Group representing Alberta counsellors and therapists calls for more regulation of profession

Click to play video: 'Group calls for regulation in Alberta counselling services'
Group calls for regulation in Alberta counselling services
WATCH ABOVE: As demand for counselling in Alberta grows, the Federation of Associations of Counselling Therapists is urging the government to regulate the industry. Su-Ling Goh explains – Mar 12, 2018

A professional associations alliance for Alberta counsellors and therapists is calling on the provincial government to regulate their professions to ensure accountability and that Albertans receive “appropriate” mental health services when they need them.

“As it stands, anyone can call themselves a counsellor in Alberta. There is no regulation — no higher board or college to regulate the profession,” Nicole Imgrund, chair of the Federation of Associations of Counselling Therapists in Alberta (FACT-Alberta), said in a news release on Monday.

“It’s imperative that as the government moves forward with promising and offering more counselling services, that counsellor therapists are regulated under a college.”

FACT-Alberta says it is heartened by the NDP’s throne speech last week in which the government pledged to spend millions of dollars on more support services for survivors of sexual assault and also to invest more in services required to address the opioid crisis.

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WATCH: Nicole Imgrund joined Erin Chalmers on Global News Morning Edmonton to talk about the need for regulation, explaining that right now anyone can call themselves a counsellor – and that needs to change.

Click to play video: 'Higher demands for mental health services spurs calls for counselling regulations'
Higher demands for mental health services spurs calls for counselling regulations

“What needs to happen now is that the safeguards are put into place so that those vulnerable people who are accessing those services can be assured that they’ll be safe and effective, that the person that they go to for help is accountable to a body, that they follow codes of ethics and standards of practice,” Imgrund told Global News on Monday.

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“The other piece of why it’s so important right now, is the good news that more people are asking for help.

“As the stigma around asking for help around mental health decreases, it means more people will need the services and we need to make sure that the safeguards are in place.”

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READ MORE: Alberta gives $8.1M to support services for sexual assault survivors

Watch below: On March 7, 2018, Kendra Slugoski filed this report about what Alberta is planning to do to address increased reporting of sexual assaults.

Click to play video: 'Alberta adds funding to support victims of sexual assault'
Alberta adds funding to support victims of sexual assault

According to FACT-Alberta, the lack of regulation can lead to a “lack of boundaries” between therapists and clients, privacy concerns, incompetency and poor billing practices.

Aside from professionals who do counselling like social workers, psychologists and registered nurses, Imgrund says there are about 5,000 unregulated counsellor therapists like music therapists, marriage and family therapists, art therapists and spiritual care providers.

She said the onus to discern what the training, education and experience of counsellors are is currently left to the person needing help.

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“We really believe that that should not be their responsibility,” Imgrund said. “That should be the responsibility of a regulatory body.”

Imgrund said a regulatory body like a professional college could help ensure Alberta counsellors demonstrate their educational paths, provide supervised training and require counsellors to pass an exam. She said the college could handle complaints and also create professional development requirements.

WATCH MORE: Alberta counsellors call for more regulation of mental health counselling

FACT-Alberta says counselling therapists and other Albertans have sent over 900 letters to MLAs over the past few days to demand action on the issue of regulating the profession.

Four provinces currently regulate counsellors in Canada: Quebec, Ontario, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.

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