B.C. has associations that require a master’s degree or more to register clinical counsellors, but there is no requirement to join them and anyone who wants to offer counselling services in the province can do so.
B.C. Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau is pushing for creation of a college of counsellors, similar to self-regulating organizations that uphold standards for doctors, dentists, nurses and other health professionals. Furstenau pressed Health Minister Adrian Dix for a second day Thursday to expedite the change, citing increased demand for counselling services in the COVID-19 pandemic. She said the regulation would “open the door” for counsellors to qualify for their services to be paid for by B.C.’s Medical Services Plan.
Dix said the B.C. government is continuing the biggest-ever overhaul of self-regulating professional bodies begun in 2019, consolidating 20 colleges into six and making changes to ensure they focus on protecting patients rather than their own members. Bringing counsellors under that kind of regulation is not a matter of “ministerial fiat,” Dix told the B.C. legislature June 3.
Speaking to reporters Wednesday, Dix said adding another college at a time of major consolidation is not the direction of the reform, which will make it easier for professionals to join one of the six new bodies. There are other professions, including respiratory therapists, who are also waiting for inclusion.
“The challenge with counsellors has always been the diversity of those who call themselves counsellors,” Dix said. “That’s why we’ve made this extraordinary effort to bring the highest-quality changes, unanimously supported by all parties in the house.”
The consolidation plan was released in the summer of 2020, after an investigation into the College of Dental Surgeons where a British expert found the elected board of directors was more focused on protecting dentists from complaints rather than on the safety of patients. The new system does away with member-elected directors, creating a new College of Oral Health Professionals that combines oversight of dental assistants, hygienists, technicians and denturists as well as dentists.
Counsellors would likely fall under a new Regulatory College of Allied Health and Care Professions, which is recommended to include psychologists as well as speech therapists, optometrists, dietitians and lab technicians.
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