Difference Between Psychologists, Psychotherapists and Social Workers in Toronto, Ontario

This article is also available in 中文.

When it comes to psychotherapy in the Canadian Province of Ontario, multiple mental health professionals can legally perform that activity. They are: psychologists, psychotherapists, social workers, psychiatrists, family physicians, nurse practitioners, and occupational therapists. It can be confusing for clients to choose among those professionals. This article is to help you navigate this process.

Three of those professionals consist of the main “workforce” of psychotherapy: psychologists, social workers, and psychotherapists. Psychiatrists are medical doctors specialized in mental health and they usually treat people from medical perspectives. Their training in psychotherapy can vary significantly. I will focus on those three professionals here.

Psychologists

They have been regulated by the College of Psychologists of Ontario (CPO) since 1960. The vast majority of psychologists have a Doctoral degree (Ph.D. or Psy.D.) in professional psychology. They usually have 5-7 years of graduate work, which includes 3-year long practicums, and 1-year clinical residency. Their training programs are standardized across Canada and U.S.A. They need to demonstrate five core competencies: interpersonal relationships, assessment & diagnosis, intervention and consultation, and ethics & standards. Additionally, they need to pass three exams and complete 1 year of post-doctoral supervised practice to get a license.

Psychologists can legally communicate diagnosis.

Depending on where you live in Ontario, psychologists in private practice usually charge C$ 225-250 per session and all extended health benefits cover psychologists’ services. Some psychologists offer sliding scale.   

Social Workers

They have been regulated by the Ontario College of Social Workers and Social Services Workers (OCSWSS) since 1998. The vast majority of social workers have a Master’s degree in Social Work. In order to perform psychotherapy, they are recommended to receive a further training with a clinical focus and complete 2-3 years of supervised practice by their practice guidelines. However, that is not mandatory and there is no specific information about standards for competency attainment in practice of psychotherapy as a social worker.

Social workers are not allowed to communicate diagnosis.

Depending on where you live in Ontario, social workers in private practice usually charge C$ 100-150 per session and some extended health benefits cover social workers’ services. Some social workers offer sliding scale.   

Psychotherapists

They have been regulated by the College of Registered Psychotherapists of Ontario (CRPO) since 2015. The vast majority of them completed a graduate level psychotherapy program that require an undergraduate degree or university master’s program. They are also required to complete a total of 1,000 direct client contact hours and 150 hours of clinical supervision. Their competencies include foundations, collegial & interpersonal relationships, professional responsibilities, therapeutic process, professional literature and applied research.

Psychotherapists are not allowed to communicate diagnosis.

Depending on where you live in Ontario, psychotherapists in private practice usually charge C$ 100-150 per session and some extended health benefits cover psychotherapists’ services. Some psychotherapists offer sliding scale.   

References:

The College of Psychologists of Ontario

Ontario College of Social Workers and Social Services Workers

College of Registered Psychotherapists of Ontario

Ontario Psychological Association Professional Comparison Chart

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