contact me.
Sheldon Bilsker, HT, RCC