This blog is not a substitute for therapy, but provides evidence-base education for the purposes of self-help and information.
Seeking out support for your mental health concerns is a huge first step on the road to healing. However, there are so many different types of mental healthcare professionals out there that selecting someone to work with can often seem overwhelming.
To ease the burden, we’ve created this helpful guide to highlight some of the differences and similarities between the various mental healthcare professionals practicing in Ontario. Of course keep in mind that if you decide to see someone outside of the province or country, this criteria could look very different. We also recommend checking a few different sources for your information, as it’s important to feel confident in your mental health care choices.
A Psychiatrist is a medical doctor (MD) who specializes in complex mental health disorders. They have attended medical school, can prescribe medication, can conduct assessments and provide diagnoses, and are often trained in psychotherapy interventions such as CBT, but this is not a requirement.
Seeing a psychiatrist is often a good choice if you suspect you may be suffering from a mental illness that could benefit from medical management such as schizophrenia/schizoaffective disorder or bipolar disorder, which requires an official diagnosis in order for proper treatment and medication. A referral from your doctor is typically required and there is often a waitlist to see a psychiatrist, the wait ranges from 3-6 months or longer depending on where you are located and if you are able to attend a session via video therapy.
A Psychologist holds a PhD or a master’s level degree in psychology. Like Psychiatrists, they can conduct assessments, provide a diagnosis, and are often trained to provide psychotherapy – although this is not a requirement. Since Psychologists are not doctors, they cannot prescribe medications. They can however work with your family doctor or a Psychiatrist to provide the diagnosis needed for prescription medication.
There has been an increased demand for psychologists in recent years and often there are now waitlist to see them, however the waitlist time is much lower than with a Psychiatrist, often around 1-3 months.
A Registered Psychotherapist (RP) holds a master’s level degree (MA) in counselling or psychology. Although they can use assessments to guide the course of treatment, they cannot provide a diagnosis or prescribe medication. RPs typically specialize in a variety of psychotherapeutic interventions such as CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy), EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing), Narrative Therapy, or Solutions-Focused Therapy. Many do couples therapy or family therapy.
Their services are often covered by private insurance but it is a good idea to check with your provider beforehand as some plans do not cover RPs.
Registered Psychotherapists Qualifying have completed their master’s level coursework, however they are required to complete a large number of psychotherapy hours under the supervision of a qualified supervisor in order to gain full RP designation. When they are under supervision, this does not mean that another therapist will be in the room while they conduct therapy with their client, it simply means that they check in with their supervisor on a regular basis about the clients they see. This is often very beneficial to the client as their therapist can get more insights on how to support their healing journey but consulting a more senior therapist.
Your sessions with an RP(Q) will typically be covered under private insurance (if you have coverage for Registered Psychotherapists), however the registration number of their supervisor is often needed to process reimbursement.
Registered Social Workers (RSW) hold their master’s degree in social work. Similar to RP’s they cannot provide a diagnosis or prescribe medication, and they must complete a certain number of supervised hours in order to gain full RSW designation. Social workers tend to focus on mental health from more of a social systems lens, and while they can be trained to offer psychotherapy, this training is not part of their master’s level degree work.
Social workers often offer mental health support to both children and adults. They may work in the public sector at a hospital as a patient advocate, or in social services for children in the foster care system, or with elderly people transitioning into long term care. Social workers can also work as a part of a family doctor medical health team, which means they will sometimes be covered under OHIP.
While cost and insurance coverage is often an important factor to consider when selecting a mental health professional, it’s just as important to find the right personality fit. As with any other relationship, you want to make sure that their approach to therapy aligns with your values and personality and that you feel comfortable speaking with them.
Take your time when selecting a practitioner by doing your research. Many professionals have their own website, a social media presence, and profiles on websites like Psychology Today. You can also look up any professional on their governing body’s website. Additionally, many offer free consultations over the phone which can be a great way to determine if they are the right fit for you without investing money upfront.
Curious about the therapists at Christina Janiga Psychotherapy? Reach out to see who is the best fit for your needs!
Christina Janiga and associated employees of Christina Janiga Psychotherapy offer virtual psychotherapy and couselling sessions through secure, Canada-based software called OnCall Health and JaneVideo. OnCall Health and JaneVideo are secure and encrypted online video platforms that meet all of Canada’s privacy requirements and laws.
For more information, please see the privacy policies of OnCall Health and Jane.