Introduction

If you have a concern or a complaint about the care you received from a Registered Psychotherapist, this is where you can find out more information about the process. The College of Registered Psychotherapists of Ontario is the organization that members of the public can make complaints to; our job is to ensure that Registered Psychotherapists are providing the care that they should to all Ontarians.

Before You Make a Complaint

Before filing a formal complaint, you may wish to discuss your concerns with the registrant (the psychotherapist registered with CRPO). In some cases, the psychotherapist may be unaware of concerns until a complaint is lodged. CRPO appreciates that this may not be possible in all circumstances.

The complaint process can be difficult for both complainants and psychotherapists. It will take several months until a decision is reached. CRPO will generally provide each party with the other’s comments, which may be difficult to read. While CRPO will always consider the information carefully, neutrally and in the public interest, the outcome may not be the one hoped for by the complainant or psychotherapist. It may be advisable to have personal supports in place during the complaint process.

You may wish to call CRPO and speak with a staff person about the process. The staff member will be able to provide you with important information. Contact information is available on the Contact Us page.

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How to File a Complaint

If you decide to submit a formal complaint, please use the Complaint Form (version française içi). You can submit the form by fax, email or surface mail. If you are unable to provide your complaint in writing, please contact CRPO and discuss the matter with a staff member.

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After You File a Complaint

Once you have submitted a complaint, a staff person will contact you to confirm receipt, obtain any clarification needed and offer to explain the complaint process. CRPO will then provide the psychotherapist you have complained about with notice of the complaint within 14 days from the time the complaint was received. In general, CRPO will provide the psychotherapist with a copy of the complaint and give them the opportunity respond.

Usually, the registrant’s letter of response is provided to the person making the complaint (called the complainant). However, if the complainant is not the client involved in the matter, or if the psychotherapist advises CRPO that release of the response may result in harm to the person making the complaint, CRPO may elect not to forward the response to the complainant, or to provide a summary or excerpts of the response.

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

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What Will Happen to the Psychotherapist I Complained About?

Complaints about Registered Psychotherapists 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 who sit on CRPO’s governing Council. The committee screens complaints and concerns about CRPO registrants and decides how they should be addressed. The following is a description of various outcomes the committee 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 committee will not take any action where the information raised through the investigation process appears to include no risk or minimal risk to the public.
  2. Issue written advice – Where an investigation has identified that there may be some room for improvement in a registrant’s professional practice or conduct, the committee can issue written advice, including recommendations. CRPO does not monitor or follow-up with the psychotherapist about whether they have 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.
  3. Remedial agreement – Where a concern about Registered Psychotherapist appears to present a low risk to the public, the psychotherapist and CRPO may enter into an agreement. The agreement generally includes self-directed learning and submission of an assignment for evaluation, such as a reflection paper.
  4. Specified continuing education or remediation program (SCERP) – Where the committee identifies a practice deficiency that poses moderate risk to the public, it can order the registrant to complete a SCERP, which is a specific learning program meant to address the shortcoming.
  5. In-person caution – If the committee identifies a serious concern that poses moderate risk to the public, it can order the psychotherapist to attend the CRPO office in person to receive a caution from the committee. A caution sends a strong message about the need for immediate improvement.
  6. Undertakings – In situations involving a medium-to-high risk to the public, the psychotherapist, in consultation with CRPO, may voluntarily agree to restrict their practice or resign from CRPO and not reapply. A referral to a discipline hearing may also have been made. When a registrant resigns in such circumstances, a note to that effect will be posted to the Public Register and will remain there.
  7. 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 Inquiries, Complaints and Reports Committee (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. More information about the discipline process is available on the Discipline page of our website. 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 registrant’s practice, the ICRC can make an “interim order” restricting the member’s ability to practise.

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What if I Disagree with the Decision?

Both you and the psychotherapist involved each have a right to request that an Inquiries, Complaints and Reports Committee (ICRC) decision be reviewed by the Health Professions Appeal and Review Board (HPARB). HPARB is a legal tribunal that is independent of CRPO. 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. HPARB cannot review a decision to refer a complaint to the Discipline Committee or to incapacity proceedings, as the matter is still in progress at CRPO.

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How Long Will This Take?

CRPO is required to fully process each complaint within 150 days, but is able to extend the timeline if needed. If the matter is delayed, CRPO will ensure that complainants and registrants are updated about the reason(s). Inquiries, Complaints and Reports Committee (ICRC) members and CRPO staff work hard to avoid unnecessary delays in the complaints process—nevertheless, delays do occur. Currently, the average time for receiving the ICRC’s written decision is around 240 days from the day CRPO receives the complaint. Timelines are affected by various factors, including complexity of the issues and how quickly responses are provided when CRPO requests information.

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Confidentiality

CRPO takes the confidentiality of the complaints process seriously. Information about complaints is confidential to the complaints process. During an investigation, psychotherapists are generally asked to provide relevant documents from the client record. CRPO will make every effort to protect the confidentiality of client records. Complainants must keep in mind, however, that if a decision is reviewed by HPARB, or the matter is referred to the Discipline Committee, the information obtained through the complaints process may 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 CRPO, or have other questions about the confidentiality of the complaints process, are advised to contact us.

Feedback About the Complaints Process

Individuals involved in the complaints process are invited to write to CRPO with their comments or concerns about the process. The Registrar and/or Inquiries, Complaints and Reports Committee will review any such submission and determine what steps, if any, CRPO can take to address the concerns. CRPO uses the information received to improve the process.

Incapacity Inquiries

If a complaint investigation raises concerns about the psychotherapist’s mental and physical capacity to practise the profession safely and effectively, the ICRC follows a process to inquire into the registrant’s capacity. More information can be found on the Incapacity Proceedings page of our website.

Note: As of April 1, 2017, any ICRC decision involving an in-person caution, SCERP or undertaking, will result in a notation being made on the registrant’s Public Register profile. Please refer to CRPO’s By-law article 21.08 for more information.

Issues CRPO Cannot Address

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

Members of Another Regulatory College

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

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 practise psychotherapy and are regulated by the College of Nurses of Ontario and the College of Occupational Therapists of Ontario, respectively.

Remedies Unavailable Through the College

The College’s complaints process cannot:

  • Be used as evidence in civil proceedings such as family court, see Regulated Health Professions Act, 1991, s. 36 (3).
  • Order the payment of funds by a registrant 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.

Frequently Asked Questions

Should I file a complaint or a report?

“Complaints” and “reports” are two different processes for submitting a concern about a College member. It is important to know the difference before choosing which one to submit.

complaint triggers a formal process where the complainant and member are both parties to the complaint. Regarding the complaint process:

  • The complainant must provide their name and contact information.
  • The complainant is kept abreast of the progress of the complaint and receives a written decision at the end of the process.
  • The complainant generally has the opportunity to reply to the member’s response to the complaint.
  • There are set timelines for the College to decide complaints (150 days – though this can be extended).
  • When the final decision is released, complainants and members have the chance to ask an independent tribunal, the Health Professions Appeal and Review Board, if they are not satisfied with the outcome. This does not apply if the decision of the Inquiries, Complaints and Reports Committee (ICRC) is to refer the matter to disciplinary or incapacity proceedings, as the matter is still in progress at the College.
  • To file a complaint, fax, email or mail us a completed Complaint Form.

report is information that an individual wishes or is required to bring to the College’s attention. Regarding reports:

  • The reporter is not a party to the investigation and decision-making process.
  • The College will consider the matter, and may ask the reporter for additional information; however, the reporter is generally not provided with updates or the result.
  • There is no set time for investigating a report and there is no opportunity to request a review by the Health Professions Appeal and Review Board.
  • To report information to the College, please email complaints@crpo.ca with the information. It is helpful if you indicate that you are not making a complaint, but simply reporting the information to the College. Please provide as much detail as possible.
  • For more information about reports, review the Mandatory Reporting page of our website.

Can you protect my identity from the member if I make a complaint or report to the College?

Fairness requires the College to disclose information we receive about members and allow them the opportunity to respond. This includes the names of individuals who make a complaint or report. The College can redact information that is clearly irrelevant, such as the personal contact information of the individual who submitted the information.

Do I need a lawyer for the complaints process?

Complainants may find it helpful to have a lawyer; however, it is not necessary. The College investigates and decides on all complaint matters fairly, whether or not the complainant is represented.

While members do not need a lawyer to respond to a complaint or report, we advise members to use a lawyer. This is because the outcome of the process can have a significant impact on the member’s practice and career.

How long does it take for the College to make a decision on a complaint?

The College is required to fully process each complaint within 150 days, but is able to extend the deadline if needed. If the matter is delayed, the College will ensure the complainant and member are updated about the reason(s). Members of the Inquiries, Complaints and Reports Committee (ICRC) and College staff work hard to avoid unnecessary delays in the complaints process—nevertheless, delays do occur. Currently the average time for receiving the ICRC’s written decision is around 240 days from receipt of the complaint. Timelines are affected by various factors, including complexity of the issues and how quickly responses are provided when the College requests information.

What is the purpose of the complainant replying to the member's response to a complaint?

To ensure an adequate investigation, the College generally provides complainants with all or part of the member’s response to their complaint, along with information gathered by the College during the investigation. The purpose is to allow the complainant to clarify any details that were not clear in the original complaint, and to comment on the investigation and member’s response. If the reply raises new information or issues, the College will provide the reply to the member.

What decision is the Inquiries, Complaints and Reports Committee (ICRC) likely to make regarding this complaint?

College staff cannot speculate or predict the outcome of complaints. Every complaint is different and is evaluated on the information gathered. Statistically, the ICRC has taken no action on approximately one third of complaints and ordered educational outcomes in most others. The purpose of the complaints process is to protect the public. If educational activities are likely to prevent the concerns from happening again, the ICRC is likely to take this approach. Only the most serious complaints, e.g. involving dishonesty or abuse, are referred to the Discipline Committee for a formal hearing, provided that there is enough evidence to support a finding of professional misconduct or incompetence.