• Regulations of Professional College

    Q: I know that counselors take notes during psychotherapy sessions. What happens to those files when the counselling is done?

    A: The answer to your question is both simple and complex and depends on a number of factors: 1. It depends on where the counsellor practices. In Canada, this varies as to province.

    2. It will depend on the professional designation of the counsellor. As a social worker I can tell you about my obligations. Others who provide counselling are from other professions—each one has its own rules. Still others are not legislated as a professional and thus the rules do not apply to them.

    3. It depends on the age of the client. The rules are different if the client is a child as opposed to an adult.

    4. Lastly, it will depend on the capacity under which the counselling was provided—if the therapist’s agency is one that has policies that require a longer storage period; if the file may be required in the future for a purpose such as court or other legal defense; or if the therapist has no professional obligations.


    Looking at each of these individually, I can only speak to my own obligations and so I will provide the answers for a Registered Social Worker, in the province of Ontario.

    1. The rules across Canada are similar but the specifics depend on the province.
    2. In Ontario the answer to this question is regulated by the Ontario College of Social Workers and Social Service Workers. Any one who is a member of this professional College is a registered social worker and must follow the regulations.
    3. The Ontario College requires all members to store and maintain all client records in a secure, locked facility for a minimum of at least seven years from the date of the last entry or, if the client was less than eighteen years of age at the date of the last entry, at least seven years from the day the client became or would have become eighteen.
    4. Each profession is regulated by its own college and has its own regulations. There is one catch to this though. If the therapist does not belong to a professional college, whether because they are not qualified or because they chose to not join so that they do not have to follow professional standards and regulations, the unregulated individual has no obligations regarding records.  In this situation, the client cannot be guaranteed that their file has being safely stored or disposed of.



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