Clients rely on members to provide accurate and verifiable information about their qualifications and experience, and to be transparent in the way they represent themselves and their services.
An advertisement is any message communicated in a public medium intended to influence an individual’s choice, opinion or behaviour, including business names associated with a member’s practice.
Members may advertise their professional services, as long as the information provided is relevant, and assists prospective clients or members of the public in making an informed choice regarding health care services. Advertising should be truthful, factual, clear, and easily understood. It should include only information that is objective and verifiable.
Members must ensure that advertising does not convey information that misleads clients or confuses the public. This includes omitting relevant information, or including non-relevant, false, or unverifiable information that may be misleading. Members should take reasonable steps to ensure that advertising placed by their associates (e.g. employers, employees, marketing consultants) meets these same objectives.
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”).
In advertising, members may:
- list education and qualifications;
- describe areas of practice and/or specialization and populations served, but must not suggest that they are
recognized by the College as qualified in a specialty area;
- outline a philosophy or approach to practice; and
- identify membership in the College.
Testimonials from clients, former clients, or other persons regarding a member’s practice are not permitted in advertising. A testimonial is a statement from another person about the quality of the member’s services. Testimonials are subjective and may be unreliable. They may also be misleading, as each client is unique and each situation is different; a technique that works well for one client may not work for another. A client’s plan of therapy should be based on the individual client’s needs, not on the experiences of others. Testimonials may also lead to concerns that clients have been pressured into providing them, which is not in the best interest of the client or the therapist.
This rule does not prevent clients or others from writing reviews about members (e.g. on third party Internet sites for rating professionals), provided the member does not request them to do so, and provided the member does not influence which reviews are published.
Soliciting individuals in a way that pressures them to engage the member’s services, is not acceptable. Members are permitted to solicit individuals only in accordance with the Professional Misconduct Regulation, as follows:
i. The person who is the recipient of the solicitation must be advised, at the earliest possible time during the communication, that,
a. The purpose of the communication is to solicit use of the member’s professional services, and
b. The person may elect to end the communication immediately or at any time during the communication if he or she wishes to do so, and
ii. The communication must end immediately if the person who is the subject of the solicitation so elects.
These rules are not intended to prevent members from contacting clients to provide reminders about appointments and follow-up services.
Providing information to clients about member’s services
Members are required to reply appropriately to a reasonable request by a client or a client’s authorized representative for information about a service or product provided or recommended by a member.
Claims about therapy
Members offering information, advice or comment to clients or others take reasonable measures to ensure that their statements are accurate and supportable, based on reasonable professional opinion, and consistent with professional standards and ethics. Unsubstantiated claims can lead to ineffective or even harmful treatment choices. They can also erode the public’s confidence in the profession.
Clients are entitled to know the name of the member with whom they are dealing, and to verify the registration status of any member. In addition, the College must be able to identify and locate a member in the event that it receives a complaint or report about the member. In his/her professional role, a member must identify him/herself using the name recorded in the Public Register of the College.
Members may use nicknames or other variations of their name with clients, as long as these names are registered with the College along with the member’s legal name. The member’s legal name (along with any alternate name) should be indicated on official documents such as invoices and when identifying him/herself to clients, e.g. on business cards and pamphlets.
Members may also create and use business names, (e.g. Riverside Therapy Services), as long as they use their own name as set out in the College Register on official documents and when identifying themselves to clients.
Only members may represent themselves as Registered Psychotherapists or RPs. They must not permit, counsel or assist a person who is not a member to misrepresent him/herself as a member. This rule applies in settings where the member can prevent the conduct from occurring, such as within the member’s office or clinic.
If a member is aware that an unregistered person is holding him/herself out, i.e. presenting him/herself as an RP, the onus is on the member to intervene. The member may speak with the individual and/or inform the College of the misrepresentation if it persists. In particular, members should report misrepresentation or false claims to the College if they are grievous and/or persistent.
The Standard: Advertising and Representing Yourself and Your Services
Members provide truthful and accurate information to clients and the public, and are transparent in representing themselves and their services.
Demonstrating the Standard
A member demonstrates compliance with the standard by, for example:
- advertising services to the public only if the information provided is factual, accurate, objective and verifiable;
- avoiding misleading or subjective claims in advertising;
- refraining from pressuring individuals into engaging the member’s services;
- expressing reasonable professional opinion when discussing therapeutic techniques or procedures;
- intervening where a person who is not a member represents him/herself as a member, if the person is not authorized to do so;
- identifying him/herself to clients using the name (or nickname) that appears on the Public Register of the College.
- Standard 3.5 Unnecessary Treatment
- Standard 1.6 Conflict-of-interest
- Standard 1.2 Use of Terms, Titles and Designations
Note: College publications containing practice standards, guidelines or directives should be considered by all members in the care of their clients and in the practice of the profession. College publications are developed in consultation with the profession and describe current professional expectations. It is important to note that these College publications may be used by the College or other bodies in determining whether appropriate standards of practice and professional responsibilities have been maintained.