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Province moves to regulate counsellors

Should mean higher standards, more care, say advocates
Nicole Imgrund (left) and Laura Hahn have previously called on the province to regulate counselling therapists by creating a regulatory college specifically for those counsellors. The province instead announced March 1, 2024, that counselling therapists would be regulated under the College of Alberta Psychologists. KEVIN MA/St. Albert Gazette

Albertans should soon get better access to mental health services now the province has agreed to make counselling a regulated profession, says a St. Albert counsellor.

The Alberta government sent out a notice March 1 it would make counselling a regulated health profession through the College of Alberta Psychologists.

In a media release, Alberta Health Minister Adriana LaGrange said it was of vital importance to ensure health professions were regulated and had appropriate standards, accountability, and oversight in place to support safe patient care

“As the process towards regulating counsellors in Alberta moves forward, the College of Alberta Psychologists will be developing standards so that safe, competent, and ethical patient care is delivered to Albertans.”

Nicole Imgrund, owner of St. Albert’s Rivers Edge Counselling, has on multiple occasions called for the regulation of Alberta’s 4,000-some counselling therapists as chair of the Association of Counselling Therapy of Alberta (ACTA). She said this announcement will eventually create such regulation and make it easier for Albertans to access mental health support. Many First Nations residents cannot get counselling because their federal health benefits do not cover unregulated professions.

“Most importantly, it will provide those basic protections that people have in other health services,” Imgrund said.

Imgrund has previously called on the province to regulate counselling therapists by proclaiming the College of Counselling Therapy of Alberta, which Sect. 29 of the Mental Health Services Protection Act identifies as the regulator for counselling therapists, addictions counsellors, and child and youth counsellors.

The province has instead decide to put oversight of counselling therapists under the College of Alberta Psychologists, said Laura Hahn, interim CEO of ACTA.

“It’s not the most expedited path forward, but it’s a path forward,” she said.

Hahn and Imgrund said there was a lot of overlap between psychology and counselling, so it made sense to have one body overseeing both.

Richard Spelliscy, CEO of the College of Alberta Psychologists, said his group has specifically agreed to become the regulator for Alberta’s counselling therapists, adding that addictions and child/youth care counsellors could be added later.

Spelliscy said the province now has to replace Sect. 29 of the Mental Health Services Protection Act with a law that names the Alberta College of Psychologists as the regulatory body for counselling therapists. The province will then work with psychologists, counsellors, and First Nations to craft codes of ethics and training standards for this profession. Those rules will let Albertans call on the college to investigate and possibly discipline counsellors who don’t meet provincial standards.

“The public will have a layer of protection they don’t have now,” Spelliscy said.

Spelliscy said he hopes to have the new rules in place by April 2025.

Kevin Ma

About the Author: Kevin Ma

Kevin Ma joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2006. He writes about Sturgeon County, education, the environment, agriculture, science and aboriginal affairs. He also contributes features, photographs and video.
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