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Alberta counsellors to become regulated under psychologists’ college in proposed changes

Counsellors in Alberta could soon be a regulated profession.

On Friday, the province announced it had worked with members of that profession and the College of Alberta Psychologists (CAP) to regulate and license those mental health workers.

The move follows after a December 2018 unanimous passing of the Mental Health Services Protection Act, which aimed to add counselling therapy, addictions counselling, and child and youth care counselling to the Health Professions Act.

“Counsellors play an important part in our mental health care system and regulating them under the College of Alberta Psychologists will add consistent standards that will protect patients and improve care,” Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Dan Williams said.

The 2018 changes would have made the Association of Counselling Therapy of Alberta (ACTA) into the regulating body called the “College of Counselling Therapy of Alberta.”

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Since that legislation was passed, ACTA has been waiting for the new college to be proclaimed by the province.

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In Friday’s news release, the province said CAP is “well-positioned” to oversee and regulate the profession, given the “close alignment” of mental health delivery between counsellors and psychologists.

“Recognizing the importance of mental health services in Alberta, I’m pleased to see government bringing in regulation for this profession,” Nicole Imgrund, ACTA board chair, said in a statement.

“Our team looks forward to working with government and the College of Alberta Psychologists in making this happen for our province.”

CAP said making counsellors a regulated profession will help “maintain the integrity and quality of mental health care” in the province.

“The College of Alberta Psychologists looks forward to working with the Alberta counselling community, stakeholders, Indigenous and rural communities on the shared goal of developing registration and practice standards for counselling that will protect and serve the public interest,” Dr. Richard Spelliscy, CAP registrar and CEO, said.

A joint statement from CAP and ACTA said they believe the regulation is a “positive step and in the public interest.” The statement also said the regulation will also help the public understand the similarities and differences between counselling therapists and psychologists.

Regulated health professions hold its members to standards such as education, safety standards and a code of ethics, and any behaviour that violates those can be investigated.

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“The regulation of health professions provides assurance that there are appropriate standards, accountability and oversight in place to support safe patient care. This is of vital importance to Alberta’s health care system and to Albertans,” Health Minister Adriana LaGrange said.

A legislative amendment will be part of the spring sitting of the Legislature, with changes to the regulations expected to take effect next year.

Click to play video: 'Disgraced Grande Prairie doctor’s move to offer therapy reignites calls for counselling oversight body in Alberta'

Disgraced Grande Prairie doctor’s move to offer therapy reignites calls for counselling oversight body in Alberta

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