Just get started
How hard could it be?
I went to visit a friend who was doing an artist residency near the ocean. I was describing the predicament that I found myself in: I had training, lots of it. I did not have the training that this jurisdiction wanted in order to use a specific title. And? There were no rules against me practicing therapy.
I was lamenting the fact that the people who choose, the people who give their seal of approval didn’t recognize my training. The issue? I was studying at a private institute, not in a university setting. My training of over 1600 hours plus supervision wasn’t good enough to join their club. This, despite the fact that the regulations surrounding the qualifications for therapists was created in large part by the institute where I studied in Toronto.
I needed to get a masters degree composed of less than half that amount of training at over twice the price. The people who made up the rules? They taught in the masters program. Clearly the legislation governing the practice of therapy in Nova Scotia was not primarily there to protect clients.
With a loophole the size of the Atlantic ocean, it was clear that I could start a practice. My friend told me simply to get a space and get started. The rest, she insisted, would take care of itself. With that in mind, I found some liability insurance and the smallest, least expensive space that I could find.
I began seeing people right away. Initially, I was working free - a lot. I was seeing volunteers from a local soup kitchen. I would work with anyone who came. I networked. I met with people. I took courses. I was even accepted into the Masters degree program here. Two classes in, it became very clear to me that I would likely learn something there. I would definitely spend a lot of time and money there as well. The value didn’t seem congruent with the effort. As such, for the second time in my career, I dropped out of a masters program.
I dropped out because it was too difficult. The work wasn’t the issue. It was too difficult for me to justify the expense of money and time in order to play the game to become part of the club of counselling therapists.
Instead, I looked elsewhere. A year into my practice I found the Canadian Professional Counsellors Association. They are a self governing group of clinicians. Sorry. We are a self governing group of clinicians. We have an ethical framework. We have a code of conduct. We to do constant professional development. And yet, I’m still not ‘qualified’ according the standards set here. And yet? I can still call myself a psychotherapist and help people.
In fact, anyone can call themselves a psychotherapist in Nova Scotia. Anyone can do counselling work. I happen to have 1600 hours of training at one of the institutes that helped write the regulations for Ontario. You could do nothing at all and call yourself a coach or therapist and charge people money to talk with you. The issue is, do you provide any help at all?
Given this, what then are these regulations for? Who are they for? They let some consumers know who has completed the prescribed education here. In this way, they do offer some small protection to consumers. This however is not a testament to the quality of the therapist.
From what I can tell these titles in the case of psychotherapy are there to protect the therapists from competition and to help insurance companies decide who gets paid and who does not.
Recently in Alberta they came very close to regulating psychotherapy. Members of the Canadian Professional Counsellors Association were granted legacy access to membership of the Association of Counselling Therapists of Alberta. Unfortunately, this initial Association did not become a government granted regulatory body. It stopped being a priority for the government. Instead of signing a simple order in counsel, they let this process die in a back room.
Why do these things happen?
My guess - lobbying from other professional bodies who would have to compete with counselling therapists. We saw this as the Ontario regulations came into place. The psychologists argued that all psychotherapists should have to work under a registered psychologist who would be responsible for and could check their work - in the name of protecting clients.
Protecting clients my ass. That was a power and money grab on the part of the psychologists and establishment in Ontario. Without insider knowledge, I’m willing to speculate that something similar likely happened in Alberta too.
Regulations work in small part to protect the public. And, in a lot of cases they’re there for the benefit of the established order.
When I first moved here, I was told that I couldn’t be a psychotherapist because I didn’t have the qualifications to do so. This was not true. I don’t have the qualifications to call myself a ‘Registered Counselling Therapist”. I can practice psychotherapy all I want.
Now, if you’re in a profession where there are some regulations, AND there are some gaps in the regulations, the gaps are not flaws to point out to the powerbrokers. Naw… They are there for you to create an opportunity for yourself. Not all professions have gaps. And, if you’ve come close, or have lived experience plus training from outside of what’s the ‘norm’ where you are, there are holes to be explored.
A ‘no’ from a powerbroker doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to give up.
A ‘no’ is an invitation to find a creative solution and make your own way.
So, that’s how I’ve been doing it for the last seven years. I’ve picked myself. I’ve taken a risk. My clients have too. Given that I’m still working and people refer others to me still, I must be dong something right.