Government Regulation History:
REGISTRATION: ASSURANCE OF COMPETENT, ETHICAL HEALTH CARE
The right to use a registered title is controlled by provincial law and requires membership in a regulatory organization. This membership indicates that a health professional has the basic requirements to practice competently and that he/she subscribes to established standards of practice and ethics. The public can find out if the health professional caring for them is a member in good standing of his/her profession by calling the organization for that profession listed.” (from a brochure articulating the purpose of the regulation of health professions). At this time, there are approximately twenty health professions already regulated in BC and most other professions will come under the “umbrella” of the Health Professions Act on an ongoing basis.
DEFINING THE HEALTH PROFESSIONS ACT
Prior to 1990, recognition as a health profession was granted through a bill passed in the provincial cabinet. The government soon realized that many professional groups would make applications for regulation (and their own bill) and decided to create one government “umbrella” to administer health profession regulation. The resulting legislation was called the Health Professions Act (HPA) and the body administering the Act was the Health Professions Council (HPC).
MTABC’S INITIAL BID FOR GOVERNMENT REGULATION
In 1990, MTABC decided to apply for Occupational Title Protection (OTP) as a means of registering the profession and protecting us from others calling themselves music therapists. Kevin Kirkland submitted documentation over the next three years that related to approval of music therapy as a health profession under the Society Act. As we neared completing OTP, the HPA came into being and the HPC said OTP was their domain, necessitating us to go through the process of becoming a regulated profession to achieve it.
In 1995, MTABC membership voted to go ahead with the application to the HPC. We submitted a letter of intent to apply for regulation. Meanwhile, the HPC consulted with us whenever other disciplines applying for regulation were seeking a scope of practice similar to ours, especially when one group wanted to have a reserved practice (meaning no other profession could do it – for example, diagnosis).
In 1997, MTABC was told that we probably would not qualify on our own, mostly because the HPC’s main concern was protection of the public from harm, and the Council viewed more invasive therapies (such as acupuncture) as falling into this domain. In October, 1997 the HPC suggested that music therapy join the counselling group (see below) if we wanted to pursue health regulation. At this point, there was no further follow-up from MTABC to that invitation.
TASK GROUP FOR COUNSELLOR REGULATION’S BID FOR GOVERNMENT REGULATION
Meanwhile, in November, 1995, public hearings were held in Vancouver by five counselling associations who were making separate applications to the HPC (BC Association of Clinical Counsellors, BC Art Therapy Association, BC Association for Marriage and Family Therapists, Canadian Professional Counsellors Association, Canadian Association of Rehabilitation Personnel – BC Society). The Council “declined recommendation of any of the applicant/groups be designated under the Act” and also “recommended alternative regulatory system for counselling and other health related activities for which the Act is not appropriate” (due to insufficient risk of serious harm).
In October, 1997 the HPC submitted a document to the Minister of Health called “recommendations on the designation of counselling”, endorsing the creation of an alternative regulatory body. In July, 1998 the Ministry of Health hired David Logan to prepare a discussion paper on the regulation of counselling for professional regulation. In this paper, he discussed alternate models and possible processes for regulating the (now) seven counselling and psychotherapy groups that had come together and formed the Task Group. These documents can be viewed at http://www.factbc.org/about-us/
In November, 1998 George Bryce (legal counsel for the Task Group) submitted a joint response to the discussion paper from the seven groups (adding in American Association of Pastoral Counsellors, Association of Substance Abuse Programs in BC, and Canadian Guidance and Counselling Association – BC Chapter). In essence, this paper outlined the Task Group’s recommendation to move away from strict academic requirements (degrees) in favour of competency-based requirements. They defined counselling in terms of scope of practice, common practice standards, common codes of ethics, and they gained a financial and organizational commitment by the member groups of the Task Group.
In February, 1999 representatives from this Task Group met with the Ministry of Health. Kathryn Nicholson, then President of MTABC, called the Task Group and received an invitation to join.
MTABC JOINS THE TASK GROUP FOR COUNSELLOR REGULATION
In March, 1999 the Task Group for Counsellor Regulation (now including MTABC) met to discuss core competencies to be used by the proposed College of Counsellors and Psychotherapists to assess applications for registration and to discuss funding for the new College. MTABC sent a letter of intent to support the new College (this letter did not commit us, but kept our options open until we brought the information to the membership).
In April, 1999 the MTABC Board/committee/partner meeting started discussions about MTABC going ahead with HPA in conjunction with the Task Group. In June, MTABC (as a partner member of the Task Group) was invited to attend the AGM for the BC Association of Clinical Counsellors where George Bryce (legal counsel for the Task Group) would be presenting. At the June MTABC meeting, more information was shared and many questions arose from the membership.
In August 1999, a sub-committee of seven members from MTABC was created to explore issues of concern for music therapists in becoming regulated as a health profession, in gaining title protection and also in considering joining the Task Group. In consultation and discussion with each other and with George Bryce, this sub-committee compiled all the information into a document that highlights the major questions and concerns music therapists may have. The sub-committee members were Susan Summers, Stephen Williams, Nancy McMaster, Liz Moffitt, Kevin Kirkland, Gina Blank (then Clinic Manager of the Tzu-Chi Institute for Complimentary and Alternative Medicine) and Jennifer James Nicol (for initial consultation).
Since April, 1999, Susan Summers, then President of MTABC, has been the MTABC representative to the Task Group for Counsellor Regulation and continues to attend Task Group meetings and to share information from those meetings with the sub-committee members and also with MTABC members at MTABC meetings and through the Drumbeat.
TOWN HALL MEETINGS JANUARY, 2000
Three town hall meetings were held and were open to all MTABC members and non-members. Their purpose was to inform, answer questions and ready the membership for a vote to officially join the Task Group for Counsellor Regulation. A majority voted for MTABC to officially join the Task Group for Counsellor Regulation, and MTABC has been an active and financially supporting member of the Task Group since then.
COMPETENCY PROFILE COMMITTEES
The competency profile will be the template recommended to the College of Counselling Therapist’s first board, to use as admission criteria for members of the new College. From 2004-2007, two representatives from each association joined consultant Dr. David Cane to work on the creation of a 256-statement competency profile. Stephen Williams and Kevin Kirkland represented MTABC on this working committee.
The competency profile refers to the entry-to-practice competencies that will define the regulatory standard by identifying the required competencies in the following areas of practise:
- Foundational knowledge
- Communications and relationships
- Professional practise and ethics
- Counselling process
The 2007 competency profile will be the template recommended to the College of Counselling Therapist’s first board, to use as admission criteria for members of the new College. The profile was validated across Canada and has been used as a template by the Nova Scotia College of Counselling Therapists and current College of Registered Psychotherapists of Ontario. In 2016, FACTBC again engaged Dr David Cane to work with a committee to update the 2007 competency profile. All eleven member associations were invited to participate in the survey that re-assessed each competency statement’s relevance, currency, and importance. The revised competency profile includes 125 competency statements with updated information current to 2016.
Click here to see the 2016 competency profile.
NATIONAL SYMPOSIUMS IN 2005 AND 2008
In November, 2005, the Task Group hosted provincial representatives to the first national symposium on counsellor regulation. George Bryce, David Cane, John Patteson, Brendan Walsh from Human Resources Canada and others presented to the delegates. The goal was to bring together representatives from each province to educate, discuss and inform of the competency profile, and attempt to articulate a common message, title and scope of practice.
In November, 2008, in Ottawa, ON, representatives from each province came together again to surface and discuss issues generated by the new environment of inter-jurisdictional labour mobility; to develop an action plan related to inter-jurisdictional mobility for the counselling profession; and to identify a core group of stakeholders to take accountability for the action plan.
PRESENTATION TO THE BC MINISTER OF HEALTH SERVICES 2009
Members of the Task Group had been in continual discussion over the years with the Health Professions Council and the BC Minister of Health Services. The BC Minister asked the Task Group to confirm that members are supportive of having a regulatory College and prepared to fund it. Almost 3000 counselling therapists were surveyed from the six associations, with over a 50% response rate (very high for surveys). Of those surveyed, 97% confirmed their commitment to the College going forward. This paper was sent to the BC Minister of Health Services.
Click here to see the Task Group submission.
In 2007, the Ontario Government approved draft regulation in that province for psychotherapists, and Nova Scotia’s Association of Counselling Therapists achieved regulated status in October, 2011. It was clear that to get our case on the BC government’s agenda, lobbying would have to occur. The Task Group engaged Hill & Knowlton Strategies (H+K), a national lobby firm, the same firm that both Ontario and Nova Scotia had engaged with high success.
The overall goal is for individuals to meet with their MLA’s, maintain connection and relationship for information sharing purposes, and to ask for their support in asking the Minister of Health to commit to establishing the College of Counselling Therapists.
THE FEDERATION OF ASSOCIATION OF COUNSELLING THERAPISTS IN BC (FACTBC)
FACTBC is a society of professional associations that collectively represent counselors and therapists practicing throughout British Columbia. FACTBC was registered under BC’s Society Act in 2014 as the provincial voice of member associations who are pursuing regulation and the development of the College of Counselling Therapists of BC. The original associations that established FACTBC were: American Association of Pastoral Counsellors (BC Chapter), BCACC, BCATA, Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association, and MTABC. FACTBC has a well developed constitution, bylaws, core principles, and has moved forward with strategic political lobby with H+K. Other associations have joined since its incorporation: Association of Cooperative Counselling Therapists of Canada, Association of Registered Clinical Hypnotherapists, British Columbia Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, Canadian Art Therapy Association, Canadian Professional Counselling Association, Professional Association of Christian Counsellors and Psychotherapists, and the Canadian Addiction Counsellors Certification Federation. With twelve member associations, FACTBC has 5,000 individual members. FACTBC has completed a revision of the competency profile is working on registration planning and updated bylaws for the first College of Counselling Therapists, and continues to offer leadership in a political lobby with MLA’s and government officials.