Proclamation of the Controlled Act of Psychotherapy

Long-awaited legislative changes concerning psychotherapy were proclaimed in force on December 30, 2017. These important developments affect members who practise psychotherapy and/or those who wish to use the title “psychotherapist”.

On April 1, 2015, the government proclaimed into force the provisions of the Psychotherapy Act which created the College of Registered Psychotherapists of Ontario (CRPO).  Among other things, these provisions also restricted the use of the titles “psychotherapist”, “registered psychotherapist” and “registered mental health therapist” to members of CRPO.

The OCSWSSW was very pleased to learn that on December 30, 2017, the following provisions were proclaimed into force:

  • provisions in the Regulated Health Professions Act, 1991 (the “RHPA”) setting out the controlled act of psychotherapy and authorizing members of OCSWSSW to perform it in compliance with the Social Work and Social Service Work Act, 1998 (the “SWSSWA”), its regulations and bylaws.
  • the provision in the SWSSWA permitting OCSWSSW members who are authorized to perform the controlled act of psychotherapy to use the title “psychotherapist”, in compliance with certain conditions.

What does this mean?

As of December 30, 2017, the controlled act of psychotherapy has been proclaimed in force, and becomes one of fourteen controlled acts defined in the RHPA. A controlled act is an activity thought to have the potential of posing a risk of serious harm to the client. Restricting the performance of controlled acts to certain regulated professionals who are legally authorized to perform them is the approach to protecting the public set out in the RHPA. As a result, as of December 31, 2019, performance of the controlled act of psychotherapy is restricted to members of the following regulatory colleges:

In addition, the Controlled Acts Regulation under the RHPA sets out certain exemptions.

Members of the OCSWSSW may now perform the controlled act of psychotherapy and use the title “psychotherapist”, provided they do so in compliance with the SWSSWA, the regulations and the bylaws.

The controlled act of psychotherapy:

  • The controlled act of psychotherapy is defined in the RHPA as follows:

Treating, by means of psychotherapy technique, delivered through a therapeutic relationship, an individual’s serious disorder of thought, cognition, mood, emotional regulation, perception or memory that may seriously impair the individual’s judgement, insight, behaviour, communication or social functioning.

  • Members are authorized to perform the controlled act of psychotherapy in compliance with the SWSSWA, its regulations and bylaws. Members must practise in accordance with the Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice Handbook, Second Edition, 2008, as revised from time to time, which have been approved by bylaw.
  • The Controlled Acts Regulation under the RHPA sets out an exemption with respect to the performance of the controlled act. The exemption concerns social work and social service work students, who are permitted to perform the controlled act of psychotherapy under the supervision or direction of a member of the College, when they are fulfilling the requirements to become a member of the College.
  • The Practice Guidelines for Performing the Controlled Act of Psychotherapy were approved by the OCSWSSW Council in December 2017 and are in force as of December 30, 2017. The Guidelines are intended to assist members in interpreting and applying the standards of practice, which set out the minimum standards for all members, to particular circumstances or contexts of practice. They may be used by the College to assist in determining whether appropriate standards of practice and professional conduct have been maintained by a member in a particular case.

Use of the title “Psychotherapist”:

    • A provision of the SWSSWA (s. 47.2) which was proclaimed in force on December 30, 2017 permits members of the OCSWSSW authorized to perform the controlled act of psychotherapy to use the title “psychotherapist” if the member complies with the following conditions, as applicable:
        • o    When describing himself or herself orally as a psychotherapist, the member must also mention that they are a member of the Ontario College of Social Workers and Social Service Workers, or identify themselves using the title restricted to them as a member of the College.
        • o    When identifying themselves in writing as a psychotherapist on a name tag, business card or any document, the member must set out their full name, immediately followed by at least one of the following, followed in turn by “psychotherapist”.
          • i.  Ontario College of Social Workers and Social Service Workers,
            ii. the title that the member may use under this Act.

     

  • Members of the College of Occupational Therapists of Ontario (COTO), the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (CPSO), the College of Nurses of Ontario (CNO), and the College of Psychologists of Ontario (CPO) are now authorized under the RHPA to use the title “psychotherapist”, provided that they comply with certain conditions (s. 33.1 of the RHPA).
  • The Psychotherapy Act restricts the use of the title “registered psychotherapist” and “registered mental health therapist” to members of CRPO.

For further information, please contact the Professional Practice Department at practice@ocswssw.org.

Psychotherapy FAQs

What is the definition of the controlled act of psychotherapy?

The Regulated Health Professions Act, 1991 (the “RHPA”) sets out the controlled act that relates to psychotherapy as follows:

“Treating, by means of psychotherapy technique, delivered through a therapeutic relationship, an individual’s serious disorder of thought, cognition, mood, emotional regulation, perception or memory that may seriously impair the individual’s judgement, insight, behavior, communication or social functioning.”

On December 30, 2017, the controlled act of psychotherapy was proclaimed in force, and became one of fourteen controlled acts defined in the RHPA. A controlled act is an activity thought to have the potential of posing a risk of serious harm to the client. Restricting the performance of controlled acts to certain regulated professionals who are legally authorized to perform them is the approach to protecting the public set out in the RHPA.

Can a registered social worker or registered social service worker perform the controlled act of psychotherapy?

Yes. Members of the OCSWSSW are authorized to perform the controlled act of psychotherapy in compliance with the Social Work and Social Service Work Act, 1998 (the “SWSSWA”), its regulations and bylaws. Members must practise in accordance with the Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice Handbook , Second Edition, 2008 as revised from time to time, which have been approved by bylaw. In order to determine if they are competent to perform the controlled act of psychotherapy, members should also review the Practice Guidelines for Performing the Controlled Act of Psychotherapy, which were approved by Council in December 2017 and are available on the College website.

The guidelines are intended to assist members in applying the Standards of Practice and to alert them to the issues to consider when assessing their competence to perform the controlled act of psychotherapy. They cover issues pertaining to the practice of the controlled act of psychotherapy, including the need for ongoing education and training to maintain competence, and the importance of supervision and consultation. They also emphasize that psychotherapy is not an entry-to-practice competency.

I am a member of the OCSWSSW who provides psychotherapy services as part of my practice. Can I call myself a “psychotherapist”?

Yes. A provision of the SWSSWA (s. 47.2) which was proclaimed in force on December 30, 2017 permits members of the OCSWSSW to use the title “psychotherapist” if the member complies with the following conditions, as applicable:

  • When describing himself or herself orally as a psychotherapist, the member must also mention that they are a member of the Ontario College of Social Workers and Social Service Workers, or identify themselves using the title restricted to them as a member of the College.
  • When identifying themselves in writing as a psychotherapist on a name tag, business card or any document, the member must set out their full name, immediately followed by at least one of the following, followed in turn by “psychotherapist”.
    • i. Ontario College of Social Workers and Social Service Workers,
      ii. the title that the member may use under this Act.

Examples:

  1. Your Name , MSW, RSW
    Social Worker, Psychotherapist
    OR
  1. Your Name, MSW, RSW
    Registered Social Worker, Psychotherapist
    OR
  1. Your Name, MSW, RSW
    Ontario College of Social Workers and Social Service Workers, Psychotherapist

 

The Psychotherapy Act restricts the use of the title “registered psychotherapist” and “registered mental health therapist” to members of the College of Registered Psychotherapists of Ontario (CRPO).

I’m a registered member of OCSWSSW and I practise psychotherapy. Do I need to become a member of the College of Registered Psychotherapists of Ontario (CRPO) in order to practise psychotherapy?

No. Provisions in the RHPA setting out the controlled act of psychotherapy and authorizing members of the OCSWSSW to perform it in compliance with the SWSSWA, its regulations and bylaws and the provision in the SWSSWA permitting members of the OCSWSSW who are authorized to perform the controlled act of psychotherapy to use the title “psychotherapist”, in compliance with certain conditions, were proclaimed in force on December 30, 2017. It is therefore not necessary for members of the OCSWSSW who wish to practise psychotherapy or use the title “psychotherapist” to register with CRPO.