Third Party (ICBC/WorkSafe/Court) Psychological Assessments

What is a third party psychological assessment? 

WorkSafeBC, ICBC, the Courts, or another third party may request a psychological assessment of an individual for purposes of determining access to benefits, settlement of claims, or child custody and access matters.

This kind of assessment is not done in the therapeutic or treatment context and the individual who has been assessed may not agree with the opinion of the psychologist. The psychologists’ responsibility, in this context, is to provide an independent opinion, and not to act in the interests of the individual who is being assessed.

What is a psychologist’s file review?

File reviews are often requested by a third party, for example WorkSafeBC or ICBC, to inform decision making. File reviews are limited to existing file information and are intended to inform decisions such as types and lengths of treatment that might be suitable based on the information in the file. They are not assessments of an individual, and there is typically no professional relationship between the psychologist and the individual. While the information may relate to the individual, the professional relationship is between the psychologist and the requesting organization.

What if I disagree with a third party psychological assessment or file review?

As a regulatory body, the College’s mandate is to review whether psychologists complied with professional standards.  It is not the job of the College to overrule the opinions of psychologists who have completed clinical assessments or file reviews.

Both WorkSafe BC and ICBC have appeal processes established to review decisions, including those informed by a psychologist’s opinion or file review, and disagreements are appropriately resolved through those established processes. Information about these processes are available on the websites of Worksafe BC and ICBC.

In child custody and access proceedings, the law provides for cross-examination of an expert during the trial, to challenge the psychologist’s opinion, and a party may also present arguments or other evidence as to why they believe the psychologist arrived at the wrong conclusions (Provincial Court Family Rules, Rule 11(1.2) and Supreme Court Family Rules, Rule 13-1(2), and see J.M.W. v. R.C.H., 2003 BCSC 292, paras. 10-13 and Banni v. Muir, 2016 BCSC 2194, paras. 34, 37).

The Health Professions Review Board has found that, in most cases, “the proper forum in which to deal with a [s.211] assessment is in the court room and not through the complaints process of the College” (HPRB Decision No. 2011-HPA-228(a), 2013 BCHPRB 109, para. 98; see also HPRB Decision No. 2009-HPA-0094(b), 2012 BCHPRB 49, paras. 33-35 and HPRB Decision No. 2011-HPA-096(a), 2013 BCHPRB 18, paras. 26-27).

What can the College do about complaints about third party psychological assessments and file reviews? 

The College takes complaints seriously and works to make sure concerns raised in a complaint have been understood.  The complaint investigation process under the Health Professions Act is confined to examining whether a registrant has met appropriate professional standards, as opposed to the substance of the registrant’s professional opinions or recommendations. The College’s Inquiry Committee cannot provide clinical opinions, diagnosis or treatment recommendations, or substitute its own professional opinions or recommendations for those expressed by a registrant in a psychological assessment report or file review; nor can the College compel a registrant to withdraw their report or change their opinion. The College cannot direct any other agency or institution (such as the Courts, WorkSafe BC or ICBC) to change their decisions. Nor can the College expedite a complaint investigation in order that the Inquiry Committee’s decision may be used in another process.

When the Inquiry Committee identifies concerns about a registrant’s professional conduct during an investigation, the Committee will take action to address those concerns, in the public interest, and will report its decision and conclusions to both the complainant and the registrant. The College may also notify the public of limits or conditions placed on a psychologist’s practice, in accordance with the provisions of the Act and the BC Health Regulators’ Framework for Public Notification.

Psychological assessments and file reviews may involve areas of legitimate professional debate among experts, which do not engage concerns about any registrant’s professional conduct or competence. It is not the role of the College to resolve such professional debates. Conversely, when the Inquiry Committee does identify a concern about a registrant’s compliance with a professional standard in the course of providing a psychological assessment or file review, that concern does not necessarily imply that there is a reason to question the registrant’s ultimate conclusions or recommendations. For example, the Inquiry Committee may express concerns about how a registrant communicated the results of an assessment (Code of Conduct Standard 11.10), but such concerns would not typically be reflective of the substance of the opinion itself. Likewise, the Inquiry Committee may express concerns about a registrant’s approach to one element in an assessment, but such concerns might not provide a basis to question conclusions or recommendations that follow from the convergence of multiple sources of information and assessment methods (Code of Conduct Standard 11.32).