Seeking Qualified Therapists? Call to Action

Can therapists get away with being homophobic in BC?

Can therapists get away with being homophobic in BC?

Yes, but a group of concerned counsellors is pushing for regulation

In BC, anyone can hang out a counselling shingle, without necessarily being qualified. An umbrella group of concerned therapists’ associations wants to change that.

Indiana Joel/Daily Xtra

Bigots and charlatans pose too great a danger to queer mental health patients for psychotherapy in BC to go on unregulated, practitioners say.

Currently, anyone can claim to be a professional mental health counsellor without presenting, or possessing, any skills or qualifications.

“Psychotherapy counselling has a long history of traditional training that is heteronormative at best and homophobic at worst,” says Pega Ren, a clinical counsellor in Nelson, BC (and Daily Xtra’s retired “Ask the Expert” columnist).

As part of her counselling practice, Ren, who spoke with Xtra by phone, says she works with queer patients who require remedial therapy after inadequately trained therapists cause harm.

She remembers one client who came to her “quite broken” after being told they could just stop cross-dressing if they really wanted to. She fears what they might have done if they had been left with that message.

“We have people struggling with counsellors who are giving them the message that they’re sick or wrong or broken and that they can be fixed by willpower and self-hatred,” she says.

When someone is struggling and seeking help, Ren says, they need competent help, not further harm caused by an unqualified therapist.

A voluntary umbrella group of concerned therapists’ associations is now urging the provincial government to regulate the field of psychotherapy.

The Federation of Associations for Counselling Therapists in BC (FACT BC) is calling on practitioners and the public to write their MLAs.

FACT BC wants to help the government set up competency evaluation, a process for registering as a professional, quality assurance, and complaint resolution.

The initiative would be funded entirely by its members, says chair Glen Grigg.

FACT BC is funded by practitioners and advocates for statutory regulation under the BC Health Professions Act, Grigg tells Daily Xtra by email.

Grigg says he hopes enough people will write their MLAs to get the issue into platforms for the 2017 provincial election.

Vancouver-West End’s gay MLA says he has discussed the risks of unregulated counselling with practitioners, but politicians need to hear from the public before taking action.

“There may be an assumption that it already is regulated, that for something this important there would be a requirement for practitioners to sign a code of ethics,” Spencer Chandra Herbert suggests.

Chandra Herbert says part of the problem may be the privacy with which people guard their mental health.

“You’re at some of your most vulnerable moments when you go out and seek help,” he says.

“You would never want to be in a situation where you reach out for help and find a homophobic counsellor, and be unable to say they shouldn’t be practicing because they are giving hateful advice,” he says.

“Right now, you can still do that and call yourself a counsellor,” he says.

Only Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia have full counselling regulation, according to the Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association website.

Delayed Ejaculation

Dear Dr Ren,

After reading your column about PE (premature ejaculation), I thought you might be able to help me with the opposite problem. I can’t come with a partner!

This used to mean that I just came last, but over the years it is becoming more difficult to reach orgasm at all when I’m having sex with a boyfriend. It’s easier with hookups, and with masturbating I’m okay, but after a while with the same guy, nothing pops my cork. Once he notices, I become a ‘cause,’ with him trying to make me cum, and me trying, too. Eventually, I avoid sex and leave feeling inadequate and guilty.

Is there something I can do to turn this around? I want to be normal!

Never Premature

Dear Never Premature,

You are describing what we called RE (retarded ejaculation) or DE (delayed ejaculation). It affects about 3 per cent of men and is defined as “repeated delay in achieving, or the complete failure to achieve, ejaculation, despite receiving the level of sexual stimulation which would normally trigger it, and where the man cannot control the timing of his ejaculation”.

Men with DE usually complain of little or no difficulty attaining or maintaining erections, in spite of which they don’t feel particularly aroused. And, although PE and DE are on opposite sides of the cum spectrum, the problem with both is your focus on the timing of ejaculation rather than on the pleasure you could be experiencing.

What causes it?

  • It can be caused by, or a side effect of, SSRIs (antidepressants) and other drugs such as blood pressure meds, antipsychotics, diuretics and even some painkillers.
  • There seems to be an undeniable connection between strict religious orthodoxy (and attendant cultural sexual shame) and DE.
  • Some factors associated with masturbatory habits encourage DE, such as a death grip or idiosyncratic style or position, differing from what would be associated with the sensations of partnered sex.
  • Health concerns can also contribute, including Type 1 diabetes, neurological illnesses, multiple sclerosis, bladder or prostate surgeries, low Testosterone, and plain old aging.
  • Underlying relationship issues (wrong sex/wrong partner) sometimes prevent men from being willing or able to ‘let go.’
  • Concentration on performance rather than pleasure.


Retarded ejaculation, then, is best understood as a response to the interaction of biological, psychological, relationship and cultural factors. Check with your health care provider to eliminate physiological problem which can be easily taken care at an E.D. clinic.


Once you become aware of your “problem,” anxiety may draw your attention away from the erotic cues that would normally enhance your arousal. Men with RE often fail to experience sufficient erotic stimulation to reach the point of ejaculation.

Men with DE are usually sensitive and attentive lovers who concentrate on their partner’s responses and ignore their own. Focusing on your own fantasies and desires helps you respond to your own arousal.

What to do?

Remember the impact of erotic cues—look at your lover and/or watch arousing porn during sex.

If partnered sex doesn’t feel as good as solo sex, try switching up how you wank. Change hands, lessen your pressure, or alter your pace to approximate sex with your lover.

Assess your relationship. Familiarity decreases arousal, so keep your intimate relationships fresh and innovative.

Just as I suggested for the guy who came too fast, you need to lose the stop watch and concentrate on pleasure. Embrace intense desire. Stop trying to cum and simply enjoy your sensations. Be a little selfish.

The ‘cure’ comes when you learn your particular erotic turn-ons and indulge them sufficiently to increase your physiological arousal with your partner.