Frequently Asked Questions

» What is government regulation?

Government regulation occurs when government grants certain rights and responsibilities to a profession through legislation in exchange for the profession regulating its members in the public interest. This is commonly referred to as the social contract of professional regulation.

Once a provincial government regulates a profession, the College for that profession becomes the regulatory body that oversees the following professional functions:

  • setting entry-to-practice registration requirements that applicants must meet to become registrants, such as educational and experience (practicum) requirements, registration examinations, etc.;
  • establishing ethical and practice standards to guide how registrants are to practice and conduct themselves;
  • requiring that registrants hold appropriate professional liability insurance;
  • the fair and timely investigation and resolution of public complaints, which may proceed to more formal disciplinary hearings;
  • requiring registrants maintain minimum standards of professional development, such as continuing education and upgrades;
  • enforcing the occupational title(s) granted to registrants that may be used by non-registrants so that the public can rely on those who use the designated title(s) as holding defined competencies and being accountable to their peers.

» What is the purpose of government regulation?

The goal of regulation is to reduce the risk of harm to the public while maximizing the well-being of the client. Provincial or territorial governments grant professional self-regulation to a profession as a privilege which requires the profession to act in the public interest.

A key objective is for the profession to set standards of practice. Under the labour mobility provisions of the Agreement on Internal Trade (AIT), these standards must be comparable across Canada for the profession.

There are two types of regulatory statutes: “stand alone” and “umbrella”. In Nova Scotia, the act refers to a single profession, setting out its limits and standards. In Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia, the “umbrella” is an act that governs all health professions, setting out the privileges, processes and requirements that apply to all.

» Why regulate?

Historically, national and provincial professional associations have held a dual mandate: serving both a regulatory function (i.e. certification, standards of education, standards of practice, code of ethics, and complaint investigations) and a member service function (i.e. promoting the profession, negotiating fees and benefits, advertising and public relations, offering liability and benefits insurance, conferences, journals, newsletters, and continuing education).

With the development of a separate provincial regulatory body for counsellors with an exclusive regulatory function, the professional associations will divest themselves of that function and focus on member services. This will help to reduce public confusion about their roles.

» There are different ways to assess status of individuals within a College –
by credential or by competency. What are they and how do they apply to

Credential is evidence of a qualification, competence or authority issued to an individual or third party who is assumed by practice, by assumed competence or by law to have authority to do so. This is usually in the form of an educational achievement (degree, diploma) or a professional designation or license.

Competence refers to a required standard for an individual to properly perform a specific job. It reflects knowledge, skills and behaviour. More generally, competence is the state or quality of being adequately or well qualified, having the ability to perform a specific role. Competencies can be gained through formal and informal learning and are generally integrated, each competency informing the other.

» What is the distinction between counselling and psychotherapy?

FACTBC acknowledges that there is a lot of confusion around the term “psychotherapy”. That is why the competency profile does not use the term.

In British Columbia the term psychotherapy and the practice of psychotherapy are not reserved acts or protected titles. This was tested before the courts in the Uttendale case (2007) and “psychotherapy” as a term was removed from the regulations in the professions, notably psychology. Paradoxically, anyone in BC can claim to be a “psychotherapist” because it is neither a reserved act nor a protected title.

The Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association (CCPA) does not distinguish between psychotherapy and counseling and rather, define it as the same activity. The BC Association of Clinical Counsellors (BCACC) takes the same position.

Although both Ontario and Quebec define psychotherapy as a treatment for a diagnosable disorder, psychotherapy is a reserved act requiring special professional specialization in both provinces. In Ontario, the protected title for a counsellor is “Registered Psychotherapist”, but a counsellor who may or may not have access to the reserved act of psychotherapy.

This anomaly arose when it was discovered that “counsellor” and “counselling” had many legal definitions in Ontario statutes and that calling someone a “counsellor” would be a legal difficulty. The solution was to call them psychotherapists. See for further information on the College of Registered Psychotherapists of Ontario.

In Quebec, access to the reserved act of psychotherapy is controlled through the Psychologists Ordre (equivalent to a College). For further information on the Ordre des Psychologues deu Quebec, visit

Much more generic terms for the same activity as psychotherapy would be “clinical counselling” “mental health counselling” or “counselling therapy”. Counselling therapy is the term that FACTBC commonly uses to include any counsellors and therapists who meet the requirements of the competency profile.

Terms and Definitions

AIT: the labour mobility provisions of the Agreement on Internal Trade protects a worker’s right to move from province to province and transfer their regulated status without having to upgrade education or qualifications. In general, AIT requires a competency-based regulatory approach in order to assess workers across various provinces who have a variety of trainings within a particular profession. For more information, click here.

College: the legal entity granted authority under provincial legislation to regulate the profession (known as an Ordre in Quebec).

Competency profiles (CP): describe the skills, knowledge and abilities that someone entering the profession must hold in the following areas:

  • Foundational knowledge
  • Collegial relationships
  • Professional practise and ethics
  • Counselling process
  • Research applications

From 2004-2007, the BC Task Group for Counsellor Regulation worked with consultant Dr. David Cane to create the Competency Profile that is being used as a template across Canada. It has been validated nationally and is being used by some provinces as they move towards regulatory status. In 2015-2016, Dr. David Cane again worked with FACTBC to update the competency profile. Click here to see a copy of the original 2007 document. Click here to see a copy of the updated 2016 document.

The competencies are generic and are designed to define the elements that counsellors and therapists would have that would effectively protect the public from harm.

Title protection: a profession that has been established by government regulation will be granted one or more occupational titles that will be unique to that profession. Persons who are not registered with the College will be prohibited from using that title. Ensuring that only College registrants can use a title provides a means for the public to be assured that the professional they are dealing with is accountable to that regulatory body.