These FAQs are intended to be useful in understanding the College’s mandate, policies, and procedures. Readers are advised that policies and procedures change. The College endeavours to update its FAQs and the website as efficiently as possible. The application of some procedures may depend upon the circumstances of a matter and therefore, may not occur the same way in every instance. The FAQs are for information purposes only and may not be relied upon as legal advice. To the extent that there are any inconsistencies between these FAQs and the provisions of the Health Professions Act or Part 4 of the College’s bylaws, the provisions of the Act and bylaws take precedence.
If further assistance is needed in answering your question(s) please write to the College at the postal address or fax number below:
Address: 404 -1755 West Broadway, Vancouver, B.C. V6J 4S5
Facsimile: (604) 736-6133
General Complaint FAQs
While anyone can submit a complaint in writing to the College, it is most common for the complaint to come from the patient or someone who is directly involved with the patient’s concern or is a legal representative of the patient.
The College is unable to advise over the phone whether your concern constitutes a complaint. The College is obliged to review all concerns it receives in writing. Completing the standard complaint form and providing all supporting documentation will ensure all relevant evidence is considered. The College will review all evidence submitted before commenting or undertaking an investigation.
The College has authority to investigate the professional conduct and competence of Registrants of the College of Psychologists of BC.
The Registrant is informed promptly when a complaint is received. It is part of the College’s legal responsibility to inform the Registrant about the nature of the complaint received and who made the complaint. Registrants are provided with preliminary information about the nature of the complaint and the name of the person who made the complaint, except in extreme circumstances where there are safety concerns. In this latter case, the Committee may be able to withhold the name on a temporary basis. The laws that apply to the College include the Registrant’s right to know who is lodging a complaint and the basis of the complaint. Depending on the circumstance, the College may also need to contact other individuals for information relevant information to the investigation.
There is no time limit for filing a complaint. It is best to file a complaint when the concerns arise for a number of reasons, including the availability of relevant information and records. For example, registrants are only required to hold onto their clinical records for a period of seven (7) years or seven (7) years after reaching the age of majority for child or teenage clients.
If a situation arises where two or more individuals, such as a husband and wife, or parents, have the same concerns about a Registrant, they may lodge their complaint together with the understanding and their explicit consent to share information with the other Complainant(s). If you are not sure whether to file an individual or group complaint, please contact us and we will do our best to assist.
The College has jurisdiction to investigate complaints against a former Registrant as long as the conduct or competence issues of concern date to the time period that they were registered. However, in terms of complaint outcomes, if someone is no longer practicing the College will not be able to impose any conditions on that former registrant.
The College relies on written communication as a way to maintain an accurate record of communications. The College has a policy to minimize use of email for confidential information as it is less secure than regular mail or fax. The College treats all complaint material as confidential and for that reason, accepts complaint material by regular mail and fax.
The Health Professions Act defines a serious matter as a matter which, “if admitted or proven following an investigation” would “ordinarily result” in an order being made which includes terms relating to the imposition of limitations or conditions on registration, or the suspension or cancellation of registration. All written complaints about “serious matters” go to the College’s Inquiry Committee. For matters that do not meet the Health Professions Act definition of a “serious matter”, the Registrar may conduct an investigation. In the process of investigating a complaint, the Registrar may request additional information from the Complainant, obtain the Registrant’s practice records, ask the Registrant questions about their conduct, or obtain any other information (both documentation and speaking to 3rd parties). The Registrar provides a decision report to the Complainant, the Registrant and the Inquiry Committee at the end of the investigation.
The Inquiry Committee is comprised of three members of the public and six Registrants. The committee members review and discuss all of the information pertinent to the complaint. In some circumstances, they may also choose to conduct interviews with the Complainant or the Registrant involved or seek information from other sources.
Meetings of the Inquiry Committee are in camera (this means they are confidential). The meetings are only attended by members of the Inquiry Committee, College staff and legal counsel.
Some matters require a formal report to the College, as per Section 32.2, 32.3, and 32.4 of the Health Professions Act. Registrants are always welcome to avail themselves of the College’s Practice Support Service (option “4” on the phone), or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The College welcomes the opportunity to discuss any concerns you may have about its activities and encourages you to make contact directly with staff of the College on these matters. Registrants are encouraged to review the Code of Conduct, including 7.4 and 7.5, regarding appropriateness of communications about and with the College and Board. Concerns which remain unresolved may be taken to the Provincial Ombudsperson.
Complaint Process FAQs
Once a written complaint is received, it is brought forward to the Inquiry Committee of the College. The Inquiry Committee is responsible under the law to investigate written complaints that fall within its jurisdiction. An investigation may include requesting additional information from the complainant, obtaining the respondent’s practice records, and asking the respondent questions about their conduct. At the end of the investigation, both the complainant and the respondent receive a report on the decision and the conclusions of the Committee.
The College does not publish or reveal the names of any Complainant, except to the Registrant(s) involved. While results and findings of complaints are often published as examples to remind Registrants about standards of conduct and behaviour, the Complainant’s name is never released. A Registrant’s name is published when a complaint investigation results in limitations or restrictions on registration, as per section 39.3 of the Health Professions Act.
The College does its best to investigate complaints in a timely fashion. The time varies considerably dependent on the complexity of the allegations and the volume of materials to be reviewed. The College of Psychologists of BC reports time from complaint to closure in it’s Annual Reports
. In 2015 the average time to complete an investigation of a complaint was 10 months.
All documents and materials relating to a complaint form part of the complaint file. Documents submitted to the College cannot be withheld from the Registrant and they cannot be submitted on a “without prejudice” basis. When asked to respond to any questions or concerns, the Registrant is provided with a complete copy of all the materials that will be before the Committee in making a decision about the matter.
The Health Professions Act outlines the timelines by which a complaint must be investigated and a decision made by the Inquiry Committee, and requires the College provide all Complainants with periodic notices/updates of the progress of their complaint. If you have specific questions about a notice/update you have received, you can call and leave a message on the complaint line at any time (option 3 or extension 300).
Information on the nature of consensual resolutions obtained each year is available in the College’s Annual Reports
. Many agreements involve changes to the individual’s practice, such as improving the informed consent procedure at intake, being clearer about reporting relationships, identifying “who the client is”, etc. In other cases, the Registrant may agree to apologize to a Complainant or other party, write a paper, take a course to remediate knowledge deficits, exclude some professional activities from his or her practice until additional competence in those activities has been achieved, or practice under supervision for a period of time. In the small number of very serious cases resolved by way of an Undertaking, Registrants have agreed to a suspension of their registration for a specified time, an assessment of their fitness to practice or their competency, or the cancellation of their registration. See the College’s notification page for a listing of Registrants who have signed Agreements related to serious matters.
The College does not have jurisdiction to award damages or refund fees to a Complainant.
The College’s complaint investigation timeline is determined by a number of factors including the urgency of the concerns raised with regard to public protection. The report about the complaint outcome is also subject to the confidentiality provisions of s. 53 of the Health Professions Act. The College is not able to meet external deadlines, given the obligations to conduct an adequate investigation of serious matters.
A decision report is drafted by the Inquiry Committee for every complaint investigation and sent to both the complainant and the respondent. The report contains a summary of the complaint allegations, the complaint investigation process, a summary of any action taken, and the decision and conclusions of the Committee based on its investigation of the allegations. The report is confidential in nature under section 53 of the Health Professions Act (HPA) and is not compellable in court or in any proceedings of a judicial nature, subject to the conditions outlined in that section.
If you have a general concern, you may wish to review the Health Professions Act (HPA), the Psychologists Regulation, the College Bylaws, and the Code of Conduct; the Code of Conduct contains the standards that govern registrants’ behaviour. You may also direct any questions to the College for a response. Complainants also have the right to have certain decisions made by the Inquiry Committee reviewed by the Health Professions Review Board.
Access to Psychological Services FAQs
There are many self-identified therapists, counselors and others who offer services in the area of mental health. Some of these individuals are regulated practitioners in psychology and professions other than psychology (e.g., social work). Others may not be regulated or may belong to a societal body or membership organization. A list of regulated health professionals is available from the BC Health Regulators website: www.bchealthregulators.ca
Registrants of the College are identified by their registration number, their title (most commonly “Registered Psychologist” (R.Psych.)) and an annual Certificate of Registration which is required to be posted in their professional office(s). The British Columbia’s Health Professions Act makes it an offence for anyone, other than a Registrant of the College of Psychologists of British Columbia, to use a title, description or abbreviation that expresses or implies that he or she is a registrant of the College. The Psychologists Regulation, under the Health Professions Act, also prohibits anyone, other than a Registrant, from using the titles “registered psychologist” and “psychologist”. Please inform the College immediately if you have any information regarding the unlawful use of the protected title “psychologist” in addition to any evidence (e.g. advertisements, brochures, payment receipts) that you may have.
The College does not operate a referral service. The website does contain a directory of registered psychologists in BC, which can be found here
. If you are looking for a psychologist who meets specific criteria (geographic location, type of problem, method of treatment, etc.), the British Columbia Psychological Association (BCPA) offers a referral service which some Registrants of the College subscribe to, however, this list is not an exhaustive list of psychologists in BC. You can access this referral service at (604) 730-0522 or 1 (800) 730-0522). The Canadian Register of Health Service Providers in Psychology (CRHSPP)
also has a referral list
The College is not involved in setting fees or rates for services. The Code of Conduct does include specific standards related to fees. See Section 12 of the Code of Conduct.
Psychological Records FAQs
Ownership of clinical records depends on the nature of the relationship with the Registrant, e.g. private patient or through another third party such as WorkSafeBC. If you have concerns with the Registrant’s conduct related to this issue, please submit a written complaint to the College.
Access to a clinical record depends on the particular circumstances of a case and the legislation that governs a particular record request:
- If you are a patient in private practice with a Registrant of the College, you are entitled to request a copy of your records from the Registrant. If you feel that your records are unlawfully being withheld, please submit a written complaint to the College.
- If you received services from a Registrant of the College through WorkSafeBC or another third party, you should check with that organization about access to records.
- Psychological tests are often protected by the test publisher’s copyright to ensure the integrity of the tests. Moreover, interpreting test data requires specific training. If you need to have your psychological test data released, you may be requested to provide the name of another psychologist.