PEI

Mental health counselling therapists to become regulated on P.E.I.

After years of lobbying by mental health counselling therapists, the profession is now in the process of becoming regulated, which the P.E.I. Counselling Association says will improve both access and the quality of those services.

'It's just so exciting. It's been over 10 years in the making.'

Right now counselling therapy isn't regulated on P.E.I. The P.E.I. Counselling Association is looking to change that. (wavebreakmedia/Shutterstock)

After years of lobbying by mental health counselling therapists, the profession is now in the process of becoming regulated, which the P.E.I. Counselling Association says will improve both access and the quality of those services.

Right now counselling therapists aren't regulated on P.E.I. Anyone can call themselves a counsellor or therapist.

It also means there are no standards of practice in place, no one to enforce those rules and no discipline if there's misconduct.

"That has huge consequences for an individual who is already in distress," said Kylah Hennessey, a counsellor who is also on the executive of the P.E.I. Counselling Association.

Without regulation, counselling therapy is also not as accessible as other mental health services. Hennessey said counselling therapists often have to work out of private practices and the service isn't typically included in someone's health coverage, which is "a real barrier" for people.

Regulations coming

The work to have the position regulated is not unique to P.E.I. Hennessey said advocates across the country are fighting for the same cause in their own provinces.

If P.E.I. does regulate counselling therapists, it would be the sixth province in the country to do so.

Kylah Hennessey is a counsellor and member of the P.E.I. Counselling Association. She says regulating the profession improves public safety and access to the service. (Nicole Williams/CBC)

The association recently met with the province to develop a set of regulations, with another meeting planned for later in August.

"Providing timely access to high quality mental health services in Prince Edward Island continues to be a top priority for this government," said a statement from the Department of Health and Wellness.

"We have been, and continue to, actively work with the group to develop their regulations." 

No timeline

The province didn't provide any sort of timeline, simply saying that regulations are "in the works."

But Hennessey said the association is hopeful that change is finally coming. Counselling therapists on the Island have been advocating for the cause for years, lobbying each new government to take action.

"For me, it's just so exciting. It's been over 10 years in the making here in which we've talked about regulation and you know ... the most important [aspect] is public protection but it's also, you know, having the public recognize counselling therapists as that profession that they can access for mental health," she said.

The work to regulate the profession is not easy, she said. The association is in the middle of contacting anyone on P.E.I. who may identify as a counselling therapist and would want to be adhere to the specific standards eventually set out by regulations.

Hennessey said right now there are fewer than 100 members who are a part of the association but there could be many more counselling therapists on the Island that have not registered with them.

More from CBC P.E.I.

About the Author

Nicole Williams

Video Journalist

Nicole Williams is a video journalist with CBC Ottawa. She previously worked as a reporter with CBC P.E.I. and as an associate producer with CBC News in Toronto.

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