What's the deal with mental health and MSP?
Mental health is an unregulated profession in the province of British Columbia.
Mental Health and MSP Coverage
You may be wondering if counselling services are covered by MSP (Medical Services Premium). Currently most mental health services provided by a counsellor without a hospital referral are NOT covered by MSP.
Individuals who use mental health services provided by a counsellor must pay out of pocket. This can present barriers such as finding accessible and affordable counselling services. Many low cost and no-cost counselling services are provided by graduate students who are supervised by an experienced professional. This is a fantastic way to get the support you need. At the same time, your counsellor will change over time as their internship ends and new internships begin.
Psychotherapy is not eligible to be covered by MSP unless you have been referred through a hospital program or mental health team. In these cases, you may be referred to a psychiatric group or specialized treatment program. This may include individual therapy and often includes participation in a group therapy program.
What Regulation Means for the Public
There is currently no provincial registry, provincial standards, or system to enforce standards and codes of conduct for mental health practitioners in BC. This means that anyone can claim they are an "interventionist" and prey on unsuspecting individuals, couples and families with mental health and wellbeing concerns.
While the profession is unregulated, professional licensing bodies exist that have rigorous standards and codes of conduct. How can you make sure your counsellor is a licensed professional? Ask your therapist what their qualifications are and research the letters that follow after their name.
An RCC is a Registered Clinical Counsellor licensed with the BCACC (British Columbia Association of Clinical Counsellors). A CCC is a Canadian Certified Counsellor registered with the CCPA (Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Assocation). These are the most prestigious and recognized regulatory associations for counsellors in BC.
The BC government recognizes the impact of mental health on overall health and wellbeing, so what advocacy is happening?
Advocacy for Mental Health: FACT BC
FACT BC is an organization that is focused on including counselling as a regulated health service. For 2 decades, FACT BC has been pursuing the development of a College of Counselling Therapists for British Columbians.
FACT BC's advocacy is not calling for new legislation, it simply requires minister approval. The professional regulation of counselling could potentially open the doors to having counselling included in regular MSP coverage.
Every profession needs objective oversight. A College of Counselling Therapists would do this at no cost to the public and in service of the public. This way you could be certain that your counsellor is a registered and regulated professional.
You can read more about FACT BC and their advocacy efforts at FACTBC.org.
Public mental health resources in BC:
HealthLink BC: HelpLinkBC.ca/mental-health
Canadian Mental Health Association: CMHA.ca
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