WINNIPEG -- Manitoba’s counselling therapists are urging the province to regulate their profession, saying without oversight it can be “dangerous.”

“It’s the burden of professional counselling therapists to protect Manitobans from harm from untrained and incompetent people that are calling themselves counselling therapists or counsellors, but don’t really have the qualifications, the training to do that job well,” said Don Russell, a counselling therapist.

The Federation of Associations for Counselling Therapists in Manitoba (FACT-MANITOBA) has submitted a formal application to the Manitoba government asking the health minister to regulate counselling therapy. FACT is a federation of nine professional associations that represent more than 600 counselling therapists in Manitoba.

According to FACT, the lack of regulations is “dangerous” because anyone in Manitoba can say they are a counselling therapist and treat clients without any oversight. The federation noted this is even more important right now as more Manitobans are seeking counselling services due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the opioid crisis.

“Lots of us hear from our clients that they’ve had a negative and unfortunate experience with somebody previously that isn’t fully trained to treat the problem that the individual is asking for help with,” Russell said, noting that this could be harmful to the clients.

He added that Manitoba currently has a “mosaic” of regulatory colleges for mental health practitioners, including for psychiatrists, social workers, and psychologists.

“Counselling therapy is like the missing jigsaw puzzle piece of that mosaic,” Russell said.

“We want to close that gap so there is a complete continuum of care of regulatory colleges legislated by the provincial government to regulate our professions.”

He added regulating the profession would also help counselling therapists collaborate with other professions.

“We’re wanting to work alongside psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, et cetera,” Russell said.

For those seeking help right now, Russell suggests Manitobans look for a counselling therapist who is a member of a professional association that has a code of ethics, an ethics investigation process in place, and a standard of membership.

Counselling therapists in Manitoba have been preparing to regulate the profession under the Health Professions Act for the last nine years.

- With files from CTV’s Jon Hendricks.