Professional Issues in Canadian Counselling Psychology: Identity, Education, and Professional Practice

By Haverkamp, Beth E.; Robertson, Sharon E. et al. | Canadian Psychology, November 2011 | Go to article overview

Professional Issues in Canadian Counselling Psychology: Identity, Education, and Professional Practice


Haverkamp, Beth E., Robertson, Sharon E., Cairns, Sharon L., Bedi, Robinder P., Canadian Psychology


The past decade has seen significant growth in counselling psychology's professional identity, increased visibility of the specialization within applied psychology, and advances in doctoral training and accreditation by the Canadian Psychological Association. The current article details professional issues associated with the recent evolution of the field, including the establishment of a strong professional identity for the profession, developments and challenges associated with graduate training (e.g., the limited availability of predoctoral internships), and the implications of the dynamic, changing workplace environment for graduates affiliated with counselling psychology. Recommendations are offered for continued development of the specialization in its Canadian context.

Keywords: Counselling psychology, professional issues, training, professional identity

In Canada, many psychologists, other mental health professionals, students, and the public view counselling psychology as a relatively new, comparatively unknown specialization within applied or professional psychology. This situation has begun to change as the past decade has seen increased visibility for counselling psychology, both within the Canadian Psychological Association (CPA) and within the broader professional landscape. This is promoted by notable and consistent membership growth in Canadian Psychological Association (CPA) Section 24, Counselling Psychology. In 2004, membership was 179 (Lalande, 2004), and now it has more than doubled. Of the 385 members in 2011, nearly 50% (n = 181) are student members (S. Cairns, personal communication, April 22, 2011), which signifies strong current student identification with the discipline.

Given the CPA Section on Counselling Psychology has only been in existence since 1986 (Lalande, 2004), and there is both public and professional confusion surrounding the terms counsellor, counselling psychologist, and counsellor educator, it is important for the field to elucidate how counselling psychology can be differentiated from other mental health professions, and particularly from clinical psychology and counsellor education, while simultaneously honouring its unique history and pursuing/maintaining collaboration with closely allied professions. Progress toward this end was made by a diverse group of counselling psychologists from across Canada who developed the definition of counselling approved by the CPA Section on Counselling Psychology, and which was subsequently adopted by CPA's Board of Directors in November 2009 (Bedi et al., 201 1). The term counsellor is vague and perplexing because it may be used in reference to fields totally unrelated to psychology such as financial counsellors. In this paper, we will consider professional counsellors to be individuals trained in counselling at the Master's level, who do not go on to become registered as psychologists. Many counsellors and counsellor educators would hold Canadian Certified Counsellor credentials through the Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association (CCPA). We consider counselling psychologists as those who are registered psychologists and who are trained in counselling psychology at the Master's or Doctoral level (depending on jurisdiction). One indicator of the field's "blended identity" is that both counselling psychologists and counsellor educators may be involved in the training of both future counsellors and psychologists.

As the field works to crystallize its sense of professional identity, standardize its training, and best prepare graduates for the labour market, counselling psychologists are becoming better able to communicate their professional identity, shared characteristics, scope of practice, and training priorities. In this paper, we outline the emerging professional identity of Canadian counselling psychologists, examine the characteristics of available education and training, and highlight contemporary professional issues in the workplace that have emerged for those who identify with this specialization of applied psychology. …

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