I recently spoke to someone who referred to themselves as a therapist, let's call them H. The conversation reminded me about why licensing is so important.
Me- Can you tell me a little more about your practice?
H- Sure! The way I practice is way more effective than traditional talk therapy. What I do deals with the subconscious and gets to the root of the problem in a way that other therapies don’t. I mainly work with children who have experienced trauma.
Note: Professional therapists will rarely dismiss therapy modalities unless those modalities are not evidenced based. A professional therapist understands that some modalities are a better fit than others depending on what works for the client.
Me- Interesting. I’m curious, what regulatory body are you with?
H- I took my training through XYZ Association.
Me- Yes, but who regulates your practice? Who do your clients go to if they have an issue with the way you practice.
H- I’m a sole proprietor
Me- Do you belong to a regulatory college?
H- I already went to school. I took a 450-hour course to do this work.
H did not appear to know anything about regulation or licensing.
What is a therapist?
Did you know that in Alberta the title of ‘Therapist’ is not protected? What that means is any one can call themselves a therapist.
Therapist is the word that we use to describe someone who specializes in a modality of treatment.
The term is mostly used by regulated health professionals like occupational therapists, physical therapists, and respiratory therapists. Social workers and psychologists will also refer to themselves as therapists when appropriate. On occasion this term will be used by nonregulated health professionals.
So Who Is Registered?
It means health professionals are required by law to follow certain standards and ethics.
It also means if one of these health professionals are not following these standards, they can be held accountable for their actions. These regulated professions will belong to a regulatory college, and the purpose of these colleges is to protect the public.
If a regulated professional is not following their standards, it is the responsibility of their college to step in, investigate and when necessary, discipline the professional.
What Should I Look For?
A health professional who is providing counselling and therapy services will have 6+ years of post secondary education. Many of those professionals will have taken further training in different therapy modalities such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) or Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR).
They will also have a practice number with their regulatory body. You can confirm they have an active license by checking with their college. The Alberta College of Social Workers (ACSW) lists practice permits here. The College of Alberta Psychologists (CAP) lists their permits here.
You can ask your therapist for their registration number, and about their education and training. If they do not immediately volunteer that information, it is probably a sign you should look for a different therapist.
Finding the Right Therapist
Finding the right therapist is about finding a therapist who is the right fit for you. One of the most important reasons you want to make sure you therapist is licensed is because you deserve to have a therapist who has the education and training to provide quality therapy, and to know that if the therapist is accountable if they are not meeting standards.
Katie Borek, MSW Clinical Specialization
Registered Social Worker
If you are interested in working with a Registered Professional, who provides high quality and above standard therapy, give us a call at Aligned Minds to see if one of our therapists are right for you!