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  • Writer's pictureKaterina Yaroslavsky

Psychiatrist, Psychologist, Psychotherapist, Social Worker, Counsellor: What's the Difference?

Updated: Jun 23, 2023

If you've been looking for a therapist for a while, you may have encountered the various different types of available options and wondered what they are all about. In this article, we'll go over the different types of therapists and what they specialize in so that you can find the best fit for your needs.

Firstly, as an overview there are many different ways to get therapy depending on your needs. Psychotherapy is a regulated profession in Ontario, meaning only certain regulated professionals can call themselves psychotherapists and they must be registered with an associated professional body. These include:

- College of Registered Psychotherapists of Ontario

- College of Nurses of Ontario

- College of Occupational Therapists of Ontario

- College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario

- College of Psychologists of Ontario

- Ontario College of Social Workers and Social Service Workers.

This means anyone calling themselves a psychotherapist must be registered with one of the above colleges and you can search them in these directories for more information about their credentials and experience.

Psychiatrists are medical doctors that sometimes provide psychotherapy services, but they are often the go-to for specific mental health assessments and medication prescriptions/management and are covered by OHIP. To see a psychiatrist you would need to talk to your family doctor for a referral. Only medical doctors can prescribe medications so if that is what you are looking for your family doctor would be the place to start.

Psychologists are professionals who have a master's degree and/or doctorate and they offer psychotherapy services in addition to psychological assessments and diagnoses. Psychologist services are not covered by OHIP* but are often covered at least in part through private insurance. Their rates are generally higher than that of a psychotherapist or social worker.

Psychotherapists have a master's degree and/or doctoral degree and they offer different types of psychotherapy services for virtually any presenting problem depending on their training and specialty areas. They are not covered by OHIP and they do not diagnose, but their services are often covered through private insurance.

Social Workers that provide clinical therapy services have a master's degree or higher as well. Social workers also provide psychotherapy services for a variety of issues depending on their specialty areas. They are not generally covered by OHIP and do not diagnose, but their services are often covered through private insurance.

Counsellors are not in a regulated or protected category. This means that anyone can call themselves a counsellor in Ontario and do not have to have specific education or training. They cannot diagnose and are not covered by OHIP and their services can greatly vary.

This is a good overview for you to understand some of the major differences between practitioners. Generally, if you are looking for someone to talk to and work with for issues like anxiety, depression, trauma, relationships, stress management, grief, eating disorders, etc., then you can often get great support from a registered psychotherapist or social worker. If you are looking for medication you will need to go through a medical doctor and if you are looking for a diagnosis you will need to see either a psychiatrist or psychologist (and then probably should work with someone like a social worker or psychotherapist additionally for therapy). Counsellors can be helpful but you need to be careful about vetting them individually to ensure they have the qualifications to help support you.

*Note, of the above-mentioned that are not generally covered by OHIP, they may be covered in the context of a government-funded hospital or clinic.

At Simcoe County Psychotherapy we are a team of Registered Psychotherapists that work with a variety of issues with adolescents, teens, and adults. If you're wanting to book with one of our therapists but are unsure of whether or not they are the right fit for you, feel free to reach out for a free 15-minute consultation and we would be happy to answer any questions you may have.

Difference between therapists

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