Practice Matters is an occasional posting about timely, clinical topics of interest to psychotherapy service. Topics are generated by the Practice Advisory service, provides information for registrants on various topics that emerge as key trends. Got a question or an idea for us to cover? Email qa@crpo.ca with your thoughts.

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2024 Practice Standards Highlights

Use of terms, titles, and designations

This article was updated for the February 2023 Communiqué

Can I display my PhD or other credentials on my business card and website?

It’s important that registrants not mislead the public about their psychotherapy credentials, which is why the practice standard about use of titles exists. This standard indicates that “the credential to be displayed must be one that is related to the practice of the profession.” This means that, if your degree or credential is not directly related to the practice of the psychotherapy, it should not appear alongside your other credentials or appear prominently on your website.

If you are not sure if your credential is related to the practice of the profession, ask yourself whether the program’s curriculum or your research addressed established psychotherapeutic theories and/or theories of human development, and whether it was concerned with the development of the skills that are necessary to engage a client in a safe, effective therapeutic process. If the answer to both questions is yes, then the credential is likely to be one that is related to the practice of the profession. If the answer to both is no, then it’s very possible the credential would not be considered related to the practice of the profession, in which case, you would be running afoul of CRPO standards.

Use of the “Doctor” or “Dr.” title

From the standard on use of titles:

Use of the title “Doctor” or “Dr.” is protected in the RHPA. Members of this College are not permitted to use this title in a clinical setting. If a person is not from one of the health professions entitled to use the doctor title (chiropractic, optometry, medicine, psychology, dentistry) or a social worker with an earned doctorate degree in social work, s/he cannot use the title “Doctor” or “Dr.” in a clinical setting. This is the case even if the person has an earned doctoral degree (e.g. the person holds a Ph.D). Under this provision, the title “Doctor” can be used in other settings, socially or in a purely academic setting, where no clients are present.

Note: The above does not prevent a member from displaying a Ph.D or other doctoral degree in his/her promotional material, if the degree is their highest credential earned and is related to the practice of the profession.

Use of terms “psychology” and “psychological”

The terms “psychology” along with “psychological” and “psychologist,” including any translations, abbreviations, and variations, are restricted under section 8 of the Psychology Act, 1991. Individuals who are not members of the College of Psychologists of Ontario must not use the term “psychology” or any of its abbreviations, when describing their services, or in any title. This means RPs must not claim to offer “psychology” or “psychological” services or use the term or an abbreviation of the term in their professional designation. The only exception provided for in the Act is for work “in the course of . . . employment by a university”, i.e., psychology professors.

Conversely, only CRPO registrants are permitted to use the title “Registered Psychotherapist”, while the title “psychotherapist” is shared among members of six regulated professions in Ontario. While there is some overlap in the work RPs and other professionals such as psychologists do (e.g., they may provide psychotherapy), these rules aim to distinguish between members of different professions.

Use of other professional titles

If a registrant has more than one registration with a regulatory body (e.g., RP and another health profession, social work, or other regulatory body such as teachers), it would be important to only use restricted titles in accordance with the law (e.g., only use titles you are legally entitled to use). (See dual registration for more information.)

Can I display the “Doctor of Medicine” or “MD” credential?

An RP would need to consider to what extent this credential is relevant to their practice of psychotherapy, and to consider the perspective of clients and members of the public who will see the credentials. The MD credential is highly recognized by the public as one that applies to physicians. If there is a chance that the credential will cause confusion to clients or members of the public, leading them to believe that the registrant is a doctor or qualified to practice medicine in Ontario, the registrant would need to consider how they would address this.

My employment role does not involve the provision of psychotherapy. Am I required to use the RP title?

Registrants often ask whether they are required to use the title in all employment settings. For example, some roles do not involve the provision of psychotherapy.

Standard 1.2 Use of Terms, Titles and Designations, notes that registrants are required to use the title conferred by the College when acting in a professional capacity. This helps members of the public identify a practitioner’s registration status and make informed choices about their health care. Protected titles indicate a regulated health professional has completed appropriate education and training and is accountable to a regulatory body for the quality of care they provide.

Depending on the situation, it might be acceptable not to display or use a regulated title. For example, the title would not be required in a job that only includes activities outside the scope of practice of psychotherapy, such as a teacher. In roles where there might be some overlap with psychotherapy, registrants are advised to use their judgement and think carefully about the implications of not using the title. Some considerations include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Does the role primarily or exclusively include activities outside of the controlled act of psychotherapy?
  • Do members of the public and clients clearly understand the role and what services are being provided?
  • If a member of the public were to file a complaint, how would you demonstrate that the role and services provided did not involve psychotherapy?
  • Do any discrepancies between workplace policies and the Professional Practice Standards (e.g., informed consent practices, confidentiality requirements, record-keeping and use of personal health information, etc.) present a risk to the public?

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Q: What happens to my clients and clinical records if I’m suddenly no longer able to practise?

Planning for the unexpected will help you and your clients should you ever find yourself in a position where you are unable to practise. Indeed, Professional Practice Standard 6.4: Closing, Selling, or Relocating a Practice requires that CRPO registrants have a contingency plan in place that will:

  • ensure the standards of the profession are met, even if you are not providing the services yourself;
  • link your clients with other qualified professionals who can address their needs; and
  • assure that your clients and/or their new providers have timely access to relevant information about the client’s care.

While the particular details of a contingency plan will depend on your practice, it is likely to include:

  • the contact information for one or more individuals (designates) who have agreed to carry out specific tasks on your behalf in the event you are suddenly unable to practise;
  • a list of contacts, including clients and colleagues and others with whom you have significant professional relationships;
  • directions for the designate(s), including those that relate to contacting clients or their substitute decision-makers to inform them of the situation, provide referral information, and discuss maintenance or transfer of clinical records.

Below are some considerations that will help as you shape your contingency plan. Your own research and discussion with colleagues will also be helpful in your planning process.

Identifying an appropriate designate

In the event you were unexpectedly unable to practise, how would your clients learn that you are no longer available to provide services?

  • If you are self-employed in a private practice, you will need to identify an appropriate designate who can carry out specific aspects of your contingency plan.
  • If you work in an agency or hospital setting, it’s possible that a contingency plan already exists to address such a situation – you might find it helpful to speak with your manager for more information.
  • If you provide services under contract to a third party, it will be helpful to carefully consider any existing contracts, policies set by the third party, and your overall role in order to understand what responsibilities would fall to a designate.

When selecting a designate, ensure they have the competence necessary to fulfill the duties set out in the contingency plan. Standard 6.4 does not indicate that a designate must be a fellow RP; however, it would be helpful for the designate to at least be a member of a regulated health profession in Ontario, as these individuals are likely to be familiar with the framework of health care law and regulation.

Understanding the needs of the clients you serve is also important, as this is likely to influence your selection of the designate who will carry out specific duties described in the plan, in addition to your plans for referral of clients to other suitably qualified professionals.

Referral to Alternate Service Providers

Professional Practice Standard 1.9: Referral identifies that registrants must refer their clients to other qualified, competent professionals when they are not available to provide services. In light of this, your contingency plan must take into account referral to other professionals where applicable, as would be the case if you had active clinical files. The reasons for the referral must be explained to the client, and, if the referral process requires disclosure of the client’s personal health information, the client’s consent must be obtained before their information is disclosed.

See Standard 1.9 for more information.

Clinical Records

According to the Personal Health Information Protection Act, individuals who have received health care services in Ontario have a right to access to the personal health information that is contained in clinical records. Health information custodians are responsible for ensuring that clients have access their personal health information in a timely manner.

Health information custodians are individuals or organizations who have custody or control over a client’s personal health information. For example, an RP in private practice is responsible for storing and maintaining client clinical records, and would likely be considered the health information custodian; an RP who is an employee at a hospital or agency, on the other hand, is likely to be considered an agent working on behalf of a health information custodian, i.e. the hospital or agency.

Professional Practice Standard 5.1: Clinical Records identifies that CRPO registrants must maintain clinical records “for at least 10 years from the date of the last interaction with the client, or for 10 years from the client’s 18th birthday, whichever is later.”

If you are the health information custodian, your contingency plan must:

  • account for the maintenance of clinical records in a manner that accords with relevant laws and the Professional Practice Standards; and
  • include measures that will facilitate client access to their personal health information, or transfer of the client’s personal health information to another health provider, for the period defined in the Professional Practice Standards.

See Standards 5.1 and 5.6 on record-keeping for more information.

Instruction to Designate to Notify CRPO

As you prepare your contingency plan, consider adding an instruction for your designate to contact CRPO in the event of your death or incapacity to provide the following information:

  • relevant information about the circumstances; and
  • the name and contact information of the health information custodian designated in the contingency plan.

This information would be retained in CRPO’s records and used only to facilitate a client’s access to their clinical records. Only the name and contact information of the designated health information custodian would be shared.

By including this instruction in your contingency plan, you would be increasing the likelihood that a client would be able to access their clinical records in the event you are not available to provide access yourself.

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Q: I’m working with a young child whose parents are going through a divorce. What do I need to know about consent in this situation?

According to Professional Practice Standards Section 3: Client-Therapist Relationship, registrants have a duty to place the well-being of the client at the forefront of the therapeutic relationship. With this in mind, consider the following:

The client’s ability to provide consent

In Ontario, there is no “age of consent” with respect to personal health care decisions. In general, clients of any age are considered capable of refusing or providing consent to their own treatment as long as they possess the maturity to reasonably understand the information provided and can appreciate the consequences of their decisions. Where a client is a minor (e.g. under the age of 16 for health care decisions, or under the age of 18 for decisions involving contracts), their capacity to provide consent must be determined on a case-by-case basis.

Every health practitioner who proposes a treatment to a client may perform this type of capacity assessment. Registrants are advised to use their professional judgement and to exercise appropriate care in determining whether a child is capable of consenting to treatment. Where a registrant determines that a child is incapable, treatment may not be carried out unless consent has been obtained from an appropriate substitute decision maker (SDM). Review Standard 3.2: Consent, to see the hierarchy of SDMs.

Keep in mind that a client may be capable of giving consent for some aspects of care, but not others. It is registrants’ responsibility to identify the points where consent is possible and to engage the client in an appropriate informed consent process.

Custody orders and parental agreements

Where a client is not capable of providing consent, it is important to know information about the custody arrangements and whether a custody order or parental agreement exists, as these will inform who may make health care decisions on behalf of the child. For example, even when parents have joint custody, there may only be one parent who, under the custody order, may make decisions relating to the health care of the child.

This document provides information about the differences in custodial arrangements and the implications for health care decisions. See the section entitled “Types of parenting arrangements” where these concepts are explained:

Sharing personal health information

In situations where the client is a minor who is capable of providing consent, be advised that you will require the client’s informed consent in order to share their personal health information with parent(s) or guardian(s). Sensitivity to the issues that can arise in cases of separation and divorce, along with an awareness of the client’s particular concerns, will help you provide the information the client needs to make informed decisions about the sharing of their personal health information.

For more information, see our Informed Consent Workbook.

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Q: I’m registered with CRPO and another college. As a dually-registered practitioner, what do I need to know?

Practice Standards
As a starting point, dually-registered professionals are encouraged to review the standards and policies of the colleges with which they are registered. Many colleges have specific standards that apply to dually-registered professionals, though CRPO does not have such resources at this time. Until a standard or guideline on this subject exists, CRPO registrants are encouraged to carefully review CRPO’s Professional Practice Standards in light of their dual practice, in particular Standards 1.2: Use of Terms, Titles and Designations, 1.6: Conflict-of-Interest, 1.7: Dual or Multiple Relationships, 3.1: Confidentiality, 3.2: Consent, 5.3: Issuing Accurate Documents and 6.2: Advertising and Representing Yourself and Your Services.

Administrative Matters
There are a number of administrative matters that a dually registered professional should be aware of. An obvious example is the annual registration process – the dually-registered practitioner is required to complete the annual registration requirements, including any forms and payment of fees, of each college they are registered with. In addition, the dually-registered practitioner is required to engage in the quality assurance programs of any colleges they are registered with; this includes meeting the QA requirements and deadlines of each college.

Complaints
Dually registered professionals should be aware of the possibility that a concern or complaint against them can be received by one or both colleges. While each college independently investigates complaints filed against its registrants, it is possible that in some cases a complaint filed against a registrant with one college could prompt an investigation by the other college, even if the complaint was not originally filed with that college.

Considerations
Being dually registered also has implications for clinical practice – a few examples will be covered off here. For more information, registrants are encouraged to connect with CRPO’s Practice Advisory Service.

The nature of your dual-practice – Depending on the nature of your dual practice, there may be some overlap in the work you do as an RP and the work you do in your other professional capacity. Dually-registered professionals are encouraged to think carefully about where any overlap may or may not occur in their practice. If your other profession does not overlap with psychotherapy, consider whether it is appropriate to refer or treat the same client in the other role.

Providing information for informed consent – Clients are entitled to provide informed consent prior to any treatment. In order for a client’s consent to be considered informed, they must be provided with all the information that one would need in order to make such a decision. Because of potential confusion, it is important that dually-registered practitioners describe their practice and services as accurately as possible, taking care to clarify to the client when the dually-registered practitioner is working in their capacity as a psychotherapist, or when they are working in their other professional capacity.

Maintaining clinical records – The dually-registered practitioner should be mindful that they will be expected to maintain clinical records in a manner that meets the standards of each college with which they are registered.

Billing – CRPO registrants are required to issue clear, accurate documents to third-parties. This means that receipts and invoices should include an accurate description of the services provided to the client, and it should be clear in all financial records in which professional capacity the rgistrant was working in when those services were provided to the client.

This FAQ does not address registrants who practise in unregulated fields in addition to the regulated profession of psychotherapy. For guidance, please see the article Dual practice: Can I incorporate non-psychotherapeutic activities in my practice?

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Dual practice: Can I incorporate non-psychotherapeutic activities in my practice?

This article was first published in August 2023 

Many registrants have education, training, and experience in non-regulated professions in addition to their psychotherapy training. Sometimes these unregulated activities complement psychotherapy treatment; in other cases, the situation is less clear. In all instances, registrants are encouraged to consider their role(s) carefully.  

Scope of practice 

RPs are permitted to assess and treat cognitive, emotional, and behavioural disturbances in the course of their work (please see Scope of Practice). CRPO recognizes that RPs practise a diversity of modalities and interventions. Registrants are expected to have experience and knowledge in the modalities they use, and to seek out training, supervision, or consultation as required. (See Standard 2.1: Consultation, Clinical Supervision and Referral.)  

RPs can provide care outside the scope of psychotherapy, if they have the knowledge, skill, and judgement (i.e., competence) to do so, and if they manage the activity responsibly. When working outside the scope of psychotherapy, registrants need to be vigilant to avoid treating or advising clients in ways that pose a risk of harm. At all times, registrants are required to adhere to CRPO Professional Practice Standards. 

Informed consent  

Any intervention provided must be considered with the client’s well-being and best interest in mind. In addition, informed consent is required for anything done for a therapeutic or other health-related purpose.  

Registrants may incorporate some non-psychotherapy activities as an adjunct to their main psychotherapy practice. For example, an appropriately trained RP might guide clients in yoga poses or breathing exercises to promote grounding and relaxation, before engaging in psychotherapy. 

When incorporating other healing practices in psychotherapy sessions, registrants must provide the client with “sufficient information to understand the nature of the therapy and potential risks and benefits, as well as information about other available therapeutic options and the implications of not proceeding with therapy. Information provided to clients must not misrepresent potential benefits or raise unrealistic expectations. If therapy is expected to probe troubling experiences or to cause emotional distress, this should be explained to the client and noted in the client record.” (See Standard 3.2 Consent.) 

In other situations, to avoid confusion, a registrant may need to explain that they are not providing psychotherapy in a particular session or with a particular client. This may be the case if the registrant is also a career counsellor, academic counsellor, case manager, or family mediator. 

Informed consent can be accomplished by having a clear dialogue with the client about their expectations of the relationship and for the RP to articulate clearly, what services they are providing to the client in each context.  This helps ensure that the client fully understands the nature of the relationship and avoids any confusion. 

Billing practices 

When an RP works in two or more separate and distinct practices, it is important to ensure all billing for psychotherapy services remains aligned with Practice Standards. For example, it would not be appropriate to describe a yoga or reiki session as “psychotherapy” on receipts. (See Standard 5.3: Issuing Accurate Documents – https://www.crpo.ca/standard-5-3-issuing-accurate-documents/ and Standard 5.5: Record-keeping – Financial Records – https://www.crpo.ca/standard-5-5/.) 

Advertising 

In general, psychotherapists must ensure that any information, advice, or comments they offer to clients or others can be supported as reasonable professional opinion and are consistent with professional standards and ethics. (See CRPO Professional Practice Standard 6.2: Advertising and Representing Yourself and Your Services.) 

Interventions that involve touching a client  

Registrants must be very cautious when implementing interventions that involve touching a psychotherapy client. Please take note that a wide range of actions constitute sexual abuse under the Regulated Health Professions Act, and refer to the following sections of the Professional Practice & Jurisprudence for Registered Psychotherapists Manual for further explanation of expectations: 

Considerations and reflection questions for dual practice 

The following reflection questions summarize the information presented above: 

  • Is the client clear on what kind of treatment they are receiving?  
  • Does the client understand the treatment that is being offered and potential risks and benefits?  
  • Does the RP have the competence to offer the services? 
  • Does the combination of psychotherapy and non-psychotherapy treatment create a dual relationship or cross professional boundaries?  
  • Is the billing record accurate if it claims to relate to psychotherapy services? 
  • Does any advertising cause confusion or conflate two distinct practices? Would other RPs support any claims made about the services or products being offered as reasonable? 
  • Are there any legal or professional obligations that apply, not only for the psychotherapy practice but also for the other service?  
  • Do any conflicts of interest exist? Are safeguards in place to ensure any recommendations are in the client’s interest only? Do any revenue-sharing agreements align with CRPO Practice Standards? 

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Question: Are CRPO registrants required to charge HST?

Whether or not a registrant is required to charge HST is largely determined by the Excise Tax Act, which is federal law. The Excise Tax Act includes a list of exemptions that exempt services that are provided by specific professionals. The Minister of Finance released the 2023 Fall Economic Statement on November 21, 2023. As noted in the Statement, the Government of Canada is proposing to exempt professional services rendered by psychotherapists and counselling therapists from the GST/HST. While this is promising news, until the Excise Tax Act is formally amended, RPs do not appear on the list of professionals whose services are exempt from HST. There may be some situations in which an RPs services can be exempt from HST; however, your accountant or a Canada Revenue Agency representative would be in the best position to provide guidance that is specific to your situation. See Schedule V, Part 11 of the Excise Tax Act.

Please visit these Government of Canada webpages for information on the proposed exemption and detailed information on the GST/HST registration and deregistration requirements for those persons who make supplies of counselling therapy or psychotherapy services:

Exemption for Psychotherapy Services: https://www.canada.ca/en/revenue-agency/services/forms-publications/publications/notice334/proposed-amendment-exemption-psychotherapy-services.html

Exemption for Counselling Therapy Services: https://www.canada.ca/en/revenue-agency/services/forms-publications/publications/notice335/proposed-amendment-exemption-counselling-therapy-services.html

Are the services provided by a CRPO registrant eligible for a tax credit?

A Government of Canada website identifies that Registered Psychotherapists appear on the list of “Authorized medical practitioners for the purposes of the medical expense tax credit.” We also understand that “therapy plan” and “therapy” appear on the “List of common medical expenses” that are eligible for a tax credit. These services are only eligible for the tax credit when specific conditions are met – please visit the Government of Canada’s website or contact your tax advisor or accountant to explore how this information could impact your practice.​

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Question: I am an RP and I am opening a private practice. I’m confused about fees and billing. How much should I be charging my clients? What should my receipts look like? What needs to be included? What are CRPO’s guidelines? I want to make sure I am doing this correctly for CRPO and also for my clients.

Setting Fees
According to Professional Practice & Jurisprudence for Registered Psychotherapists, “Establishing professional fees charged by members is not within the mandate of the College, and the College does not set the fees for members’ services. In fact, the college does not regulate the amount a member may charge a client, unless the fee is excessive. A fee is considered excessive if it takes advantage of a vulnerable client or is so high that the profession would conclude that the RP is exploiting a client.” For additional information regarding fees, consult the Professional Practice Standards, Standard 6.1: Fees.

Billing and Receipts
Many registrants, especially those in private practice, collect payment after each psychotherapy session and issue a receipt to the client. The College has information on financial record-keeping, including billing and receipts, in the Professional Practice Standards, Standard 5.3: Issuing Accurate Documents and Standard 5.5: Record-keeping – Financial Records. Members must provide clients with accurate records and other documents, including invoices, bills and receipts.

In short, receipts should include:

  • the registrant’s legal name (and any alternate name used in practice);
  • title conferred by the College and registration number;
  • amount paid;
  • date the service was provided;
  • type of services provided; and
  • full name of the client.

Members are expected to be accurate, transparent and reasonable in their fee and billing practices. For example, if a member works with associates, it should be clear which psychotherapist saw the client.

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Question: I practise in Ontario but have a client outside of Ontario who wants to work with me. 

Whether a client resides in Ontario or in another jurisdiction, registrants may provide services using communications technologies as long as:

  • they are able to do so competently and in a manner that abides by the Professional Practice Standards;
  • there is no law, regulation or standard in the other jurisdiction that would restrict or prohibit the registrant from providing services to a client located in that jurisdiction; and
  • they have appropriate liability insurance coverage considering the particular technologies used to provide services, the risks these technologies may present, and the possibility that the registrant’s practice will cross into other jurisdictions.

Registrants who provide psychotherapy using communications technologies (e.g. phone, video conference, etc.) have an electronic practice. Professional Practice Standard 3.4: Electronic Practice and the accompanying Guideline set out expectations for registrants who engage in electronic practice, some of which are highlighted below.

Registrants who wish to work with a client located in another jurisdiction must determine whether any law or regulation in that jurisdiction that would prevent them from providing therapy to the client. This might require, for example, that registrants investigate whether the practice of psychotherapy or counselling is regulated in the client’s jurisdiction and if so, that the registrant makes inquiries with the regulatory body there.

To an extent, a communications platform is its own therapeutic milieu that influences the therapeutic relationship and the therapy itself. Being able to leverage this therapeutic milieu safely and to the benefit of clients is an important skill. Familiarity and comfort with the technologies that are used in electronic practice can help registrants meet their obligations with respect to confidentiality and enable them to resolve technical issues that might arise during a session.

Before any therapy is provided, registrants must first evaluate the appropriateness of therapy, given the nature of the client’s concerns, their ability to access technologies safely and privately, and their overall comfort and capability with communications technologies. Therapists must also consider whether providing therapy in this manner would present a risk of harm to a client in light of the client’s symptoms and individual risk factors, for example safety in the home or possibility of adverse reaction during therapy.

There are added considerations for the informed consent process. For example, registrants are expected to enter into a contract with clients before providing services. In addition, therapists must inform clients of the technologies that will be used and discuss the risks to confidentiality that these technologies may present.

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Question: I am not in Ontario but I have a client in Ontario who wants to work with me. 

CRPO does not require practitioners who reside in another jurisdiction to become registered in order to work with a client in Ontario providing:

  • the therapist does not intend to advertise or otherwise promote their services in Ontario; and
  • Ontario-based clients do not form a substantial proportion of the therapist’s workload

If any of these factors were to change, CRPO would revisit the facts and consider whether the therapist should apply for registration, even on a temporary basis.

In Ontario, non-registrants cannot use the title “psychotherapist” or hold themselves out as a psychotherapist. If you use the title or hold yourself out as a psychotherapist in your home jurisdiction, and your connection to Ontario is insignificant, CRPO will not take the position that you are using the title or holding out in Ontario. However, if your connection to Ontario is substantial (e.g. your advertising focuses on Ontario, a significant number of your clients are in Ontario, or you are regularly physically present in Ontario), you would not be able to use the title psychotherapist or hold yourself out as a psychotherapist unless you become regulated in Ontario.

In addition, non-registrants cannot perform the controlled act of psychotherapy in Ontario, defined as:

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.

Non-registrants cannot perform this act on clients in Ontario, except in cases of emergency or where another exception applies (e.g. indigenous or spiritual healing). If a practitioner is a regulated counsellor or psychotherapist in another province/state, CRPO will consider this as a mitigating factor. Because the practitioner is already accountable to another regulator, CRPO will generally not take action against that individual for providing infrequent e-therapy to a client who is located in Ontario. Click here for information about the controlled act.

For more information about registration please contact the Registration Department.

If you have other practice-related questions please contact practice@crpo.ca.

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Question: Is it preferable to keep paper or electronic files?

Registrants (or the organization they work for) are free to choose whichever record-keeping system is best suited to their needs and access to technology. The same principles apply to both paper and electronic record-keeping. For example, modifications to any record need to be tracked. In other words, the originals must not be overridden or erased.

Security of paper records would include locking and storage, while for electronic records it would include encryption, virus prevention, backups, and physically restricting access to the computer and display. When using electronic record-keeping systems, an alternate process for record-keeping must be ready in case the electronic system is down or unavailable. Check out CRPO’s Professional Practice Standard 5.6: Recordkeeping – Storage, Security and Retrieval as well as the CRPO Professional Practice and Jurisprudence Manual for more detail.

Question:

I have been using paper in the past and want to switch to electronic record-keeping. Can I scan and destroy the paper copies?

Answer:

There are options when it comes to transitioning from paper to electronic record-keeping. You may either convert all existing paper records into electronic form, or retain paper records and begin entering information into an electronic format on a subsequent basis. In either case, client care and appropriate record-keeping practices must continue without interruption.

When scanning paper records, registrants are responsible for ensuring their integrity upon conversion into electronic format. This includes verifying that documents have been properly scanned and that the entire record is intact, including any attached documents and notes. You should establish specific procedures for converting files and document these procedures in writing. It may be helpful to enlist a reputable commercial organization to assist in this process[1].

The Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario states that old paper records should not be destroyed unless the required retention period has expired or the entire paper-based record has been duplicated in electronic format[2].

Question:

How do I determine who is the “health information custodian”?

Answer:

CRPO often receives questions about who is responsible for health information recorded by a registrant. The answer to this question depends on identifying the “health information custodian.” The term “health information custodian” is defined in the Personal Health Information Protection Act, 2004 (PHIPA) [3,4]. In short, a custodian is an individual or organization that has has custody or control of personal health information.

If practising alone, a registrant is the health information custodian of their clients’ information. If employed by another health information custodian such as a hospital, the employer is the health information custodian and the registrant is expected to follow the record management practices of their employer.

Where a registrant is employed by a non-health organization such a school, university, college or municipality, the registrant is considered to be the custodian. In these situations, the registrant cannot disclose personal health information to his or her employer without the client’s consent or another legal exception.

In other situations, the answer may not be clear, and registrants will need to speak with their employer. The Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario also has resources on this topic [5,6].

Question:

How do I properly destroy my client files?

Answer:

Records need to be kept for 10 years from the last interaction with the client or from the client’s 18th birthday, whichever is later. Financial records, appointment and attendance records need only be kept for five years [7].

When the time period for keeping the record has expired, the records should be destroyed. If the therapist destroys any records, they should record the names of the destroyed files and the date they were destroyed.” For paper records, destruction means cross-cut shredding, not simply continuous (single strip) shredding, which can be reconstructed. You should consider pulverization or incineration of records that are highly sensitive. You might also hire a licensed service provider to destroy your files. In doing so, look for a provider accredited by an industrial trade association, such as the National Association for Information Destruction (NAID) [8].

For questions about confidentiality and health records, contact the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario.
https://www.ipc.on.ca
Toronto Area: 416-326-3333
Toll Free: 1-800-387-0073
info@ipc.on.ca

[1] From “Ontario Policy Statement # 33-38, Electronic Records”, 2000, College of Physicians and Surgeons, p. 5.
[2]From “Personal Health Information: A Practical Tool for Physicians Transitioning from Paper-Based Records to Electronic Health Records”, 2009, Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario, p. 20.
[3]From “Frequently Asked Questions Personal Health Information Protection Act”, 2015, Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario, p.7-9.
[4]From “Personal Health Information Protection Act”, 2004, Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario, Section 3(1).
[5] From “A Guide to the Personal Health Information Protection Act”, 2004, Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario.
[6]From “ Frequently Asked Questions Personal Health Information Protection Act”, Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario, 2015.
[7]From “ The CRPO Professional Practice Standards for Registered Psychotherapists”.
[8]From “Personal Health Information: A Practical Tool for Physicians Transitioning from Paper-Based Records to Electronic Health Records”, 2009, Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario, p. 22.

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Question: I am an RP. I work for an agency and also have a private practice. What are CRPO’s guidelines for referring a client of the agency to my private practice?

CRPO’s Professional Practice Standard 1.9: Referral, states that a member may “self-refer” a client from one practice to another, in certain circumstances. The key is allowing the client to make an informed choice and not taking advantage of an existing professional relationship in order to secure more business. This Standard also provides a description of what a self-referral is, when a self-referral may be made, safeguards to avoid a conflict of interest as well as exceptions.

Some employers may not allow registrants to self-refer clients to their private practice. In this case, registrants should act in accordance with their employer’s policies; the College generally does not get involved in employer-employee issues.

Please consult Standard 1:9: Referral, for additional detail.

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Question: My employer’s policies clash with CRPO’s practice standards. Which one should I follow?

CRPO registrant (not her real name) called our practice advisory service because she was feeling concerned that the policies at her place of employment clashed with CRPO’s professional practice standards. She explained that she provides psychotherapy to people using their employee assistance plans. The problem is that her employer does not want Jane to disclose to clients that they are only entitled to have four to five appointments with her. Jane was aware that this limitation may not support the well-being of her clients, which is at the heart of standards of practice. She felt worried that her employer’s policy was impeding her ability to meet CRPO’s standards.

Our practice advisor asked Jane if she had spoken with her employer about how this policy would be applied in situations where longer-term therapy would benefit the client. She replied that, yes, she had raised concerns about the potential for a negative impact this would have on clients, but the employer had not been moved to change the policy.

She noted that she was considering raising the matter as an informed consent issue. Jane had used the CRPO Informed Consent Workbook, and was aware that laws, such as the Health Care Consent Act (HCCA) and the Personal Health Information Protection Act (PHIPA), set the basic requirements of the informed consent process. Jane knew she was responsible for ensuring that her clients had given informed consent before any assessments or treatments are provided, and before collecting, using and disclosing the client’s personal health information. While her place of employment had an informed consent policy and process in place, it had a gap when it came to information about restrictions on the number of appointments.

The limitations to the services that Jane is able to provide to a client should be disclosed as part of informed consent. Transparency about limitations to services may help the client and their therapeutic process, particularly when establishing therapeutic goals and treatment plans that are realistic and when considering the client’s longer-term needs for self-management and/or further services.

Our practice advisors suggested that Jane had a couple of options: one was to approach the employer again and advocate on behalf of her clients’ well-being, as well as her own interests as a regulated health professional who is required to meet certain standards.

Her other option was to seriously consider whether she wanted to continue in an employment relationship that was impeding her ability to support safe practice and client well-being.

The practice advisory reminded Jane that if she needed to discontinue services in order to comply with an employer’s policy, she must do so in accordance with the Professional Practice Standards 6.3: Discontinuing Services.

Jane decided that the informed consent angle was how she would approach the matter. She decided to approach her employer and make the case that providing additional information to clients was important, as was  to checking in with clients to see whether that additional information impacted their decision to proceed with (or refuse) treatment. This felt like the safest and most ethical approach, in light of the circumstances. Jane realized that she would not be able to compel her employer to allow more therapy sessions, but she felt that the changes to support appropriate informed consent would be a reasonable compromise, that only needed a minor policy change within the organization. Jane contacted us again recently to let us know she is actively working with her employer to implement this new policy.

Understandably, these potential conflicts can be frustrating, even distressing, for a practitioner who recognizes when they have an obligation to meet standards of practice even when doing may result in friction with their employer. While CRPO regulates individuals, not employers, we encourage employers to establish policies that align with standards of practice that are relevant to the professions that work within the organization.

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Professionalism in business relationships.

When an RP enters into a private practice business arrangement with another person, it is essential that they address key details of their business relationship at the outset in order to prevent the possibility of confusion and disruption in client care. Along with the commercial aspects of business (remuneration, marketing, etc.), these details should include the informed consent process, information and documentation practices, and what will happen when the business relationship ends.

Registrants considering entering into a business arrangement need to take into consideration the requirements and standards of practice that apply to CRPO registrants and any other regulated health professionals who may be involved. Below is guidance for CRPO registrants to assist them in this regard.

Principle-based decision-making

CRPO registrants can look to the Professional Practice Standards for useful guiding principles that can help assess if the particulars of a business arrangement are ethical and/or aligned with the standards. We’ve put together a case study, which appears at the end of this article, to illustrate how the standards can be used.

Identifying the health information custodian

Identifying how the role of the “health information custodian” (HIC) will be addressed within the practice is essential. Under the Personal Health Information Protection Act, 2004 (PHIPA) HICs have specific obligations with respect to security of and access to client personal health information. A first step here is to understand the array of possibilities with respect to who or which entities can occupy the role of HIC. PHIPA lists the individuals and entities that are eligible to act as a HIC.

There are a number of possible arrangements with respect to the role of HIC in a private practice setting. Examples include:

  • A private practice where all regulated health professionals providing care in the setting are HICs. In this case, each individual would be independently responsible for carrying out the obligations of the HIC, which includes assuring that information practices align with requirements and standards of practice, like secure storage of records and client access to their own records.
  • A private practice with a single owner/operator who designates the practice itself is the HIC. In this case, the practice owner/operator would be responsible for naming a contact person who is responsible for carrying out the obligations of the HIC and ensuring that any individuals operating within the setting are abiding by requirements and standardslike maintaining the clinical records after therapy ends and reporting breaches of confidentiality if they happen within the setting.

Designating how the practice will address the role of the HIC at the outset of the business arrangement serves a number of purposes, some of which are listed below. There is no benefit to avoiding this task, as the obligations of the HIC will apply even when one is not explicitly identified and even when one fails to recognize when they are considered a HIC. Designating a HIC:

  • Enables a more thorough informed consent process with respect to collection, use and disclosure of client personal health information.
  • Clarifies who is responsible for specific information practices within the setting, and to what extent.
  • Determines appropriate courses of action when there are questions or issues that arise with respect to management of the records or handling of a client’s personal health information.

Informed consent to treatment

A client should be made aware of the nature of their relationship with the practice and with their therapist before any assessment or treatment is provided, as this information may be material to a client’s decision to agree to treatment. For example, if the business arrangements within the private practice mean that the client is considered the client of the practice, as opposed to the client of any particular therapist, then the client should be informed of this. They should be made aware of any limitations this may present in, for instance, their ability to transfer between providers within that practice or to continue care with a therapist who leaves that practice. Learn more by reviewing Standard 3.2: Consent.

Consent to collection, use and disclosure of PHI and management of clinical records

Registrants need to obtain informed consent from clients with respect to the collection, use and disclosure of their personal health information. Explaining who has access to the record and for what purposes helps the client understand how their information is ordinarily collected, used or disclosed in the setting. The client should also know who to contact for information about- or access to their clinical records. For example, if an RP in a group private practice is responsible for maintaining their own clinical records, the therapist would likely explain to their client that the therapist themselves is the contact person. In a scenario where the practice itself has taken on the role of the HIC, then the therapist might provide the contact information of a person designated by the practice owner/operator.

Ending business arrangements

Planning for the end of the business arrangement can help to avoid confusion and conflict, it can also promote effective management of care for the departing therapist’s clients.

Standards 6.3: Discontinuing Services and 6.4: Closing, Selling or Relocating a Practice provide fairly specific guidance here. For example, unless there is an appropriate reason to do otherwise, registrants must:

  • Make reasonable efforts to provide advanced notice to clients
  • Provide a reason for discontinuing services
  • Discuss alternate arrangements for services in light of the range of options available, which are likely to include: whether it will be possible to continue with the current therapist in another location, whether the client wishes to continue with a different therapist or alternate service in the current setting or somewhere else
  • Refer the client appropriately

The Standard on discontinuing services indicates that a relationship between a client and their therapist should be able to continue as long as the client is benefitting from the therapy and wishes to continue receiving services. It also provides a number of legitimate reasons for discontinuing services.  With this in mind, a registrant should not agree to business arrangements that place unreasonable restrictions on a client’s ability to receive services from their preferred provider, nor should they actively solicit clients who chose to receive services from another provider.

When a business relationship ends, arrangements may need to be made for the clinical records,  keeping in mind who has been identified as the HIC and ensure the arrangements abide by record-keeping obligations. For example, if each party in the practice is operating independently as a HIC, then the registrant remains responsible for assuring the ongoing management of the clinical records accords with the Professional Practice Standards. If another person is the HIC, then the records would remain with that person. See Standard 5.1: Clinical Records and 5.6: Storage, Security and Retrieval for general information about record-keeping practices. It should be clear to clients where their records will be maintained and who to contact in order to request access.

Case Study

Teri, RP, has a growing private practice. She wants to bring on Mika, RP (Qualifying), who would provide services for some new clients. Teri provides a contract to Mika and asks her to sign it. While reviewing it, Mika noticed a clause that suggested that Mika would not be able to solicit clients of the practice, even after her business relationship with the practice ends. Another clause suggested that if/when Mika’s business arrangement with the practice ended, she would not be able to provide services to clients that she saw in the practice for a period of two years.

Mika called Teri to talk about what would happen with clients if their business arrangement ever ended. Mika explained that when she ended her last internship, there were clients who still needed treatment and who really wanted to continue working with her. Mika was able to work out an arrangement with the internship supervisor so that she could continue working with those few clients for a few more sessions until treatment was concluded.

Teri explained that clients who contact the practice to receive services are considered the clients of the practice, and so if Mika planned to move on from the practice, Mika would need to explain to any clients who wanted to continue receiving treatment that they would be referred to another RP in the practice.

Mika wasn’t comfortable with this arrangement. She turned to the Professional Practice Standards and saw that when it comes to discontinuing services, an RP has to work in a client’s best interests at all times. Also, the relationship should continue as long as the client is benefitting from the therapy and wishes to continue.  Mika asked herself if she would be meeting the standard of practice if she agreed to the terms of the contract as they were currently set out. Mika reasoned that, in a private practice, a client’s options to receive services from their preferred provider should only be limited if there is a good enough reason for doing so. She contacted Teri to discuss the matter again. She resolved that if Teri wasn’t able to offer more flexibility on this matter, she wouldn’t feel comfortable entering into a business arrangement at this time.

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I just learned that the police can ask to access my records if they believe it will help in a missing persons case. What should I know about this?

Ordinarily, an RP is required to maintain confidentiality and refrain form sharing their clients’ personal health information. But there are circumstances where an RP is required to share information, or may share information at their discretion. The laws and requirements that govern confidentiality of client health information are mainly set out in the Personal Health Information Protection Act and the Professional Practice Standards, in particular 3.1: Confidentiality.

The Missing Persons Act took effect in 2019, and sets out the processes for sharing client personal health information with police in a missing persons investigation. Health care providers always had the discretion to share information with police if they had reasonable grounds to believe that the sharing would reduce or eliminate a serious risk of bodily harm. In addition, health care providers have always been required to comply with summons, orders or search warrants relating to their records.

What the Missing Persons Act introduces are new pathways. Of greatest relevance: police may request information contained in personal health records under what is referred to as an Urgent Demand, and must use the appropriate form to do so. All or part of the record may be requested, or an oral description of its contents if the police officer consents to it.

While the law allows the clinical record to be provided to police, some have expressed concern about turning over a client’s complete file. If you ever receive an Urgent Demand, we encourage you to review the form carefully. If there is a compelling reason not to share parts of the record that have been requested (e.g. that you are aware the person does not wish to be located), communicate these concerns with the police or contact your legal counsel promptly.

Questions about your practice? Send them to practice@crpo.ca.

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I’m waiting for my application to be approved by CRPO – What can I call myself?

Only CRPO registrants may use the terms “psychotherapist,”[1] “Registered Psychotherapist”, a variation, abbreviation or equivalent in another language.[2] The title Registered Psychotherapist (Qualifying) is also restricted and can only be used by those who have been issued a certificate of registration through the regular application route. Students, individuals fulfilling the requirements to apply to CRPO and people awaiting approval of their submitted application, are not yet CRPO registrants. They may use the titles “student therapist” or “therapist in training.”

While CRPO does not have direct jurisdiction to govern the practices of students and those awaiting approval of their application, CRPO can challenge an application for registration in situations where the applicant has used a restricted title or inappropriately represented themselves or their qualifications.

Prospective registrants should also be aware of their obligations with respect to informed consent. It will be important for prospective registrants to take care in how they communicate their qualifications to prospective clients, representing their qualifications and services transparently and accurately in interactions with clients by, for example:

  • Identifying that they intend to become registered with CRPO but are not yet registered. Where an application has been submitted to CRPO by a prospective registrant, clients may find it helpful to know this.
  • Identifying that they are required to practise while under clinical supervision and providing the name of their clinical supervisor.
  • If they are a student, communicating their affiliation with the institution and/or program that is delivering their education and training.

Learn more about how prospective registrants will be expected to represent themselves and their services upon registration by reviewing Professional Practice Standard 6.2: Advertising and Representing Yourself and Your Services. Learn more about consent by reviewing the Informed Consent Workbook.

[1] Registrants of six other colleges may use the title “psychotherapist,” in accordance with the requirements and standards established by their respective colleges and providing they use their regulated title, including the College of Psychologists of Ontario, Ontario College of Social Workers and Social Service Workers, College of Nurses of Ontario, College of Occupational Therapists of Ontario, and College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario.

[2] These are restricted titles under section 8(1) the Psychotherapy Act, 2007.

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How often should a registrant receive clinical supervision?

The following Practice Matters article first appeared in the April 2021 Communiqué:

CRPO has recently received queries about how often registrants should receive clinical supervision. Clinical supervision is an important part of professional development and safeguarding clients. All RP(Qualifying) registrants are required to practise with clinical supervision. They can transfer to the full RP category after passing the registration exam and completing 450 direct client contact (DCC) hours and 100 clinical supervision hours. Once in the RP category, registrants are required to continue practising with clinical supervision until they have completed 1000 DCC hours and 150 clinical supervision hours. Registrants are encouraged to continue receiving clinical supervision or consultation as needed, even after they are authorized to practise independently.
Dividing the above numbers provides a rough guide to frequency of clinical supervision. However, we continue to receive questions from stakeholders, as well as feedback that it may not be reasonable in some situations to expect registrants to receive a high frequency of clinical supervision, for example one clinical supervision hour for every 4.5 DCC hours.
CRPO is currently planning a comprehensive review of clinical supervision. We will soon be launching a survey seeking feedback on supervision-related topics, including frequency of clinical supervision. Until then, please refer to Practice Standard 4.2 Practising with Clinical SupervisionPractice Standard 2.1 Consultation, Clinical Supervision and Referral, and the Clinical Experience for Registration Policy. Note the wording that the suggested ratios are “approximate”. Supervisors and supervisees have a shared responsibility of applying professional judgment based on the circumstances to determine the appropriate frequency of clinical supervision. Factors may include:
  • The level of experience and competency areas of the supervisee
  • The nature of the therapy (modality, clientele, presenting issues)
  • Other supports available (peer group, consultation, managerial oversight)
The key idea is to do what is reasonable in the circumstances to ensure clients receive safe and effective care keeping in mind that the clinical supervision and DCC requirements have been set to safeguard the public.

Does CRPO approve clinical supervisors or supervision training?

The following Practice Matters article first appeared in the July 2021 Communiqué:

No, CRPO does not currently approve clinical supervisors or grant the designation of “supervisor” or “clinical supervisor”. RPs should not use titles such as “CRPO-approved supervisor”, “CRPO clinical supervisor”, or “RP-S”.
If you want to become a supervisor, you can begin providing clinical supervision once you meet the requirements. You do not need to contact CRPO for approval to provide clinical supervision.
CRPO does not currently approve or accredit supervision training. Supervision training programs should not say they are CRPO-approved. If you are selecting training in providing supervision, please see the guidance here and here.
CRPO is currently reviewing supervision-related policies and will update registrants in the coming months.

Promotions, package deals, and discounts

The following Practice Matters article first appeared in the November 2021 Communiqué:

We receive many questions asking if promotional rates and discounts are allowed to encourage access to therapy, especially during the pandemic.
RPs are expected to be transparent and reasonable in their billing practices and avoid conflicts of interest. This includes ensuring that clients understand what is included in the fees they are paying, documenting any discussions about fees, and indicating the reasons why a fee may have been reduced or waived. (See Standard 6.1 Fees and Standard 5.5 Record-keeping – Financial Records.)
Promotional rates
RPs are permitted to offer a promotional rate to clients; however, it is important to avoid potential risks. These risks may include an offer that promotes unnecessary treatment, unduly influences a client’s decision to receive treatment, or acts as a barrier once the promotional rate ends. It is not permitted to offer a discount for prompt payment, e.g., an ‘early bird’ rate. Offering gifts (other than of nominal value) or partnered promotions to begin therapy could create the perception of a conflict of interest, and should be avoided.
While different from promotional rates, it is worth noting that registrants may accept payment on a sliding scale, i.e., a variable fee depending on ability to pay. Such an arrangement must be considered on a case-by-case basis and documented in the record.
Block fees and package deals
Offering a set number of sessions for an agreed upon fee is a block fee arrangement. Standard 6.1 allows block fees for psychotherapy services as long as the following aspects of the agreement are established in writing beforehand:
• services covered by the fee;
• amount of the fee;
• arrangements for paying the fee; and
• the rights and obligations of the registrant and the client if the relationship between them is terminated before all the services are provided.
The last point is a safeguard that protects clients from attending unnecessary treatment because they have already paid or paying for services when they are no longer attending treatment. To accomplish this, the agreement may hold that a portion of the block fee is refunded to the client if the relationship ends before all the services are provided. Clear policies on these matters will help avoid complaints.
Resources for more information:
Practice Standard 6.1, Fees: https://www.crpo.ca/standard-6-1-fees/;
Standard 1.6, Conflict of Interest: https://www.crpo.ca/standard-1-6/; and

Grey areas around testimonials

The following Practice Matters article first appeared in the December 2021 Communiqué:

One topic CRPO’s Practice Advisory Service receives questions about is testimonials. A testimonial is a statement from another person about the quality of a registrant’s services. The statement could be in words or simply an online ‘star’ rating. It is professional misconduct to use a testimonial by a client, former client or other person in the advertising of the member or his or her practice. CRPO’s Standard on advertising explains that testimonials are unreliable and “may also lead to concerns that clients have been pressured into providing them”.

The Standard goes on to clarify that the rules do not prevent clients or others from writing reviews about registrants (e.g., on third party Internet sites for rating professionals), provided the registrant does not request them to do so, and provided the registrant does not influence which reviews are published. Note that if a registrant linked their advertising directly to a third-party rating or review site, this could be considered inappropriately using a testimonial.

People have asked about several grey areas. For example, what about a program funding application that asks clients to share their experiences? As this is not advertising, it would not be covered by the prohibition on testimonials. However, program evaluation would need to be done in a voluntary and objective way, so clients are not pressured to comment.

Another question we received was about a quotation promoting a registrant’s book. While in the broadest sense this could be considered a testimonial, there are factors that could mitigate concern. These include if the review focused on the content of the book rather than the registrant’s psychotherapy practice. Also, there would be less concern if a colleague wrote the review versus someone in a power imbalance like a client or former client.

Finally, can a registrant use testimonials for their non-psychotherapy practice, for example as a parenting coordinator? Caution would be advised if the field is related to psychotherapy and potential psychotherapy clients might rely on the testimonials.

The following are questions to help consider whether a statement is a problematic testimonial:

  • Is the registrant using the statement in advertising?
  • Does the registrant have a power imbalance with the person making the statement?
  • Does the statement make claims about the registrant’s practice?

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Can an RP provide individual therapy to members of a client’s family?

The following Practice Matters article first appeared in the January 2022 Communiqué:

This note considers how CRPO standards apply to providing individual therapy to family members or other close contacts of an existing individual client. This situation is distinct from couple and family therapy, where the collective client includes more than one person, and where there are parameters around seeing individuals one-to-one as a component of therapy, as well as for transitioning between individual, couple, and family therapy.

Navigating this issue requires consideration of conflicts of interest and confidentiality. CRPO Professional Practice Standard 1.6, Conflict of Interest notes, “a conflict-of-interest exists when a member is in any arrangement or relationship where a reasonable person could conclude that the exercise of the member’s professional expertise or judgment may be compromised by, or be influenced inappropriately by, the arrangement or relationship. A conflict-of-interest may be actual, potential or perceived.”

Treating individuals who are closely related could lead to a situation where the registrant cannot promote the interest of one client without adversely affecting the interest of the other client. This is a conflict of interest. Another aspect of a conflict of interest is the perception that a registrant is taking advantage of inappropriate client referrals.

Another risk with treating someone close to a client is that the therapist might inadvertently disclose confidential information about one client to the other. (See Standard 3.1, Confidentiality.) Confidentiality prevents the registrant from discussing details about the conflict of interest with either client. For example, the registrant cannot identify one client to the other or specify how their treatment may be affected by the conflict.

It is generally best to avoid this situation, though in some circumstances doing so may be difficult. Examples include if the connection between clients is discovered after therapy has begun, or if it would be difficult for the potential client find treatment elsewhere. In these circumstances, significant ethical consideration and clinical judgment are required. Seek clinical supervision and consider whether treating or referring one or both clients is appropriate.

The following questions can help an RP reflect on this issue further:

  • Can you as the therapist maintain objectivity when working with this client given your history working with a family member or close relation (e.g., friend who referred)?
  • Can you ensure the client will not talk about the other person during session and is it fair to the client to restrict the topics discussed during therapy?
  • What will you do if the other person enters the conversation?
  • What if the other person who you have previously treated learns you are treating their close contact?

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Online referral services

The following Practice Matters article first appeared in the January 2022 Communiqué:

CRPO is aware of various websites that offer to connect clients and therapists, either as a directory, subscription, or matching service.

One issue with these services is they might match a client in Ontario with a therapist who is not registered in Ontario. CRPO’s role in this situation is limited. We can only consider taking action if there is evidence that an unregulated provider is advertising the title “psychotherapist” specifically in Ontario, or that they are doing the controlled act of psychotherapy with clients who are in Ontario. Refer to our FAQ and Cross-border Therapy Tool for more information.

Some websites post information about RPs without their permission. While business contact information is public, registrants should be cautious with websites that claim to refer pre-matched clients. Registrants need to carry out their usual intake to screen potential clients. Registrants are not permitted to pay a referral fee for clients and can only share revenue with other businesses in specific circumstances (see CRPO’s standard on conflict of interest).

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What do I need to consider when hiring administrative staff/technical support providers who might have access to client information?

The following Practice Matters article first appeared in the February 2022 Communiqué:

When preparing and maintaining records, Registered Psychotherapists are subject to the Personal Health Information Protection Act, 2004. PHIPA governs therapists’ use of personal health information, including its collection, use, disclosure and access.

PHIPA allows health information custodians to engage the services of agents. For example, administrative staff or technical support providers could be considered an agent of the health information custodian. When working with an agent, there should be a confidentiality agreement in place. The custodian is still responsible for the records, even if they have an agent. The custodian must take reasonable steps (such as training, oversight and having policies in place) to ensure the agent maintains privacy of the information to which they have access.

The following definitions are found in the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario’s Frequently Asked Questions: Personal Health Information Protection Act:

WHAT IS A CUSTODIAN?

A custodian is a person or organization listed in PHIPA that, as a result of [their] power or duties or work set out in PHIPA, has custody or control of personal health information.

WHAT IS AN AGENT?

PHIPA defines an agent to include any person who is authorized by a custodian to perform services or activities in respect of personal health information on the custodian’s behalf and for the purposes of that custodian.

An agent may include a person or company that contracts with, is employed by or volunteers for a custodian and, as a result, may have access to personal health information. PHIPA permits custodians to provide personal health information to their agents only if the custodian is permitted to collect, use, disclose, retain or dispose of the information.

For more information, please see the following resources:

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Advertising competencies and services

The following Practice Matters article first appeared in the March 2022 Communiqué:

Advertising can be an effective tool to inform prospective clients about a registrant’s training, services, and areas of competence. Advertising allows clients to make an informed decision about who may be best suited to provide their treatment. Registrants must ensure that any advertising platform does not prohibit them from abiding by CRPO’s Professional Practice Standards. Here are some suggestions to promote truthful, transparent, and accurate advertising:

  1. Some online directories require therapists to use dropdown menus or pre-filled selection options to display psychotherapeutic techniques, issues treated, and client populations served. RPs should take special care to review each individual selection. Registrants who advertise competency to treat a specific issue (e.g., addiction, eating disorders, etc.) must be able to demonstrate through verifiable information that they have completed relevant training to treat that particular issue. Registrants who do not have verifiable training in a particular area of practice should not advertise or provide that service. Some specialized issues (e.g., addiction, eating disorders, etc.) may require advanced training beyond entry to practice requirements.
  2. At this time, the College has not established a program to formally recognize and confer specialty designations. A designation should only be used if it has been earned from a recognized credentialing body and meets established standards.
  3. In situations where registrants are receiving assistance to develop advertising content from a third party (e.g., employer, website developer, social media manager, etc.), it is important to apprise them of ethical standards in advertising. It is the registrant’s responsibility to ensure third parties advertise appropriately on their behalf regarding professional credentials and areas of competence. Where advertising content is being developed by a third party, it is advisable for registrants to review draft content prior to posting.

Ultimately, registrants are responsible for ensuring factual and clear advertising to avoid misleading clients. For more information, review CRPO’s Advertising Checklist and Professional Practice Standards (Standard 1.2.: Use of Terms, Titles and Designations; Standards 6.2. Advertising and Representing Yourself and Your Services) for more information).

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Can I use the CRPO logo in my advertising?

The following Practice Matters article first appeared in the April 2022 Communiqué:

When a registrant properly uses their protected title, they are indicating their registration with CRPO. This communicates that they have met and continue to meet requirements to practise as a Registered Psychotherapist. In contrast, registrants are not permitted to use CRPO’s logo on their website or other advertising materials, such as brochures and business cards, or on social media pages. Using CRPO’s logo could improperly suggest an endorsement by or affiliation with CRPO beyond being a registrant.

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Obtaining consent to release information

Registrants sometimes receive third-party requests for client information, for example from a client’s spouse or parent, third-party payors, insurance companies, Employee Assistance Programs, and lawyers.

When a registrant receives a request to release information to any third party, they must obtain the client’s informed consent to do so, unless a legal exception applies. When compelled to disclose client information for a legal proceeding, registrants should exercise prudence and are advised to consult their legal advisor to determine the best way to respond.

Below are some general principles to keep in mind when making decisions about releasing personal health information.

  1. Client requests to share records with a third party

Clients have a right to access their own health records, unless an exception applies.

When a client or their representative requests a report or letter, registrants must provide one relating to the therapy provided, unless there is a valid reason not to. For example, if the information in question is subject to a legal privilege that restricts disclosure of the record or the information to the individual; access could reasonably be expected to result in a risk of serious harm to the treatment or recovery of the individual or serious bodily harm to the individual or another person; the information was collected in the course of an inspection, investigation or similar procedure and the resulting proceedings, appeals or processes have not yet been concluded; or another law prohibits the disclosure of that information.  (See the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario resource page Access and correction.)

What goes into the report is a separate question requiring professional judgment (see Item 4 below).

(See Standard 5.1 Record-keeping Clinical Records and Standard 5.2 Failing to Provide Reports.)

  1. Informed consent

As outlined in CRPO Professional Practice Standard 3.1, Confidentiality, in obtaining informed consent from a client to disclose their information to any third party, the registrant must explain

  • what information will be disclosed;
  • to whom;
  • the reasons for the disclosure; and
  • the time-frame within which disclosure is to be made.

As well, the registrant should report back to the client following the disclosure and carefully document the process.

When sharing information directly with a third party, registrants must make reasonable efforts to ensure that the privacy of the client record is protected during any authorized transmission or disclosure of information. (See Standard 5.6 Record-keeping – Storage, Security and Retrieval.)

  1. Informed consent when working with minors

In Ontario, there is no “age of consent” with respect to personal health care decisions. In general, clients of any age are considered capable of refusing or providing consent to their own treatment as long as they possess the maturity to reasonably understand the information provided and can appreciate the consequences of their decisions. (See the Informed Consent Workbook for information.) Therefore, if a minor client is capable of providing their own consent, they are able to do so without a parent.  This means the therapist is not permitted to share the information with a third party, including parents, without consent or where a legal exception applies.

  1. Deciding what information to share

In all cases, after receiving the client’s informed consent, registrants are expected to employ professional discretion, and to disclose only relevant and necessary personal health information.

Consider the following:

  • Are there any risks to sharing complete files (e.g., confidential information gets into wrong hands; some of the information is irrelevant)?
  • Is it possible to share only relevant and necessary information instead of the entire file? For example, would preparing the required information in a format such as a summary letter be acceptable? Note: If this a summary letter or report is not agreeable, the client has a right to their entire file.
  • Is there a benefit to reviewing the file with the client to allow for the client’s full understanding of the contents?

In some cases, a client might request to disclose only certain information to the third party; however, doing so might not be in the client’s best interest. For example, for some benefit claims, an insurance/benefit provider might consider a partial record “incomplete information.” In this case, providing incomplete information could have serious consequences for a client, e.g., the claim might get delayed in processing or even refused. In such cases, it would be beneficial to encourage the client to consult with the third-party payor to understand the policies that apply to such claims, the process and expectations when making such claims, and who to talk to if there are questions about what information should be shared.

Clients who do not wish to disclose a complete clinical record may need to advocate with the third party.

  1. Shared records

When a file is shared and includes the personal health information of another individual who also participated in therapy (e.g., couple or family therapy), an individual only has a right of access to the portion of personal health information about the individual in the record that can reasonably be severed from the record for the purpose of providing access. (See the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario resource page Access and correction.)

The other party may choose to provide consent as well for the full file to be disclosed.

  1. Concerns about risk to clients

In situations where a registrant is concerned about how a client will perceive information in the clinical record, they are encouraged to provide support to the client in a manner appropriate to the situation.  It would also be prudent to consult with trusted supervisors, legal counsel, and the Information and Privacy Commissioner to determine a safe, appropriate course of action for providing a client or their representative access to their personal health information.

  1. Consent to release information forms

In some situations, a third party will provide a client with a form indicating their consent to release information. Such forms are intended to facilitate the exchange of client health information for the purpose of providing treatment, determining eligibility for benefits, or for legal proceedings.

If an RP is unsure of the implications of asking their client to sign such a form, they can speak with the relevant party issuing the form. As well, registrants should consider obtaining their own legal advice, so they understand how to navigate their confidentiality obligations within the specific situation.

Registrants can also direct clients to contact the third party with any questions about the form or how their information will be exchanged with healthcare providers or others.

Registrants should not treat such forms as a one-time consent process. Consent is an ongoing process and registrants should revisit the topic of information sharing with the client as needed.

CRPO resources

Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario resources

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Can a student work in an employment or private practice setting, if they are a CRPO registrant?

This article was updated for the May 2024 Communiqué

Many RP (Qualifying) registrants are still students (i.e., they are completing their psychotherapy education program). CRPO encourages students to apply for registration once they have substantially completed their education and training in psychotherapy.

Substantial completion means that they

  • are in their final semester prior to graduation;
  • have completed 90% of their program; or
  • have completed their program with the exception of a thesis.

If a student does not register with CRPO once they are eligible, they would not be able to perform the controlled act of psychotherapy after they graduate, and client care could be disrupted.

As with all registrants, individuals in the Qualifying category must abide by the Professional Practice Standards for Registered Psychotherapists and Code of Ethics. CRPO does not regulate the type of business or organization RP (Qualifying) registrants can work in (though there are some basic rules applicable to all registrants–see Business Practice). They may work in an employment position or a private practice setting, as long as they have the competence to do so safely and effectively (see CRPO Professional Practice Standards Section 2: Competence).

In the case of students registered in the RP (Qualifying) category, they could potentially provide services in a private practice or employment setting outside their practicum placement. While this is not recommended before or during a practicum for anyone without prior experience, the College does have safeguards in place, for example:

  • RP (Qualifying) registrants must practise with ongoing clinical supervision and each of their practice sites must be supervised.
  • RP (Qualifying) registrants must be actively pursuing the completion of any of the requirements to achieve full status as a Registered Psychotherapist. This means successfully completing their education program; successfully completing the Registration Examination; and gaining the required clinical experience of at least 450 hours of direct client contact and at least 100 hours of clinical supervision where that clinical supervision relates to those hours of direct client contact.
  • RP (Qualifying) registrants must not misrepresent their credentials or experience, i.e., by suggesting they have graduated or omitting to mention they are still a student. It is strongly advised to include one’s status as a student in any use of title orally or in writing.
  • Students are accountable to CRPO, their educational institution, clinical supervisor, and practicum placement. They must follow the applicable standard, whichever is higher, to ensure successful completion of outstanding requirements to graduate.
  • An important aspect of the CRPO Code of Ethics and Professional Practice Standards is that RPs know and work within their own abilities and levels of competency.

We encourage RP (Qualifying) registrants who are still completing their psychotherapy education program to carefully consider whether they have the skills and abilities that will allow for safe treatment of a client in an employment or private practice setting.

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College communications

CRPO communicates through email to update you on your regulatory requirements. It is your responsibility to open and read these updates.

For some of these communications, the College uses an email service called Constant Contact. If you have not been receiving Communiqué articles, important notices, or other College communications, please check your junk mail and/or you may need to resubscribe by following this link. The College is unable to control how emails get filtered after they are sent; therefore, it is your responsibility to ensure that emails from the College are being received. CRPO may collect information about whether a recipient has read a message. CRPO may use this information for communication planning and record-keeping.

Tips and recommendations

  1. Remember to update the “Personal information” page of your CRPO account when there are changes to your email address.
  2. Use an email account that is checked frequently; not overly cluttered; and has security settings that you can control. Certain hospitals or organizations have firewalls in place that might block emails that have many recipients or are sent by an email service. This could result in missed emails from the College, and you might miss important information.
  3. Make a habit of checking “spam” and “junk” folders to ensure important communications from the College do not get filtered there. To prevent this from happening, we recommend that you mark any email from the College as a “safe sender” and/or add the following email addresses to your contacts in your email account:

This will allow your email service to recognize that a message is a safe email and will likely prevent emails from being filtered to your junk folder. Constant Contact has an article with instructions on how to add an address to your contacts or safe senders list for all email systems. We recommend you consult this article and follow the instructions for the email system you are using.

  1. Do not click “Unsubscribe” at the end of College emails.

*Note about Gmail: Certain email systems such as Gmail have a feature that can automatically sort your inbox into “Primary,” “Promotions,” and “Social” folders. Emails from an email service or with multiple recipients might get sorted into the “Promotions” folder of your Gmail account. Please ensure that you are checking all folders in your inbox. You can prevent emails from being automatically sorted into your “Promotions” folder by adding the email address to your contacts or by clicking and dragging a College email from the “Promotions” or “Social” folder to the “Primary” folder. This will help redirect and sort College emails to your “Primary” folder in the future.

If you have any questions regarding updating your email address with the College, please contact info@crpo.ca.

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Can I write a letter for my client?

This article first appeared in the December 2022 Communiqué

Clients request letters and other kinds of documentation from RPs for a variety of reasons, for example, to confirm they require a support animal, regarding return to work, or as part of disability claims. Whether or not a CRPO registrant can provide such documentation requires careful consideration and professional judgement. The Professional Practice Standards can provide guidance.

Scope of practice

Registered Psychotherapists (RPs) are permitted to assess cognitive, emotional, and behavioural disturbances in the course of their work. However, it is not within an RP’s scope of practice to provide a diagnosis. (See Standard 1.4: Controlled Acts.)

In situations where a client is requesting documentation that falls outside an RP’s scope of practice, consider explaining your role and limitations to the client and referring them to their family physician or other qualified health professional for assistance. For example, some disability insurance claims may require a report by a diagnosing professional. In some cases, an RP may be able to collaborate with a diagnosing professional in producing the report, or an RP may be able to provide factual information about the client’s condition and treatment, without formulating a diagnosis.

Competence

Registrants are expected to continually assess their knowledge, skill, and judgment, i.e., their competence, to determine whether they are equipped to work with particular clients. When asked to write a letter for a client, it is necessary for an RP to consider whether they have the knowledge, skill, and judgment necessary to provide such documentation. (See Section 2: Competence.)

Informed consent and confidentiality

A conversation with the client about the intended use of the documentation would be helpful, as this might impact the format or the information that will be included. For example, employers may request that a specific form be completed, or that a letter include certain information. Where the client will rely on the documentation for general purposes, take care not to disclose more information than is necessary.

This conversation is also an opportunity to engage the client in an informed consent process, to ensure that the client consents to the disclosure of any personal health information that will be included in the documentation.

See Standards 3.1 Confidentiality and 3.2: Consent for more information.

Record-keeping considerations

Consider how you will document your assessment, opinion, and any other relevant information in the clinical record. Copies of letters provided to clients must be retained in accordance with Standard 5.1: Record-keeping – Clinical Records.

Registrants are expected to issue timely reports when requested to do so by a client or a client’s authorized representative. Registrants must write a letter confirming treatment unless there are reasonable grounds not to do so. (See Standard 5.2 Failing to Provide Reports.)  For example, one reasonable ground would be if the requested information is outside the registrant’s scope or competence (see above).

In addition, registrants must ensure that documents they sign or transmit in a professional capacity contain accurate and complete information. (See Standard 5.3: Issuing Accurate Documents.)

Service animals

According to the Integrated Accessibility Standards, which fall under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005 (AODA), registrants of CRPO, along with a number of other regulated health professionals, may provide documentation that confirms that a person requires a service animal for reasons relating to disability. See section 80.45(4)(b). An RP considering writing such a letter needs to have knowledge of the nature of the client’s disability, and how it connects with the need for the support animal.

Other resources

* Responding to requests for letters relating to divorce and custody matters requires detailed consideration. Registrants who want guidance in this area are encouraged to consider seeking legal advice; obtaining clinical supervision; documenting all actions and considerations taken; and consulting with CRPO’s Practice Advisory Service at practice@crpo.ca.

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Health information custodian and custodian successor

This article first appeared in the January 2023 Communiqué

Registrants who are health information custodians are advised to designate a successor in writing (with the successor’s consent). A “successor” is someone who agrees to become the custodian of your records in the event of your inability to fulfill this role.

At registration renewal, registrants are asked to review their health information custodian (HIC) successor page to ensure the information is up to date. Registrants can also update their health information custodian successor information at any time in their CRPO account.

What is a health information custodian (HIC)?

A health information custodian is the person or organization responsible for maintaining health records.

If practising alone, the registrant is the health information custodian of their clients’ records.

If an RP is working in an employment situation, they are expected to follow the record management practices of their employer. This assumes that the employer’s record management practices comply with the Personal Health Information Protection Act, 2004 (PHIPA). If this is not the case, the registrant must ensure that their clinical records comply with PHIPA and CRPO Professional Practice Standards. The organization may have an information or privacy officer to monitor compliance with PHIPA.

See the list of resources at the bottom of this article for a summary of these obligations.

What is a health information custodian (HIC) successor?

Registrants who are health information custodians are advised to designate a successor in writing (with the successor’s consent). A “successor” is someone who agrees to become the custodian of your records in the event of your inability to fulfill this role.

The successor’s name can be provided on the annual renewal form and is retained in CRPO’s records and used only to facilitate a client’s access to their clinical records.

Can I have more than one HIC successor?

Yes. You can name two or more HIC successors. To do this, please provide the additional HIC information in an email to info@crpo.ca.

Does my successor need to be registered/located in Ontario?

The successor does not need to be registered or reside in Ontario, but you might wish to consider the role of the successor and their proximity to your clients. For example, if you have a paper-based record-keeping system, would it be possible for a client to easily access their records from someone located outside Ontario?

Does my successor need to be a Registered Psychotherapist? / Can a family member be a health information custodian (HIC)?

When considering who might be an appropriate successor, it would be important to ensure they have the competence necessary to fulfill the role of a health information custodian. Standard 6.4, Closing, Selling or Relocating a Practice, does not indicate that a successor must be a fellow RP; however, it would be helpful for the successor to at least be a member of a regulated health profession in Ontario, a registrant of the Ontario College of Social Workers and Social Service Workers, or a healthcare institution, as these individuals and organizations are likely to be familiar with the framework of health care law and regulation.

Registrants are advised to make appropriate arrangements in advance for the transfer of records to a successor. If a specific HIC successor is not named, PHIPA, section 3(12) indicates an estate trustee or administrator would become responsible for a deceased registrant’s records, until custody of the records passes to another legally authorized person. This might place someone who is unfamiliar with PHIPA requirements and the importance of maintaining client confidentiality in the role of a health information custodian.

Can I provide my HIC successor with access to my records? Does my HIC successor need to sign a confidentiality agreement?

“PHIPA provides for the disclosure of personal health information without consent, including disclosure in the following circumstances:… to potential and actual successors of the custodian (although potential successors must provide a written confidentiality assurance and affected individuals must be notified of any actual transfer of records to a successor);” (See page 9 in the Guide to PHIPA 2020.)

I am an independent contractor within a private practice, and I use the clinic owner’s software to maintain my records. Am I the health information custodian (HIC)?

CRPO is unable to determine who is the health information custodian. When working with others, it is important to establish who is the health information custodian at the outset of the relationship. You can read more about this in our Practice Matters article on Professionalism in business relationships. How a client’s personal health information (PHI) will be handled, and who may access it, is something that needs planning.

I work in private practice, but I do not know anyone who is willing to be my successor. What should I do?

RPs in solo private practice are strongly encouraged to have contact with other RPs, for example a supervisor, mentor, colleague, consultant, peer group, etc. Over time the RP could explore whether any of these colleagues would serve as a successor custodian.

If it is not immediately possible to identify a successor, you may enter the name of the person who would become your estate trustee in the event of your death. Please seek legal advice if you are unsure who this would be. If you are still unable to name a successor custodian, enter “N/A” or other similar entries in the annual renewal form. You can update this information if it changes at any time in your CRPO account.

Do I need to include the name of my health information custodian successor in my will?

It is not a CRPO requirement to include the name of your HIC successor in your will. In any case, it would be prudent for you to ensure that you have a contingency plan in place. If no one specifically is named, PHIPA, section 3(12) indicates an estate trustee or administrator would become responsible for the deceased registrant’s records, until custody of the records passes to another legally authorized person.

Resource list

CRPO

Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario

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Can I integrate artificial intelligence (AI) chatbot technology into my practice?

This article was first published in March 2023

Technology has the potential to transform the delivery of therapy (consider as an example the expansion of video-conference therapy during the pandemic). Artificial intelligence chatbots can generate detailed, coherent responses tailored to specific queries drawing on vast amounts of source data. They could, for example, be asked to write treatment plans or session notes based on brief prompts.

While chatbots offer some opportunity for efficiency, there are also several risks to their use. These include the potential for incorrect information to be outputted and lack of clinical or ethical judgment in generating results.

Registrants should exercise caution when integrating new technologies into their practice, as responsibility ultimately remains with an RP for meeting standards of practice. Specific areas of concern relating to AI chatbots are as follows.

Confidentiality and consent: Registrants are responsible for ensuring that their use of any platforms for storing or processing client information is compliant with relevant privacy legislation (Standard 3.1 – Confidentiality). Registrants should familiarize themselves with the terms of use of any information service. In the absence of a secure, confidential platform, registrants must refrain from inputting any information that could identify a client without their informed consent (Standard 3.2 – Consent, Standard 3.4 – Electronic Practice).

Competence, accuracy, and bias: Registrants must not take for granted that information produced by a chatbot is factually accurate or clinically appropriate. Rather, registrants must validate the information using their own knowledge, skill, and judgment, seeking self-study, consultation, or supervision as appropriate (Standard 2.1 – Consultation, Clinical Supervision, and Referral).

As RPs will be held accountable for treatment decisions regardless of the use of technology, it is important they hold the necessary competencies to appropriately review an AI-generated output and not use the technology as a foundation for expanding practice areas without appropriate education or supervision (Standard 2.1 – Consultation, Clinical Supervision, and Referral).

Similarly, AI-generated responses can be biased, as they are dependent on the data and algorithms that developers used to produce them. Again, registrants must critically review any information before relying on it.

Registrants can address some of these risks by considering AI chatbots as a general tool for gathering and synthesizing non-identifying information rather than depending on the service in specific client cases.

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Q: Can I sell third-party content, or other products, on my website? 

This article was first published in May 2023  

Many registrants ask whether they can include products or content created by a third party to sell on their website. Some examples include meditation apps, personal care products intended to promote mental health, or educational courses focused on mental health. 

The primary risk with recommending and selling products to clients for a profit is that it can create a conflict of interest if the registrant will benefit financially or otherwise. Registrants must not exploit the therapeutic relationship to their own benefit. 

Registrants are expected to be aware of, and avoid, situations that might place them in a conflict of interest. When including products or third-party content for sale on a website, consider how members of the public will perceive the advertisement. Would they perceive that the therapist is using their position to endorse a product? Is any information, advice or comment related to the product accurate and supportable, based on reasonable professional opinion, and consistent with professional standards and ethics?  

One way to manage this type of conflict-of-interest is to advise the client that they may purchase the product elsewhere and that doing so will not affect the client-therapist relationship. This also assures clients and members of the public that any sale or recommendation is in their interest only.  

There are several areas where a registrant would want to make sure they are practising in line with CRPO standards. For example: 

  • Standard 3.2, Informed consent – is the client clear on what kind of treatment they are receiving? Does the client understand the nature of the product offered and potential risks and benefits? 
  • Standard 1.7, Dual relationships – does the combination of psychotherapy and non-psychotherapy treatment create a dual relationship or cross professional boundaries? 
  • Standard 1.6, Conflict of interest – is the RP in a conflict, for example by offering to sell remedies or other products? Are safeguards in place to ensure the recommendation is in the client’s interest only? 
  • Standard 1.8, Undue influence – could the client feel pressured into buying a product from the RP?   
  • Standard 5.3, Accurate billing – is the billing accurate if it claims to relate to psychotherapy services? 
  • Standard 6.2, Claims about therapy – would other RPs support any claims made about the products as reasonable? 
  • Standard 2.1, Competence – does the RP have the competence to offer the services? 

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Will Insurance Cover This?

This article was first published in July 2023

Registrants and insurance companies sometimes ask CRPO if a certain activity is part of the practice of psychotherapy. They ask this to determine whether the activity is covered by insurance — either the registrant’s professional liability insurance or a client’s extended health insurance. CRPO does not provide case-by-case answers. Rather, we point individuals to existing written guidance.

The scope of practice of psychotherapy is defined by section 3 of the Psychotherapy Act, 2007 as “the assessment and treatment of cognitive, emotional or behavioural disturbances by psychotherapeutic means, delivered through a therapeutic relationship based primarily on verbal or non-verbal communication.”

CRPO has published a non-exhaustive list of psychotherapy modalities. If a registrant assesses and treats disturbances through a therapeutic relationship using one or more of these, or other, psychotherapy modalities, then they are practising psychotherapy.

With respect to professional liability insurance, these other activities may also be covered by a registrant’s policy:

  • record-keeping and preparation in relation to direct client work;
  • professional development in psychotherapy;
  • engaging in clinical supervision as a supervisee;
  • conducting research or writing in the field of psychotherapy;
  • supervising psychotherapy;
  • teaching psychotherapy;
  • managing the practice of psychotherapy;
  • consulting regarding the practice of psychotherapy; and
  • other professional activities that impact the practice of psychotherapy.

See CRPO’s definition of Currency Hours.

CRPO has also developed a list of Activities Outside the Controlled Act of psychotherapy. A registrant may do some of these, and other, non-psychotherapy activities, as part of their psychotherapy practice, and still be practising psychotherapy. However, if a registrant only provides these or other non-psychotherapy services in a particular setting or with a particular client, they are likely not practising psychotherapy in that capacity.

Whether a registrant’s employment, self-employment, volunteer, or other professional activities are covered by insurance is best answered by the insurance provider; how they define their coverage is their prerogative, and out of CRPO’s jurisdiction. For information about CRPO requirements, please see this page on our website: https://www.crpo.ca/professional-liability-insurance/.

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Cross-border therapy

Guidance for cross-border therapy is available in the following resources: 

Considerations for cross-border therapy 

Below are some key considerations regarding practice with clients who live in or are visiting a jurisdiction outside of Ontario.    

Use of Technology 

Registrants who provide services to clients in another jurisdiction typically do so using some form of communications technology. 

Please review the following resources on electronic practice: 

Confidentiality 

When using communications technology in practice, assuring the privacy and confidentiality of the client becomes a main concern. Registrants have a duty to take measures to safeguard the client’s personal health information from theft, loss and unauthorized use and disclosure, in accordance with the Personal Health Information Protection Act. This duty is more straightforward to manage in face-to-face interactions and becomes complex when interacting with clients using communications technology, where technology comes with different features and security settings. Whatever method you choose to use in your practice, it must be sufficiently equipped to prevent theft, loss and unauthorized use and disclosure of the client’s health information.  

See the Security Practices Checklist linked above for a list of security considerations. 

Consent & Client Factors 

Standard 3.4, Electronic Practice, requires the client’s express consent before you can use the communications technology with the client. The client needs to understand the risks and benefits of using a particular platform. It would be essential to also consider client factors before using electronic communication technology for your practice, for example: 

  • Is the client capable of understanding the risks associated with using electronic communication technology? 
  • Will the client have enough privacy in their location to engage meaningfully in therapy? 
  • Is the client in a safe location? 
  • Is the client familiar enough with technology to take measures to protect their own privacy online? 

Jurisdiction 

Jurisdictions may have different standards and/or laws to regulate the practice of psychotherapy (some may have none at all).  Registrants are urged to contact the regulator in the jurisdiction in which the client resides, if one exists, to develop an understanding of any requirements that may apply. If no regulator exists, you would need to confirm that there are no other restrictions or considerations in providing counselling or psychotherapy services in that location. You may wish to consult your lawyer, accountant, and/or professional associations in any unregulated locations. 

Insurance Coverage 

In accordance with Standard 3.4, Electronic Practice, RPs are required to assure that their practice is covered by their insurance policy. This includes ensuring an RP’s practice is covered for any therapy they provide via electronic communication technology in their own and in other jurisdictions.  

Other Considerations 

In the event you offer electronic practice, be mindful that you may be expected to assist with technical issues that arise before, during or after a session.  

We encourage registrants to review the information in the CRPO Professional Practice Standards, and in particular, the following: 

The Information and Privacy Commissioner’s website also has helpful information on safeguarding privacy in settings where technologies are used. See their resources for health organizations: https://www.ipc.on.ca/ 

 If you have any outstanding questions, please email them to practice@crpo.ca 

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Guests in Sessions

This article was first published in the October 2023 Communiqué 

A recurring theme CRPO encounters in practice advice queries and complaint investigations involves ‘guests’ accompanying a client in a therapy session. A guest could be a parent, friend, spouse or other loved one aside from the main client. When considering whether to include a guest at a client’s therapy session, RPs should consider the therapeutic benefits as well as the potential risks.   

The following non-exhaustive list of considerations will help avoid confusion: 

  • setting clear boundaries by clarifying things such as: 
    • the number of sessions a guest may attend and having a referral plan in case the guest needs or asks for services themselves;  
    • how to handle communication with the guest outside of sessions (e.g., if the guest reaches out via email or phone);
  • documenting why the guest is attending the session; 
  • clarifying the service provided and who the client is (e.g., if the guest is a romantic partner or spouse, be clear the session is not couple therapy); 
  • defining the role and expectations of the guest during the session; 
  • considering what to do if the guest requests a copy of the records for that session (i.e., review the Personal Health Information Protection Act, 2004 (PHIPA) and consult with the Information and Privacy Commissioner (IPC) as necessary; and 
  • ensuring informed consent discussions clarify all of the above and the discussions are clearly documented in the client record. 

Registered Psychotherapists must always act with their client’s best interest in mind. When navigating complex situations such as this, we encourage registrants to review the Professional Practice Standards, develop policies for their practice, and consider seeking clinical supervision or consultation for support. 

Note regarding interpreters 

An interpreter who is attending solely to support the client in communicating would not be considered a guest; however, steps should still be taken to clarify the interpreter’s role; ensure the interpreter will maintain the client’s confidentiality; and address the risks and limitations of communicating via interpretation in the informed consent process. 

Mandatory Reporting

This article was first published in November 2023 

 There are some circumstances where CRPO registrants are required by the Regulated Health Professions Act, 1991, to report information. For example, CRPO registrants are required to report certain information about themselves or their practice to CRPO. In other situations, registrants have a duty to report other regulated health professionals to their professional colleges or another authority. 

CRPO registrants have a legal obligation to report certain information about themselves or their practice to CRPO. This includes things like registration with another regulatory body; findings of guilt or professional misconduct; or a change of name or contact information. See our webpage about Mandatory Self-Reporting for a list of items that registrants must disclose to CRPO. 

In other situations, registrants have a duty to report other regulated health professionals to their professional colleges or another authority. Registrants should also be aware of other reporting obligations, such as the duty to make a report under the Child, Youth and Family Services Act, 2017, where a registrant has reasonable grounds to suspect that a child is in need of protection due to physical harm, neglect or sexual abuse by a person having charge of the child.  

Registrants have an enhanced duty to report child abuse and neglect and are expected to review training as part of their biennial professional development requirements. For information, see “Duty to Report Training Review”. 

The situations described above are clearly outlined in the document Mandatory Reporting Obligations for Registered Psychotherapists and several examples are provided in the Professional Practice & Jurisprudence for Registered Psychotherapists Manual under Standard 1.3 Mandatory Reporting 

Confidentiality concerns 

A mandatory reporting obligation may require registrants to include confidential information.  

When providing a mandatory report that includes client personal health information, registrants are advised to disclose only as much personal health information as is reasonably necessary to meet the purposes of the disclosure. (See Standard 3.1 Confidentiality https://www.crpo.ca/standard-3-1-confidentiality/) 

Below are answers to some frequently asked questions. 

If I am reporting another regulated health professional to their College for alleged sexual abuse of a client, do I need to let CRPO know? 

If the professional is not a CRPO registrant, the answer is no. 

As noted in Standard 1.3, Reporting Unsafe Practices https://www.crpo.ca/standard-1-3/, under the Regulated Health Professions Act, if a CRPO registrant has reasonable grounds to believe that another regulated health professional has sexually abused a patient/client, the registrant is legally obligated to make a report to the professional’s regulatory college. You do not need to notify CRPO if you are reporting to another College. 

If you are aware of allegations of sexual abuse by a CRPO registrant, or if you became aware of another CRPO registrant’s unsafe practice or behaviour, you would have a legal obligation to report that individual to CRPO. 

In all cases described above, a client’s identity must not be submitted in the report unless their written consent is given or otherwise permitted by law (such as when there is risk of ongoing and serious harm). 

My client has described another regulated health professional’s (i.e, not a CRPO registrant) unsafe behaviour. Do I have a duty to report? 

When a client has concerns about the care they have received from another regulated health professional, the client has the right to file a complaint with the relevant health college.   

In situations when a mandatory report is not required, a registrant could choose to make a discretionary report to the relevant College. It would be up to the College’s screening committee to determine if the alleged conduct represented a risk to clients/patients and to respond according to that risk assessment.  

In a discretionary situation, a registrant should obtain the client’s written consent before disclosing information to any other party. (See Standard 3.1 Confidentiality https://www.crpo.ca/standard-3-1-confidentiality/.) 

Where there is no legal obligation to report, decision-making should be guided by what is in the best interest of the client’s well-being.  

Do I have a duty to report if another healthcare provider or the client has already made a report? 

In general, another person having made a report does not relieve an individual of their own reporting obligation, if that individual has reasonable grounds to make the mandatory report. 

When in doubt, registrants are encouraged to consult with the organization to which the report may be required. 

I heard information about alleged sexual abuse by a CRPO registrant or other regulated health professional in my personal life / in another role. Do I have a duty to report? 

No. As noted in the Professional Practice & Jurisprudence for Registered Psychotherapists Manual under Standard 1.3 Mandatory Reporting: 

This mandatory report is required when regulated health professionals, including RPs, have reasonable grounds to believe that an Ontario regulated health professional has sexually abused a patient or client. The mandatory reporting duty applies to information obtained in the course of practising the profession. That is, it does not apply to information learned in the RP’s personal life. RPs should refer to the definition of sexual abuse (covered later in this manual), so they know what conduct is reportable. 

My client is a registrant of another regulated health college. I have concerns about their substance use in their personal life. Do I have a duty to report this to their College? 

As noted in Standard 3.1, Confidentiality https://www.crpo.ca/standard-3-1-confidentiality/, “a member may only disclose personal health information with the consent of the client or his/her authorized representative. However, in law, there are a limited number of circumstances where disclosure of personal health information is required without consent. 

The mandatory reporting obligations described in this article are not the only limits to client confidentiality.  

CRPO’s Professional Practice Guideline: Disclosing Information to Prevent Harm provides guidance for these situations. As noted in the Guideline, “Registered Psychotherapists have an obligation to maintain client confidentiality. In some circumstances, however, disclosure of client information is permitted or required by law. The Personal Health Information Protection Act, 2004 (PHIPA) allows health information custodians to disclose personal health information about an individual, without that individual’s consent, if the custodian believes on reasonable grounds that the disclosure is necessary for the purpose of eliminating or reducing a significant risk of serious bodily harm to a person or group of persons.” 

The guideline linked above includes brief explanations of the key concepts quoted above:  

Reasonable grounds  A concern that is based on more than suspicion, rumour or speculation. 
Necessary  There is no other reasonable way (such as continuing therapy with the client)  

to prevent the risk of harm to the client or others. If disclosure is necessary,  

as little information as possible is disclosed to eliminate or reduce the risk of  

harm; that is, extraneous information is not shared. 

Significant risk  Requires a case-by-case evaluation of both the likelihood and magnitude of  

harm. “Significant risk” falls in between the extremes of low risk and certainty. 

Serious bodily harm  Death or “any hurt or injury, whether physical or psychological, that interferes  

in a substantial way with the integrity, health or well-being of a victim.” 

Person or group of persons  The victim(s) are identifiable or their characteristics are described  

Specifically. 

The guideline also provides a series of reflection questions to support decision-making:

  • Does this situation present a significant risk of serious bodily harm to a person or group? 
  • Is the therapist’s assessment or opinion based on reasonable grounds? 
  • Is disclosure necessary to prevent or reduce the risk of harm? 
  • Is this a situation that would benefit from consultation?  
  • If not required by law, would disclosure put the person (client or third party) at risk?  

Conclusion

As with all complex situations, registrants are encouraged to consult with peers, a supervisor, legal advisor, the CRPO Practice Advisory Service or the organization to which the report may be required.

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Advertising: Testimonials, Endorsements, and Community Voting Awards 

This article was first published in November 2023

CRPO’s Practice Advisory Service receives several inquiries from registrants and others about the use of testimonials, endorsements and community voting awards. While it may be reassuring to receive positive feedback from clients and others, it is inappropriate to use or link to such statements in advertising.

Expectations about advertising are outlined in CRPO Professional Practice Standard 6.2, Advertising and Representing Yourself and Your Services.

Testimonials

It is professional misconduct to use a testimonial by a client, former client or other person in the advertising of the registrant or their practice. Standard 6.2explains that testimonials are unreliable and “may also lead to concerns that clients have been pressured into providing them”.

In addition to prohibiting the use of testimonials, Standard 6.2 provides the following general expectations for advertising:

In advertising, members do not:

  • promise a result that cannot necessarily be delivered (e.g. “you’ll get the job you always wanted”);
  • use comparisons to others, use superlatives, or suggest that their practice is unique (e.g. “the best therapy available” or “the most caring treatment”); or
  • appeal to a person’s fears (“avoid being alone, come in for therapy”).

Awards

RPs must be careful in considering whether they should use awards in their professional advertising materials. It is possible that an award could be seen as a testimonial (note that a testimonial is a statement from another person about the quality of a registrant’s services. The statement could be in words, simply an online ‘star’ rating, or a community voting award) and testimonials are not permitted. It would also be inappropriate if the award used a superlative or comparison to others, for example, “Voted Best Psychotherapy Clinic”.  

Reviews and endorsements

Standard 6.2 clarifies that clients or others are not prevented from writing reviews about registrants (e.g., on third party Internet sites for rating professionals), provided the registrant does not request them to do so, and provided the registrant does not influence which reviews are published. Note that if a registrant linked their advertising directly to a third-party rating or review site, this could be considered inappropriately using a testimonial. 

Similarly, publishing endorsements on third-party advertising websites, such as those that host therapist profiles or directories, would be inappropriate.

Another professional endorsed me on my therapy profile listing. Can I publish that?

CRPO recognizes that certain actions are beyond a registrant’s control. For example, a registrant cannot control whether a client writes a review on a third-party review site, nor can they always control whether another professional writes an endorsement.

Registrants are responsible for their own actions and behaviour. For example, it would be inappropriate to 

  • influence which endorsements or reviews are published;
  • ask clients to write a review; and
  • ask clients to vote for a registrant or their practice in a contest or “best of” survey.

Consider the following definitions from CRPO’s draft Professional Practice Standards:

Advertising: Any message communicated in a public medium intended to influence an individual’s choice, opinion, or behaviour, including referring to business names associated with a registrant’s practice. Advertising includes paid or in-kind promotions on any platform, registrant websites and social media accounts, among other forms of media and communication. 

Testimonial: A statement by another person about the quality of the registrant’s services.

Endorsement: A type of testimonial publicly showing support for a registrant or their practice, whether by a client or non-client.   

Review: A type of testimonial, generally collected and posted by third-party internet sites (that is, sites not under the control of the registrant or their business, employer, clinic). Reviews include statements as well as rankings and ratings, e.g., “five star rating”, “top 3 psychotherapists in the city.”

Superlative: An expression, typically exaggerated or unprovable, used to convey the highest degree. Examples include “best psychotherapist in Toronto,” or “fastest path to stability.”

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Confidentiality and deceased clients 

This article was first published in the January 2024 Communiqué 

It is a fundamental responsibility of registrants to maintain client confidentiality at all times, including when requests are made for client information by third parties such as lawyers or insurance companies. In compliance with the Personal Health Information Protection Act, 2004 (PHIPA), registrants must ensure the professional relationship with the client and the client’s personal information are kept confidential, within legal limitations. 

Do the same rules apply for a deceased client? See below for answers to common questions on this topic. 

What is an RP responsible for in terms of upholding confidentiality for a deceased client? 

The Personal Health Information Protection Act, 2004 (PHIPA) establishes the rules relating to confidentiality and privacy of personal health information in Ontario. PHIPA requires that personal health information be kept confidential and secure, including when a client passes away. A client’s right to privacy does not end with their death. 

The following resources from the Information and Privacy Commissioner (IPC) explain the circumstances when a health information custodian is permitted to disclose the personal health information of a deceased individual:   

Are there any specific documentation/reporting guidelines for a deceased client? 

For a list of mandatory reporting obligations, please review Mandatory Reporting Obligations for Registered Psychotherapists. 

How long must I store a deceased client’s records? 

CRPO Professional Practice Standard 5.1 Record-keeping – Clinical Records states the following: 

Retention 

Where the RP is the custodian of the clinical record, they retain the record for at least 10 years from the date of the last interaction with the client, or for 10 years from the client’s 18th birthday, whichever is later. For example, if a child is age seven at the time of the last interaction, the record would be kept until the client’s 28th birthday. 

 Who can get access to a deceased client’s records? 

As noted in the resources above, PHIPA permits the disclosure of personal health information about a deceased individual in certain circumstances. A custodian may only disclose personal health information to a person who is not a custodian, such as a relative of a deceased individual, with consent or where the disclosure is permitted or required by PHIPA or another law. In the case of a deceased individual, the consent may be given by the person administering the deceased individual’s estate. If this person consents, the personal health information may be disclosed to a relative of the deceased individual.  

PHIPA permits, but does not require, a custodian to disclose personal health information without consent for the purposes of identifying the individual or for informing people whom it is reasonable to inform, that the individual is deceased or reasonably suspected to be deceased and the circumstances of death, where appropriate. PHIPA also permits disclosure to the spouse, partner, sibling or child of the deceased individual if the recipients reasonably require the information to make decisions about their own, or their children’s health care. 

In rare instances, a registrant may have concerns about how the estate administrator is exercising their authority over the deceased client’s personal health information. In such situations it is advisable to consult a lawyer regarding any available legal recourse. 

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Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) regulation in Ontario 

This article was first published in February 2024.

The Psychology and Applied Behaviour Analysis Act, 2021 will be proclaimed effective July 1, 2024. At that time, the College of Psychologists of Ontario will change its name to the “College of Psychologists and Behaviour Analysts of Ontario”. Beginning that date, only ABA practitioners who are registered with the College of Psychologists and Behaviour Analysts of Ontario will be allowed to use the title “Behaviour Analyst” in Ontario. 

Many RPs use behaviour therapy techniques and ABA in their practice. These techniques are not restricted (i.e., behaviour therapy techniques and ABA are in the public domain and not controlled acts); however, it is important to understand the restrictions within the Psychology and Applied Behaviour Analysis Act, 2021. 

For more information on the regulation of ABA, view the latest FAQs from the CPO.

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Options for Clients When an RP Leaves a Group Practice

CRPO’s Practice Advisory Service often hears about RPs leaving a group practice to start their own private practice. Common questions include who continues to provide care to the client and what happens to the client record. These situations can be challenging for clients, the departing RP, and group practice owners. How can everyone’s interests be respected while maintaining professional practice standards? Read our article for ideas.

Insurance Billing

When preparing invoices and receipts for insurance billing purposes, what name(s) should be included?

As most registrants are aware, coverage of psychotherapy services varies by provider and individual plans. CRPO does not set or enforce requirements for insurance companies and cannot speak to their billing requirements or their remuneration of services. Members of the public and clients need to consult with their benefits provider before beginning services to confirm the details of their coverage. This includes things such as what services are covered by the plan; whether their plan covers services provided by CRPO registrants; and whether the plan extends to their family members and/or significant others.

When clients request receipts for insurance billing purposes, registrants must ensure they are meeting CRPO Professional Practice Standards.

College requirements for financial records are provided in Professional Practice Standards 5.5, Record-keeping – Financial Records, and 5.3, Issuing Accurate Documents. As well, CRPO has developed a Financial Records Checklist to help registrants conduct a self-review of their financial record-keeping practices and there is a Practice Matters article that discusses fees and billing.

As indicated in Standard 5.5, financial records must include a client’s full name. This becomes a grey area when the client includes more than one person or when parents attend services to support a child client. Because the Standards do not specifically indicate how to identify the client in such cases, registrants must use their professional judgement to determine what is reasonable.

For example, Standard 5.3 requires registrants to provide clients with accurate records and other documents and ensure they do not sign or send documents containing misleading or false information. Therefore, it would be inappropriate to issue a receipt indicating services were provided to someone who was not present during the session. However, it is possible to clearly describe the services provided on an invoice or receipt, e.g., “couple therapy”, “family therapy”, “session with parents regarding their child’s psychotherapy”.

An RP can use discretion to determine who is identified as the client for a particular session for billing purposes. For transparency and to avoid billing issues, the College recommends that registrants determine any requirements an insurance company might have with respect to billing.

Here are some specific examples:

Can I issue a receipt in Client A’s name if I see Client B for individual therapy as a component of Client A and B’s couple therapy?

While receipts must describe the services provided and identify the client to whom service was provided (e.g., “Individual session with Client B regarding their couple therapy with Client A”), it might be possible to issue a receipt in one person’s name, for example, if the person receiving the receipt is the person who paid for the services or if it is acceptable to the insurance company. As noted above, it is best to let clients confirm the details of their benefit plan and whether the plan extends to their family members and/or significant others.

In this situation, it would be inappropriate to issue a receipt implying Client A was at the session.

I am meeting with parents to discuss their child’s progress in therapy. Can I issue a receipt in the child client’s name, even though they were not in the session?

As noted above, receipts must accurately describe the services provided and identify the client to whom service was provided. In cases where a session is provided in relation to another client’s overall treatment, it is important to clearly describe the services on the receipt.

For example, “Family session with parents regarding Child A’s psychotherapy”.

Relevant resource:

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My client asked if I could provide an insurance receipt so they could access the funds ahead of time to pay for services. Is that permitted?

Invoices and receipts must be transparent and accurate. Standard 5.5 indicates a receipt must identify the date and method of payment received. Therefore, it would be misleading to issue a receipt indicating funds had been received if in fact they had not been received.

Similarly, it would be inappropriate to include the wrong date for the service on a receipt; for example, putting in a date when the client had insurance coverage, when the service actually occurred on a date when the client did not have insurance coverage.

Some insurance sectors, such as auto insurance, have detailed processes for direct billing so the client does not pay first.

Note: Motor vehicle accident reimbursement policies are set by the Financial Services Commission of Ontario (FSCO). For information, please see Health Claims for Auto Insurance (HCAI), which is a resource that was developed in consultation with the FSCO, health care provider associations, and other stakeholders in the auto insurance system.

Other relevant resources:

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Do I need to / Can I include my supervisor’s name on receipts?

It is not a CRPO requirement to include the name of a clinical supervisor on receipts. A registrant may choose to do so; however, the billing process must clearly identify who provided the service, i.e., it should not falsely imply that the supervisor was in the client session.

Qualifying registrants must practise with clinical supervision and actively pursue meeting the Registered Psychotherapist requirements within specified timelines. We have heard that some insurers require proof of supervision and will accept a supervisor’s name on receipts for this purpose. It would be important to clarify any such requirements with the insurance company.

If an invoice includes a supervisor’s information, the expectation is that the supervisee and their supervisor would have ensured the document is accurate and complete. This means that the supervisor must verify the services provided. A supervisor’s registration information should not be included on any documentation without explicit agreement that their signature or information is being used nor without knowledge of the specific sessions that are being billed.

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Can an RP enter a supervisory relationship so clients can claim insurance benefits and therefore access services?

All CRPO registrants must assure that any supervisory relationship they engage in abides by the Professional Practice Standards that apply to RPs.

Specifically, clinical supervision must meet the purposes set out in the Standards on Clinical Supervision as listed below:

  • to promote the professional growth of the supervisee;
  • to enhance the supervisee’s safe and effective use of self in the therapeutic relationship;
  • to discuss the direction of therapy; and
  • to safeguard the well-being of the client.

If an RP enters a supervisory relationship with another regulated health professional who can practise psychotherapy (e.g., a social worker, psychologist, occupational therapist, nurse, or physician), It is important to understand that they would be operating within the regulatory frameworks of two distinct professions, and each participant has a duty to maintain the standards of their own profession.

Both supervisees and supervisors are expected to participate meaningfully in the supervision, meeting the purposes listed above. If supervision does not actually take place, and the arrangement is merely a guise to access third party billing, a registrant may be subject to investigation or discipline by CRPO.

The following practice standards should be considered:

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Can I offer a client a sliding scale even if the services are covered under the client’s health benefit plan? Can I offer a client a sliding scale rate after their insurance benefits end, to help them access therapy?

As stated in Standard 6.1: Fees: https://www.crpo.ca/standard-6-1-fees/, registrants “may not … charge more than the member’s usual fee for a service where a third party is paying for the service.” In other words, it would be unacceptable for a registrant to bill for services at more than their usual rate because the service is being paid for by an insurance company.

However, the standard also states it is acceptable to charge a lower sliding scale fee depending on ability to pay. There is a difference between charging someone a higher fee because they have insurance, and charging a lower fee based on ability to pay.

CRPO registrants may lower their actual fees in individual cases of financial hardship. This must be done on a case-by-case basis, and not through a general policy intended to hide a registrant’s true fee.

As well, Standard 5.5: Record-keeping – Financial Records and the Financial Records Checklist both note that the financial record must indicate the reason or reasons why a fee may have been reduced or waived.

Please see: Professional Practice & Jurisprudence for Registered Psychotherapists, Section 2 F on billing for further discussion on this topic and examples.

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Administrative staff and billing

The following Practice Matters article first appeared in the November 2020 Communiqué:

Do you practise in a setting where an administrative staff-person bills clients or insurance providers for you? If your answer is yes, this information is for you. This situation often occurs for registrants who bill through the Health Claims for Auto Insurance (HCAI) system.

Registrants are required to issue accurate documentation at all times. Honest representation is expected when communicating with clients and third-party payors, even if the registrant is not the person who issued the invoice. This includes information about the date and cost of services provided, client name, type of service provided, registration category and any other information used in the billing process. Billing errors or inaccuracies made by staff are the responsibility of the registrant who provided the psychotherapy services.

There are serious consequences for issuing false or inaccurate documentation which could include a College investigation and possible discipline hearing. Registrants may be delisted from insurance providers thereby limiting clients’ access to services. Finally, your actions may diminish the public’s trust in the profession of psychotherapy.

Here are some recommendations to maintain clear, accurate and honest billing practices:

  • Be very cautious about working for an employer who is not transparent about how your services are being billed.
  • Provide extensive and ongoing training to staff about billing requirements. Training might include information from CRPO’s Professional Practice Standards or CRPO’s Financial Records Checklist.
  • Review documentation before applying your signature. Registrants should never allow a staff person to apply their signature to a document the registrant has never seen.
  • Check in often. Schedule time on a regular basis to review forms and invoices being issued.
  • If you discover someone engaging in inaccurate, improper or unauthorized billing on your behalf, immediately take steps to correct errors, provide instruction and prevent the situation from recurring.

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An insurance provider has asked me to verify information on a claim. What do I do next?

Many registrants write to the Practice Advisory Service asking about what to do when an insurance provider asks them to verify information on a benefit claim. Verifying claims is often a necessary step before a client can be reimbursed. Although such requests often relate to administrative details such as the provider’s credentials, session dates, and billing amounts, registrants are still responsible for maintaining client confidentiality. 

What should you consider? Read on to find out. 

Informed consent and confidentiality 
It is a fundamental responsibility of registrants to maintain client confidentiality at all times, including when requests are made for client information by third parties such as lawyers or insurance companies. (See Standard 3.1: Confidentiality.) Registrants must ensure that clients have consented to the sharing of their personal health information to process the insurance claim. Often, clients provide this consent when they submit their claim to their insurance provider. Only necessary information may be shared to process the claim, e.g., that the session(s) occurred as claimed. 

Reflection question 

  • Is there evidence the client consented to the sharing of their personal health information to process the insurance claim (e.g., have they submitted a claim form with language to this effect)? 

When a client submits a claim to their insurer, does this imply they have provided consent to verify their information? 
As noted above, registrants must ensure the client has consented before disclosing information to an insurance provider. It is common for insurers to require client consent to process claims. 

Reflection questions

  • Can the insurer provide evidence (e.g., a submitted claim form) that the client consented to share their information? 
  • Does the information submitted by the client match your records? 

What should I do if the information I am asked to verify does not match my records? 
There are several considerations for this situation. 

Honest Mistake
The client could have made an honest mistake regarding some details of the claim. In this case, it may be straightforward to correct the information with the insurance company (assuming there is evidence of consent from the client to do so), or you may wish to liaise with the client about how to address the situation.  

Crime and Fraud 
The situation is different where intentional fraud may be involved. CRPO’s Professional Practice and Jurisprudence for Registered Psychotherapists manual discusses a hypothetical situation (see Standard 1.3 and click on “Crime” to expand the topic). Note each situation is unique, and registrants should seek appropriate advice before applying the principles outlined in this scenario to their situation. 

Discontinuing Therapy: The scenario linked above mentions the possibility of discontinuing services to the client. Again, this may or may not be appropriate in the situation. The following is noted in the Commentary to Standard 6.3: Discontinuing Therapy: 

Conflicts of interest and discontinuing care
RPs must be aware that when discontinuing service to a client due to an irreconcilable conflict of interest, they must uphold all relevant confidentiality standards and laws. 

A registrant would need to decide whether they are able to provide safe, competent care to the client, or whether that is no longer possible. Registrants are encouraged to seek supervision or consultation for guidance. 

Confidentiality: As noted above, registrants must maintain client confidentiality at all times except with consent or if a legal exception applies. Consider if there is a consent signed by the client giving you permission to speak to the insurance company, or if the client has given you permission orally. 

Consider also that it may be possible, depending on the wording used and the context of the situation, to tell the insurance company that a particular receipt is not valid without providing any personal health information. For example, simply denying the validity of a receipt does not need to confirm whether the claimant was ever a client or not. This can help avoid registrants being placed in an ‘impossible situation’ where they are forced either to breach client confidentiality or acquiesce to insurance fraud. 

Other legal exceptions to confidentiality may be applicable depending on the situation, for example, if legal proceedings or a police investigation are involved. Registrants are advised to consult with a legal advisor about these issues. 

Reflection questions 

  • Did the client make an honest mistake or intentional fraud? 
  • How can I validate or deny the claim without providing personal health information? 

I have been asked to provide a treatment report. How much detail should I provide? 
Sometimes a request from an insurance company goes beyond simply confirming a session. Upon receiving a request for a detailed report, registrants should first seek express consent from their client, or their authorized representative, to provide the report and discuss the requested content. A report must be provided within a reasonable timeframe, unless there is reasonable cause not to do so. Registrants should ensure that only relevant and requested information is provided and provide clients with the opportunity to review the report prior to submission. Finally, registrants must ensure that reports are sent through secure means. (See Standard 5.2: Requests for Reports and our Practice Matters article on Obtaining consent to release information.) 

Reflection questions 

  • Do I understand the request? 
  • Do I have the necessary competence to provide the information requested? 
  • Does the client understand the nature of the information that would be included in such a report?  
  • Has the client provided express consent for me to provide a report for this purpose? Is the client’s express consent documented in the clinical record? 
  • Will I charge a fee to prepare the report and does the client consent to pay the fee? 
  • Does the report indicate whether I am providing an opinion, stating an objective fact, or summarizing information provided by the client? 

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2024 Practice Standards Highlights

See below for highlighted aspects of the revised Professional Practice Standards, which came into effect January 1, 2024.

Standard 3.1: Confidentiality – Limits to Confidentiality

First published in the April 2024 Communiqué

The commentary to Standard 3.1 Confidentiality emphasizes the importance of confidentiality in the psychotherapy profession. The commentary goes on to list some of the limitations to confidentiality. RPs must ensure clients are aware of these limits before treatment begins. In addition to discussing these limits as needed and answering any questions, many RPs find it helpful to list the limits on their intake or consent form. RPs can use some of the wording from the commentary in developing such a form. They can indicate, for example, that client information is maintained in strict confidence, except with the client’s consent or as required by law, for example:

  • To prevent a significant risk of serious harm to a person
  • Where a mandatory report is required (e.g., to a Children’s Aid Society where a child is in need of protection)
  • Where disclosure is required for a legal proceeding
  • To facilitate an investigation or inspection authorized by warrant or by any provincial or federal law
  • To contact a relative, friend or potential substitute decision-maker if the client is injured, incapacitated, or ill and unable to give consent personally
  • Disclosing information to the College (e.g., when a complaint has been made about a registrant, or assessment of the registrant’s practice as part of the Quality Assurance Program)

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Standard 4.2: Practising with Clinical Supervision – Supervision Frequency

First published in the March 2024 Communiqué

Previously, the standard suggested receiving one hour of clinical supervision for every 4.5 direct client contact hours for Qualifying registrants, and every 10 hours for RPs working toward independent practice. CRPO received feedback that these ratios are unrealistic and costly.

Clinical supervision is an important component of CRPO’s public protection mandate. The updated commentary for Standard 4.2 Practising with Clinical Supervision, is meant to be feasible for practitioners while ensuring adequate oversight. The revised commentary emphasizes the importance of shared judgment between supervisee and supervisor based on relevant factors such as the supervisee’s experience, clientele, and other supports in place. It encourages setting regular meetings in advance. It recommends that a newer practitioner such as an RP(Qualifying) registrant receive approximately one hour of clinical supervision per week while a more experienced practitioner such as an RP working toward independent practice should receive a minimum of approximately one hour every two weeks. Again, this could vary depending on the circumstances.

We hope this guidance will allow supervisors and supervisees to make arrangements that are achievable and beneficial to client care and the supervisee’s professional development.

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Standard 5.1: Clinical Records – Language of Records and Access to Joint Therapy Records

First published in the January 2024 Communiqué

Language of Records
Previously, the standards expected records to be maintained in English or French. In response to feedback and the diversity of Ontario, the commentary to Standard 5.1: Clinical Records, now recognizes that progress notes may be recorded in the language in which therapy is taking place. The standard expects that key information, which includes the client profile and anything else, such as a summary, that needs to be readily accessible to other healthcare providers in an emergency, be in English or French.

Access to Joint Therapy Records
Standard 5.1 now contains commentary on providing access to joint therapy records, such as for couple, family, or group therapy. Clients may access the entire record if all participants consent or submit a joint request (e.g., both members of a couple request access to the couple therapy record). If only one participant requests access to a joint record, and the others have not consented, they are only entitled to the information about themselves, and any communal information (e.g., general themes) that is not attributable specifically to another participant.

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Standard 5.2: Requests for Reports – Report-writing

First published in the February 2024 Communiqué

Over the years, CRPO has received many practice inquiries and complaints about report-writing. One type of situation involves clients undergoing divorce and custody proceedings. In this situation, a client, or the parent of a child who is a client, might ask the RP to write a letter or report. The resulting letter is used in a family law dispute. The other parent may strongly object to the contents and use of the letter, and the RP’s role in writing it. Registrants should carefully consider and seek advice regarding the potential for such reports to generate conflict among family members.

When preparing a report or letter, revised Standard 5.2: Requests for Reports provides helpful guidance. It requires registrants to “indicate whether they are providing opinion, stating objective fact, or summarizing information provided by a client.” For example, registrants may preface a statement with “The client said”, to avoid portraying the content as an objective fact. If the registrant is expressing an opinion, they should state this and ensure they have a reasonable basis. For example, a registrant cannot assess a person they have never met, nor diagnose anyone.

Standard 5.2 also reminds registrants to uphold confidentiality obligations in written reports. If one member of a family requests a report, it must not include the personal health information of others without the appropriate consent, unless a legal exception applies.

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