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

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When it comes to working with a therapist to do psychotherapy in the Canadian Province of Ontario, multiple mental health professionals can legally provide the service. 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. Please know that the term “therapist” is usually used in media and popular psychology articles. All those professionals mentioned above can be referred to as “therapists.”

Here is a great summary of Ontario’s mental health professionals comparison by the Ontario Psychological Association

Source: Ontario Psychological Association (OPA)

Three professionals comprise the main “workforce” of psychotherapy: psychologists, social workers, and psychotherapists. Psychiatrists are medical doctors specializing in mental health and usually treat people from medical perspectives. Their training in psychotherapy can vary significantly. However, only family physicians and psychiatrists can prescribe medications. 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 a 1-year clinical residency. Their training programs are standardized across Canada and U.S.A. They must demonstrate five core competencies: interpersonal relationships, assessment & diagnosis, intervention and consultation, and ethics & standards. Additionally, they must pass three exams and complete one 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 a 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 provide psychotherapy services, they are recommended to receive 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 the practice of psychotherapy as a social worker.

Social workers are not allowed to communicate diagnoses.

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 a 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 requires an undergraduate degree or university master’s program. They must also complete 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 diagnoses.

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 a sliding scale.   

After you figure out the differences between mental health professionals, how do you find the right one? Read here.

Click here to have a 10-minute free phone consultation with Dr. Houyuan Luo, a registered counselling/clinical psychologist.

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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