I am so pleased to share the news that I have received my acceptance as a Registered Psychotherapist (qualifying) to the new College of Registered Psychotherapists in Ontario (CRPO). After a grueling graduate degree while balancing work, family, school and clinical work, it’s gratifying to take this next step.
What is the new College and what does it mean for the average Ontarian?
Mental health has received unprecedented coverage and heightened awareness within the public sphere, which is very exciting for mental health professionals. More and more, we see people feeling safe to come forward as they consider being more proactive about their own mental health, as well as seeking treatment for existing disorders. In Ontario, we have to take our health care into our own hands. And when it comes to mental health care, our system is unfortunately, not universal.
College’s are created to regulate health care professionals for the protection of the public. On March 31, 2015, the transitional Council was advised by the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care (MOHLTC) that the Psychotherapy Act, 2007 would come into force on April 1, 2015, thereby creating the new College of Registered Psychotherapists and Registered Mental Health Therapists of Ontario (CRPO). What this means is that ‘psychotherapy’ will soon be a controlled act (like medicine, dentistry, social work). The use of the title ‘Psychotherapist” or “Mental Health Professional” is restricted and only those practitioners registered with the CRPO or other approved users.
Besides Registered Psychotherapists – who are Members of this College – the members of five other regulated professions practice psychotherapy: nurses, occupational therapists, physicians, psychologists and psychological associates, and social workers and social service workers.
What’s the difference between a psychotherapist, a counsellor or a coach?
Coaching is unregulated. If you seek a life coach, you will want to ensure they have undergone a training certification. Coaches are not trained to treat or work with mental illness of any kind. They do have life experience, which is the foundation from where they work.
The HPRAC (see footnote) distinguishes between psychotherapy & counselling as follows: “The practice of psychotherapy is distinct from both counselling, where the focus is on the provision of information, advice-giving, encouragement and instruction, and spiritual counselling, which is counselling related to religion or faith-based beliefs.”
The Ministry of Health and Long Term Care defines psychotherapy as,
The assessment and treatment of cognitive, emotional or behavioural disturbances by psychotherapeutic means, delivered through a therapeutic relationship based primarily on verbal or non-verbal communication…. to treat, by means of psychotherapy technique delivered through a therapeutic relationship, an individual’s serious disorder of thought, cognition, mood, emotional regulation, perception or memory that may seriously impair the individual’s judgment, insight, behaviour, communication or social functioning (2007, c. 10, Sched. R, s. 3).
That’s a mouthful!
In much simpler terms, generally speaking, psychotherapy is a collaborative wellness and treatment strategy based on the relationship between an individual, or couple/family and the therapist. Based on this definition of what psychotherapy is, it might be easy to see then how the qualifications and experience of your chosen therapist are critically important.
There are important questions you should ask a potential therapist. These are:
- What is your academic and training been to prepare you to practice as a therapist?
- What specialized training and/or experience have you had in working with the issue I am dealing with?
- What professional associations do you belong to?
- What are your fees?
- How will my insurance claim be handled? (preferably fees and potential insurance coverage should be discussed on the phone prior to making the first appointment)
- What type of therapy do you do? (mostly talking, role-playing, visualizing, CBT, Rogerian, person-centered, “body-work”)
- What are your office protocols? (booking appointments, payment for missed appointments, emergencies, building access after-hours, etc.) I would like a brief explanation as to what I can expect to happen in my sessions.
- How long will each session last?
- How many sessions will it take to resolve my issue?
- How will my confidentiality be assured?
How do I access services?
In Ontario, psychotherapy can be accessed both publically with your OHIP card, as well as privately, either through your third party insurance or by paying yourself. Publically, you can start with your family doctor, and some family physicians are specially trained in providing psychotherapy, although all physicians can technically provide it. You might be further referred to a psychiatrist, a hospital out or in patient program or a local public agency. Some public agencies will provide free counselling services, and most will provide some free short term (1 or 2 sessions) or up to 5 sessions on a sliding scale based on income. You can also confidentially access your employers EAP program.
Privately, you have a lot more options and of course, shorter wait times. You can see your clergy (generally free of charge), access extended services at a public agency (like Catholic Family Services of Peel), see a registered social worker, a registered psychologist and now, a registered psychotherapist. Each of these specialties has training in how they might help you – in Ontario, historically it was up to the consumer/client to sort that out on their own (anyone could claim to be a therapist). Now, with the existence of the CRPO, you can be assured of a minimum standard of education and training, and ongoing education and regulation of your chosen therapist.
Given all of this information, the good news is, the government of Ontario is recognizing the need for more mental health care. They are paying attention to who is delivering care, and hopefully, this will lead to making access more universal.
You can learn more about these topics through the Ontario association of psychotherapists here and through the CRPO here.
All the very best in your search for support!
HPRAC note: HPRAC advises the Minister on whether unregulated health professions should be regulated, whether regulated professions should no longer be regulated, amendments to the Regulated Health Professions Act, a health profession act or a regulation under those acts, quality assurance and patient relations programs of Ontario's health regulatory Colleges, and on other matters referred to it by the Minister.