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  • Writer's pictureCayla Townes

Who Can Provide Therapy?

Updated: Jun 12

It all depends on where you live. Country, state, province, or territory, there are different regulations about who can provide psychotherapeutic services and who cannot.

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Psychotherapeutic services can be called different things in different places: mental health therapy, clinical counselling, psychotherapy, etc. Therapy services can also be provided by different professionals depending on their education and training: psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, psychotherapists, etc. It can be confusing.

So why do these titles and regulations matter? The answer is, because we don’t want un- or under-qualified people potentially harming those who are seeking help from psychotherapy. I’ve heard from clients that felt previous therapy, with someone qualified to provide it, had actually done them more harm than good. Imagine the harm that could come to someone thinking they are working with a professional trained in psychotherapy…but they aren’t.

Regulating who can provide psychotherapy also protects the public by holding providers accountable. If someone has an issue with their therapist they can file a complaint against them with whatever regulatory body that provider has to be a member of. The regulatory body is then obligated to investigate the complaint to ensure the safety of the practices provided by the therapist. Most regulatory bodies I've encountered also require those practicing psychotherapy to continue their education and training by completing a certain amount of continuing education every year or so. This helps to ensure that therapists are engaged with continuing to learn and keep up their competencies in the profession.

I cannot emphasize this enough: before you start therapy, educate yourself about what the requirements are for psychotherapists wherever you live.

For instance, I lived in British Columbia before moving to Ontario and, as of the writing of this post, there is no regulation there regarding psychotherapy. In BC anyone can say they provide psychotherapeutic services. Anyone. It’s a scary thought. I tell everyone I can about this because I don’t want them to end up seeking out help from someone who has no education, training, or experience providing psychotherapy. BC does have professional organizations lobbying the government for regulation of psychotherapeutic services and plenty of competent, trained therapists are members of those organizations. But there’s still no recognized standard of regulation in BC.

So don’t feel bad asking a potential psychotherapist for their credentials! They should readily provide them and be happy to. After all, it takes a long time and a lot of hard work to become qualified to provide therapy in most places. I actually appreciate being asked questions by clients about my education, training, and experience in psychotherapy because it can help them make a more informed decision about moving forward with me, or not, as their therapist.

So whether or not psychotherapy providers are called psychotherapists, mental health therapists, or clinical counsellors where you live, make sure the one you're meeting with is qualified to provide you with the help you are looking for.

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Important information about who can provide therapy in Ontario:

In Ontario, psychotherapy is a controlled act that can only be provided by members of one of six regulatory colleges (College of Registered Psychotherapists of Ontario, College of Psychologists of Ontario, Ontario College of Social Workers and Social Service Workers, College of Nurses of Ontario, College of Occupational Therapists of Ontario, and College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario). This regulation provides a layer of safety to the public, ensuring that psychotherapy providers have received education and training that allow them to practice safely. Psychotherapy providers are also accountable to their college. Public concerns about their behavior can be brought to the college who will then investigate the complaint. (College of Registered Psychotherapists of Ontario,

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