The BC Association of Clinical Counsellors is dedicated to protecting the public through the promotion and regulation of safe and ethical practice of clinical counselling, and in carrying out this mandate, the Association’s Inquiry Committee receives and investigates complaints regarding aspects of its members’ practices.
Each complaint is responded to in accordance with the BCACC bylaws, and in keeping with the rules of administrative fairness and natural justice. In particular, confidentiality is maintained throughout the investigative process, except where disclosure may be required by law. To the extent that resources permit, complaints are investigated in a timely fashion.
2. Preliminary Review of a Complaint
Once a formal complaint package is received, the Registrar completes a preliminary review to determine whether the complaint is within the Association’s mandate, and if so, which principles from our Code of Ethical Conduct and Standards of Clinical Practice for Registered Clinical Counsellors are relevant to the case. The Registrar then makes recommendations to the Inquiry Committee for disposition of the complaint.
3. Inquiry Committee’s Mandate
The mandate of the Inquiry Committee is to consider complaints filed regarding, acts or omissions which have taken place during the time an individual has been a Registered member of the BCACC, and which relate to the practice of clinical counselling as defined in the scope of practice for members of BCACC. When the complaint is outside this mandate a letter is sent to the complainant and the matter is closed. When a complaint is found to be within the scope of the Inquiry Committee’s mandate, the Registrar notifies the member and sends him or her a copy or summary of the complaint.
4. Communications during the Investigation
During the course of an investigation, all communications from the complainant and the member normally flow through the Investigator. Committee decisions and any action plan to be undertaken by the member are communicated in writing to the member through the Office of the Registrar.
5. Role of Investigator
The role of the Investigator, under the Committee’s direction, is to collect all information relevant to a case from anyone concerned. The Deputy Registrar or Registrar acts as Investigator unless there is a conflict of interest. In the situation in which there is a conflict of interest for the usual investigators an alternate arrangement will happen which may include, BCACC contracting with an outside Investigator.
6. Inquiry Committee’s Role during the Investigative Process
The Committee identifies and generates questions requiring clarification to focus the Investigator’s work, which includes interviews with complainant(s), the member, and any other persons the Committee, believes may shed light on the issues at hand. Once this has been completed, the Investigator makes a report to the Inquiry Committee, which then analyzes and thoroughly considers the information in order to arrive at a decision.
7. Investigator’s Report
The Investigator’s report sets out the facts of a complaint and a summary of the evidence gathered. After reading the Investigator’s Report, the Committee may find that sufficient information exists to come to a decision, or may direct the Investigator to gather more information or, in the rare event that the complaint is of sufficient severity, direct the Registrar to issue a citation to the member for a hearing before the Discipline Committee (see below).
8. Courses of Action
After reviewing all pertinent information, the Committee may decide among the following courses of action:
a) close the case if the Committee is of the view that the matter is trivial, frivolous, vexatious, or made in bad faith or that the conduct or competence to which the matter relates is satisfactory;
b) request the member enter into a Consent Agreement;
c) facilitate mediation between the complainant(s) and the member;
d) appoint a fitness to practice panel;
e) direct the Registrar to issue a citation for a hearing before the Discipline Committee; or,
f) take any other action the Inquiry Committee considers appropriate and necessary to resolve a complaint, including writing an Advisory Statement.
9. Consent Agreements
Consent Agreements are agreements between the member and the Inquiry Committee in which the member consents to undertake remedial action directly related to the issues raised in the complaint. This may include attending professional development training or writing an apology or other remedies which are relevant to the issues raised in the case. The member who has entered into the Consent Agreement reports to the Office of the Registrar until the terms of the Agreement have been satisfied, at which time the Consent Agreement is discharged, and the case file is closed.
Should the Registrar determine that the member has failed to fulfill the requirements of a Consent Agreement, the file is returned to the Inquiry Committee for further deliberations.
When the Inquiry Committee recommends that a complaint be mediated, it appoints a mediator who is acceptable to both the complainant and the member, and the mediation process is conducted in accordance with the terms of a written mediation contract drawn up by the complainant and the member. The Inquiry Committee must approve the terms of any agreement reached through mediation. When an agreement is not reached through mediation, the mediator will refer the matter back to the Inquiry Committee.
9. Fitness to Practice Panel
Where the Committee has reason to believe that a member may be incapacitated, a fitness to practice panel may be struck. A fitness to practice panel will request co-operation by the member in the process, which may include assessment by an appropriate health care professional, the results of which are reported back to the Committee. If the member declines to participate in this process, or it finds that the public is at risk, the Committee may recommend that extraordinary action be taken to protect the public, which may include setting limits or conditions on the member’s practice, or suspend the registration of the member. Should the fitness to practice panel find grounds that the member is incapacitated it will recommend that the Committee negotiate a Consent Agreement with the member.
10. Citation to a Hearing before the Discipline Committee
If an issue is sufficiently severe, or when all other avenues to resolve a complaint have been exhausted, the Inquiry Committee may direct the Registrar to issue a citation to the member to attend a hearing before the Discipline Committee. A citation:
a) names the member as Respondent;
b) describes the nature of the complaint or other matter(s) that is (are) to be the subject of the hearing and any evidence in support of that subject matter;
c) specifies the date, time and place of the hearing; and, advises the Respondent that the Discipline Committee is entitled to proceed with the hearing in the member’s absence.
11. Advisory Statement
When a member declines to cooperate with the investigative process, one option the Committee has is to issue an Advisory Statement, which is placed on the member’s file, and close the case. An Advisory Statement may include:
a) a summary of the results of the investigation;
b) a description of the committee’s attempts to resolve the complaint;
c) an explanation as to why the Advisory Statement is being issued
When members of the public inquire as to a member’s being in good standing with the Association they will be informed about the presence of an Advisory letter on the member’s file.
Decisions made by the Inquiry Committee may be appealed by the complainant to the Board of Directors. An appeal must:
a) be in writing;
b) set out the grounds for the appeal;
c) provide new evidence to be considered by the Board, if applicable; and,
d) be received at BCACC’s head office within 15 days of the complainant having received written notice of the Committee’s decision.
Revised: January 2004
Inquiry Committee Investigative Procedures
Approved by the Board of Directors
March 13, 2004