Complaints & Concerns about Members

Introduction
Before You Make a Complaint
Problems the College Cannot Address
How to File a Complaint
The Complaint Investigations Process
Outcome of the Complaints Process
General Information about the Complaints Process
Related Information

Introduction

The College of Registered Psychotherapists of Ontario (the “College”) regulates the profession of psychotherapy in Ontario in the public interest. It is the responsibility of the College to investigate and address complaints made against its Members.

This page contains information you need to know about making a complaint regarding a College Member.

Before You Make a Complaint

Before filing a formal complaint with the College, you may wish to discuss your concerns with the Member. In some circumstances, the RP may be unaware of concerns until a complaint is lodged. You may also wish to call the College and speak with a staff person. The staff member will be able to provide you with important information about the process. Contact information is as follows:

Tel: (416) 862-4785 (Direct line to Case Coordinator & Investigator)
1 (888) 661-4801 (General toll-free line)
Fax: (416) 874-4079
Email:          complaints@crpo.ca
Mail: CRPO
Attention: Director, Professional Conduct
163 Queen Street East, 4th floor
Toronto, ON     M5A 1S1

Problems the College Cannot Address

There are various concerns about psychotherapists that are outside of the College’s jurisdiction. These include:

Members of another college

If a member of the public has a concern about a psychotherapist who is a member of another regulatory college, it is appropriate to contact that college.

For example:

  • Psychologists are regulated by the College of Psychologists of Ontario;
  • Social workers are regulated by the Ontario College of Social Workers and Social Service Workers;
  • Psychiatrists and GP psychotherapists are medical doctors who are regulated by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario; and
  • Some nurses and occupational therapists may use the title psychotherapist and are regulated by the College of Nurses of Ontario and the College of Occupational Therapists of Ontario.

If a practitioner is a member of more than one college, you can make a complaint with any of the colleges where s/he is a Member. Depending on the nature of the complaint, one or more of the colleges may play an active role in the investigation.

Unregulated individuals

The College has very limited jurisdiction over practitioners who are not Members. Unregulated individuals are not permitted to use the title “psychotherapist” (or an abbreviation), or hold themselves out as qualified to practise as a psychotherapist. The College can investigate unauthorized practitioners and may take legal action against them. However, the College cannot investigate such an individual’s conduct, or hold him/her to the standards that apply to College Members.

Some unregulated practitioners may be in the process of registering with the College. If you are concerned about an unregulated practitioner who may be applying for registration with this College, you can contact us. The College will accept information about the practitioner and may review it if s/he applies for registration.

Remedies unavailable through the College

The College’s complaints process cannot:

  • Order the payment of funds by a Member as a result of a financial loss suffered by the complainant. This is a matter for the courts.
  • Resolve employment or labour relations difficulties that are not addressed by the professional standards governing the profession.
  • Direct a Member to change his or her professional opinion or a report.

How to File a Complaint

If you decide to submit a formal complaint, please use CRPO’s Complaints Form. You can submit the form by fax, email or surface mail. If you are unable to provide your complaint in writing, please contact the College and discuss the matter with a staff member.

The Complaint Investigation Process

Once you have submitted a complaint, a staff person will contact you to confirm receipt, obtain any clarifications needed, and offer to explain the complaints process.

The College will then provide the Member with notice of the complaint within 14 days from the time the complaint was received. In general, the College will provide the Member with a copy of the complaint and give him/her 30 days to provide a response.

Usually, the Member’s letter of response to the complaint is provided to the complainant. However, if the complainant is not the client involved in the matter, or if the Member advises the College that release of the response may result in harm to the complainant or another person, the College may elect not to forward the response to the complainant.

In addition, an investigator will be selected to investigate the matter. S/he may request to meet or speak with you in order to learn about the events and circumstances surrounding the complaint.

In some cases, instead of a formal investigation, a complaint may be referred to an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) process. Where the Member, complainant and College agree to employ ADR, an ADR meeting would take place and be facilitated by a neutral third party. The meeting is intended to provide the complainant and Member an opportunity to directly resolve the issues. The College’s Inquiries, Complaints and Reports Committee (ICRC) will review the outcome of the ADR process to ensure that the resolution reached is in the public interest. ADR is not available for complaints involving allegations of sexual abuse, or boundary violations of a sexual nature.

Outcome of the Complaints Process

Complaints about Members are reviewed by the Inquiries, Complaints and Reports Committee (ICRC). This committee is made up of members of the profession, as well as members of the public appointed to the College’s Council by the Lieutenant Governor. The ICRC process is set out in the Health Professions Procedural Code, which is Schedule 2 of the Regulated Health Professions Act, 1991 (RHPA). The ICRC screens complaints and concerns about Members and decides how they should be addressed. The following is a description of various outcomes the ICRC is able to order. They are sometimes used in combination with one another, and are presented in order of increasing seriousness:

  1. Take no action

The ICRC will not take any action where the information raised through the investigation process appears to include no risk or minimal risk to the public.

  1. Issue written advice

Where an investigation has identified that there may be some room for improvement in a Member’s professional practice or conduct, the ICRC can issue written advice, including recommendations. The College does not monitor or follow-up with the Member about whether s/he has followed the advice; however, non-cooperation could be considered in the future, e.g. if another complaint is made. This outcome reflects concerns that are of low risk to the public.

  1. Remedial agreement

Where a concern about a Member appears to present low risk to the public, the Member and College may enter into an agreement. The agreement will outline steps that the Member will take to address the concerns and prevent them from recurring. These may include taking a course and practising with supervision.

  1. Specified continuing education or remediation program (SCERP)

Where the ICRC identifies a practice deficiency that poses moderate risk to the public, it can order the Member to complete a SCERP, which is a specific learning program meant to address the shortcoming.

  1. In-person caution

If the ICRC identifies a serious concern that poses moderate risk to the public, it can order the Member to attend the College office in person to receive a caution from the ICRC. A caution sends a strong message about the need for immediate improvement.

  1. Undertakings

In situations involving a high risk to the public, the Member, in consultation with the College, may voluntarily agree to restrict his/her practice or resign from the College and not reapply. A referral to a discipline hearing may also have been made. When a Member resigns in such circumstances, a note to that effect will be posted to the Public Register and will remain there.

  1. Referral to the Discipline Committee

Where investigation reveals a serious concern posing a high risk to the public, and where the evidence is sufficient to support a legal hearing, the ICRC will refer specific allegations of professional misconduct or incompetence to the Discipline Committee. A discipline hearing is a formal legal process. Hearings are generally held in public. Click here to read more about the discipline process. Referrals to the Discipline Committee are relatively rare compared with other possible ICRC outcomes.

Where a risk of harm to the public requires an immediate restriction on the Member’s practice, the ICRC can make an “interim order” restricting the Member’s ability to practise. The order takes effect until a discipline hearing is held and has reached an outcome.

Incapacity inquiries

If a complaint investigation raises concerns about the Member’s mental and physical capacity to practise the profession safely and effectively, the ICRC follows a process to inquire into the Member’s capacity. Click here to read more about incapacity proceedings.

General Information about the Complaints Process 

Dissatisfaction with a decision of the ICRC

Complainants and Members each have a right to request that an ICRC decision be reviewed by the Health Professions Appeal and Review Board (HPARB or the Board). The Board is a legal tribunal that is independent of the College. It reviews the ICRC’s decision in a complaint and determines whether the investigation was adequate and the decision was reasonable. Reviews by HPARB are usually open to the public. The Board cannot review a decision to refer a complaint to the Discipline Committee or to incapacity proceedings, as the matter is still in progress at the College.

Click here to visit the Board’s website. 

Feedback about the complaints process

Individuals involved in the complaints process are invited to write to the College with their comments or concerns about the process. The Registrar and/or ICRC will review any such submission and determine what steps, if any, the College can take to address the concerns. Once the ICRC makes a decision about a complaint, the College also sends out a questionnaire to Complainants and Members, inquiring about their satisfaction (or not) with the process.

Timelines

The College is required to fully process each complaint within 150 days. Should this prove to be impossible, the College will ensure that complainants and Members are updated about the reason(s) for delay. ICRC members and College staff will work hard to avoid unnecessary delays in the complaints process—nevertheless, delays may occur from time to time. 

Objectivity and fairness

In order to ensure fairness, it is important that staff remain objective and neutral throughout the entire complaints process. This requires them to adhere closely to standard procedures. At times the process may not seem “friendly” to either the complainant or the Member—but it is hoped that those involved will understand that the College is trying to maintain objectivity.

Confidentiality

The College takes the confidentiality of the complaints process seriously. Information about complaints is confidential to the complaints process. During an investigation, Members are generally asked to provide relevant documents from the client record. The College will make every effort to protect the confidentiality of client records. Complainants must keep in mind, however, that if a decision is reviewed by the Health Professions Appeal and Review Board (HPARB), or the matter is referred to the Discipline Committee, the information obtained through the complaints process will be presented at a review or hearing, which is open to the public.

Complainants who are concerned about the provision of their clinical file to the College, or have other questions about the confidentiality of the complaints process, are advised to contact the College.

Related Information

Click the links below for information related to the complaints process:

The Discipline Process
Incapacity Proceedings
Complaints and Concerns of Sexual Abuse
Submit a Complaint