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 cases, the RP may be unaware of concerns until a complaint is lodged. The College appreciates that this may not be possible in all circumstances.
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: 416-479-4330, ext. 109
Toll-free: 1-844-712-1364 (General toll-free line)
Mail: Attn: Director, Professional Conduct
College of Registered Psychotherapists of Ontario
375 University Avenue, Suite 803
Toronto, ON M5G 2J5
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Issues 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 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.
- 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 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.
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How to File a Complaint
If you decide to submit a formal complaint, please use the Complaint 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.
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The Complaint Investigation Process
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.
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 them the opportunity respond.
Usually, the member’s letter of response 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, 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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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-in-Council. 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:
- 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.
- 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 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.
- 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 generally includes self-directed learning and submission of an assignment for evaluation, such as a reflection paper.
- 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.
- 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.
- Undertakings – In situations involving a medium-to-high risk to the public, the member, in consultation with the College, may voluntarily agree to restrict their 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.
- 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. 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 member’s practice, the ICRC can make an “interim order” restricting the member’s ability to practise.
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. 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 member’s Public Register profile. Please refer to CRPO’s By-law article 21.08 for more information.
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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.
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. The College uses the information received to improve the process. For example, we have learned that members and complainants are concerned about the length of time it takes the College to process a complaint, and the College is considering ways to improve this.
The College is required to fully process each complaint within 150 days, but is able to extend the timelines if needed. If the matter is delayed, the College will ensure that complainants and members are updated about the reason(s). ICRC members 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 the day the College receives the complaint. Timelines are affected by various factors, including complexity of the issues and how quickly responses are provided when the College requests information.
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.
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 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 the College, or have other questions about the confidentiality of the complaints process, are advised to contact the College.
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