In this blog, we’ll explore some of the most common types of mental health providers in Ontario and Quebec, shedding light on their education, roles, and distinctions. Whether you are seeking therapy for yourself or a loved one, having a grasp of the different mental health professionals can empower you to find the most suitable care that aligns with your needs.

What kind of therapist do I need?

A therapist is a general term to designate a trained mental health professional who specializes in providing support, guidance, and treatment for individuals experiencing psychological, emotional, or behavioral challenges.

Therapists may have different titles and qualifications based on their training and educational backgrounds. Let’s explore professionals that provide therapy (or more precisely, psychotherapy) in Ontario and Quebec:

What is a psychologist?

A clinical psychologist holds a doctoral and/or master’s degree in clinical psychology. Clinical psychology is the study of how people think, feel, and behave as well as the study of mental disorders and their treatment.

Psychologists who hold doctoral degrees can use the title of Doctor (Dr.). Psychologists are licensed and regulated by provincial regulating bodies (College of Psychologists of Ontario and the Ordre des psychologues du Québec). Psychologists have specific areas of competency, such as clinical neuropsychology and child psychology.

Psychologists are uniquely trained to use psychological tests to inform assessments and diagnose psychological disorders. They are also experts in providing a variety of evidence-based psychotherapy to address psychological issues.

What is a psychiatrist?

Psychiatrists are medical doctors (M.D.) who go on to specialize in mental disorders. Psychiatrists are expert in using medication to help their patients. For this reason, they tend to be more involved in treating those with severe mental health disorders and are often found in hospitals.

Nevertheless, psychiatrists can also perform psychotherapy and work in community settings. For more information on the study and practice of psychiatry, you can visit the Canadian Psychiatric Association website.

What is a psychotherapist?

Psychotherapists are health care professional that provide psychotherapy. Psychotherapists can hold bachelor’s or master’s degrees.

Psychotherapists hope to facilitate human change through psychotherapy. Most commonly they work to address wellness, relationships, personal growth, career development, mental health, and psychological illness or distress.

In Ontario, Registered Psychotherapists are authorized to perform the controlled act of psychotherapy if they are part of the College of Registered Psychotherapists of Ontario. In Quebec, psychotherapists have to be registered with the Ordre des psychologues du Québec.

What is a social worker?

Social workers provide psychotherapy services to individuals, couples, families, groups, and communities. Many Social Workers in private practice, but they also work in clinics, hospitals and other health establishments. Social Workers’ training is very holistic, and they will often target community services in their approach to relieving distress.

To know more about social work practice visit the Ontario College of Social Workers and Social Service Workers and the Ordre des travailleurs sociaux et des thérapeutes conjugaux et familiaux du Québec.

What is psychotherapy?

Psychotherapy, also called ‘‘talk therapy’’ or simply ‘‘therapy’’, is a way to help people with a variety of emotional difficulties and mental disorders. Psychotherapy is a treatment that aims to help a person function better and increase their well-being.

Psychotherapy can be conducted in an individual, family, couple, or group setting, and can help individuals of any age. Short-term psychotherapy can involve a few sessions to address immediate difficulties, whereas long-term psychotherapy can involve months or years of support for longstanding and complex issues.

Treatment goals and session frequency and duration are planned jointly by the client and psychologist. A trusting relationship between the client and their therapist is essential to working together effectively and benefiting from psychotherapy.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does it mean when a therapist is ”licensed” or ”registered”?

Provinces tightly regulated the provision of health care services to protect the public. Regardless of which mental health care professional you choose, it is important to check if they are registered or licensed by a regulatory body. This will ensure that someone has checked the person’s credentials, that they have sufficient hours of practice and that they are practicing within their scope. Unfortunately, bad experiences do happen, and regulatory bodies provide a way for the public to make a complaint against a professional if necessary.

A directory search on the college or association that a professional belongs to is a quick and easy way to check if they are licensed.

Can a psychologist prescribe medication?

No. In Ontario and Quebec, only psychiatrists and family physicians can prescribe medications to treat mental disorders. Although psychologists do not prescribe, they have experience coordinating care with their clients’ physicians and are trained in providing psychotherapy for individuals who are taking medication.

Do I need a physician referral to see a psychologist?

No. However, your private insurance might require a physician referral to reimburse you. Please verify with your insurance provider.

Do I need a physician referral to see a psychiatrist?

Yes. A psychiatrist is a medical specialty. Your primary care provider can refer to a psychiatrist if they feel they cannot manage your mental health issues or medication themselves.

Wait, so what is counselling then?

Many professionals and groups will use counselling and psychotherapy synonymously. For more information visit the Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association.

Navigating the landscape of mental health providers and therapists can be a daunting task, especially when seeking the right professional help. From psychologists and psychiatrists to psychotherapists and social workers, the spectrum of mental health providers in Ontario and Quebec is diverse, each with unique qualifications and approaches to addressing mental health concerns.

dr. stephanie leon online child psychologist neuropsychologist in ontario quebec

Dr. Stephanie Leon

Dr. Leon is a clinical psychologist and neuropsychologist practicing in the province of Ontario and Quebec. She works with children, teens, and their parents to address emotional, behavioural, and cognitive difficulties. She offers online psychology services through the Leon Psychology Clinic.

You can also read our article about online therapy.

Found this helpful? Share with a friend!