December 27, 2015 9:44 pm
Updated: August 5, 2016 4:32 pm

Former employee at Colony Farm accused of wrongful representation

WATCH: A former staff member at B.C.'s top forensic psychiatric hospital is accused of wrongfully representing herself as a registered psychologist while treating patients. The institution houses the severely mentally ill and those found criminally not responsible for their actions. John Hua reports.

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A former staff member at the province’s top forensic psychiatric hospital is accused of wrongfully representing herself as a registered psychologist while treating patients, Global News has exclusively learned.

Nell Consiglio worked at Coquitlam’s Forensic Psychiatric Hospital in October and November this year, identifying herself as a Registered Psychologist and providing services to patients.

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But the College of Psychologists of British Columbia says she “never been registered or entitled to work or practice as a Registered Psychologist in British Columbia.”

“Calling themselves a psychologist, which is a protected title, it is serious,” says Ingrid Söchting, director of the University of B.C. psychology clinic.

“Boundary violations can have grave and serious consequences for the patient. The problem with a counsellor is you don’t know what kind of degree they have. It varies widely.”

The hospital, commonly known as Colony Farm, is home to the most severe mental health cases in British Columbia. It houses people found non-criminally responsible for their actions, included Allan Schoenborn, who murdered his three children in Merritt in 2008.

Dr. Johann Brink, Medical Affairs Vice-President and clinical director of psychiatry at the facility, confirmed Consiglio was employed by the Forensic Psychiatric Hospital.

“It is important to note she was employed as a counsellor, not as a psychologist, and did not provide psychological assessments. The individual is no longer employed at the hospital,” he wrote.

Practicing psychologists in British Columbia must have a PhD and be registered with the College of Psychologists, while counsellors may have a wide range of education, and might not necessarily have training in the treatment of mental health issues.

READ MORE: What is the difference between Psychologists, Psychiatrists and Counsellors?

Söchting says someone wrongfully presenting themselves as a psychologist can not only impact assessment, but treatment as well.

“Boundary violations can have grave and serious consequences for the patient. The problem with a counsellor is you don’t know what kind of degree they have. It varies widely,” she says.

“I’m not sure how interested our government is in hiring people who are well regulated. If you’re only interested in hiring the person who is slightly cheaper than the fully qualified professional, well you can see how these things can happen.”

The Provincial Health Services Authority would not tell Global News what credentials and responsibilities Consiglio had at the hospital.

A member of Consiglio’s family said she was unavailable for comment, but is seeking legal representation. The allegations by the College of Psychologists of British Columbia have not been proven in court.

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