Act no. V of 2015 brought about the creation of the Counselling Profession Act which regulates all matters relating to the counseling profession. This Act entered into force on the 1st May 2015 by order of the Minister responsible for the Family and Social Solidarity under L.N. 151/2015.
The Act introduces the requirement of a warrant for persons practicing the counseling profession. Under Article 3, a person can qualify for a temporary warrant by satisfying certain conditions which include the possession of a clean conduct, and having obtained a Masters degree in counselling. For the issue of a full warrant, the person also needs to prove to the Council of the Counselling Profession in Malta (‘the Council’) that he/she has undergone professional training and has work experience. The Council is a new entity established under the Act. The Council is tasked with establishing standards and practices for the profession, making recommendations regarding matters ancillary to the profession and keeping the Registers of Counsellors listing those that hold a full or temporary warrant, as well as those qualified as Counselling Supervisors.
The Act also prescribes instances in which the warrant may be lost, forfeited, suspended or revoked. The warrant to practice the counseling profession is lost or forfeited if its holder is convicted of a criminal offence which carries a punishment of imprisonment for a term exceeding one year or any other criminal offence that the Council considers as detrimental or not compatible with the counseling profession. The Council may also set up a Committee of Inquiry in order to investigate any alleged professional misconduct, gross negligence or incompetence in relation to a counsellor. This may result in the suspension or revocation of the counsellor’s warrant, a reprimand or any other penalties as may be prescribed. The decision of the Council may be appealed by the counsellor in question who feels aggrieved by the decision, before the Court of Appeal. An Appeal can, presumably, be brought about on points of law and fact, under general civil procedure laws.
Under the Act it is possible for two or more holders of a full warrant for the counseling profession to form a civil partnership, known as a ‘Society of Counsellors’ which civil partnership must practice the counseling profession exclusively. Under Article 17 of the Act, Counsellors are prescribed as public officers and as such, any person who compels a Counsellor to do, or refrain from doing, any act appertaining to his office by way of violence or threats may be found guilty of an offence and liable to imprisonment for a term from one to five years, and a fine (multa) of up to Euro 10,000.
Finally, any person who is not eligible for a temporary or a full warrant under the Act, but is employed with an agency or institution with training given or recognized only by the same agency or institution, may within six months from the date of entry into force of the Act, apply to the Council to be given a restricted warrant. By way of this warrant, the person may only be employed with the agency or institution with which he/she is already employed and such warrant is not transferrable to the practice of the counseling profession in a self-employed capacity. It may however be transferred to employment with another agency or institution as long as such agency or institution recognizes the training given to the person by the previous employer and upon an authorization in writing by the Council. Such person holding a restricted warrant shall still have obligations under the Act, not unlike the other persons holding full or temporary warrants under the same Act.