What is a Psychotherapist?

This is a question I’m asked all the time in my personal and professional life, and I can understand why! It is quite confusing to navigate all the different types of support out there.

I am a Registered Psychotherapist with the College of Registered Psychotherapists of Ontario, so I am qualified to practice psychotherapy. I have also completed my MSc in Clinical Psychology and am currently pursuing registration as a Psychological Associate with the College of Psychologists of Ontario. This takes quite a bit of time, approximately six years post-masters degree of full-time work. When I obtain the designation of Psychological Associate I will be qualified to diagnose mental health conditions and complete psychological assessments independently, in addition to practicing psychotherapy.

But what does that mean?

In Canada, our health services are regulated by provincial colleges which determine if a therapist or health practitioner has the education and experience to practice in the area they claim competency. This is a good website for more information on all the various colleges: http://www.regulatedhealthprofessions.on.ca


Now this is pretty straightforward when it comes to a massage therapist, chiropractor, physiotherapist, dentist, etc. Most people understand what they do and when it is necessary to access this type of care. However, when it comes to mental health there seem to be so many different types of practitioners. There are psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, psychotherapists, and counsellors. Additionally, sometimes a family physician, naturopath, mental health nurse, clergy member or other type of health care provider may offer emotional support and guidance. With so many options, its difficult to determine where to turn or how to find the support you need.

Registered Psychotherapist (RP) is a mental health professional that has obtained education and experience in mental health that is approved by the College of Registered Psychotherapists of Ontario. This reflects a competency-based model where applicants must demonstrate in a variety of ways that they possess the required knowledge, skill and judgment. The title of “Registered Psychotherapist” began in 2015 in an effort to regulate the practice of psychotherapy. More details about the College of Registered Psychotherapists of Ontario can be found on their website. http://www.crpo.ca 

Psychologist (CPsych) in Ontario is a mental health clinician who has obtained a doctorate in psychology (PsyD) or doctorate in philosophy (PhD) with a specialization in clinical training (i.e. clinical psychology, counselling psychology, clinical neuropsychology) from an accredited university. They can diagnose mental health conditions and provide treatment and/or assessments. Psychologists are regulated by the College of Psychologists of Ontario. http://www.cpo.on.ca

Psychological Associate (CPsychAssoc) in Ontario can diagnose mental health conditions, provide treatment, and complete psychological assessments. They have obtained a masters degree in psychology (MA or MSc) with a specialization in clinical training (i.e. clinical psychology, counselling psychology, clinical neuropsychology) from an accredited university. Psychological Associates are regulated by the College of Psychologists of Ontario. http://www.cpo.on.ca

Registered Social Worker (RSW) is a mental health professional with a bachelors or masters degree in social work from an accredited university. Social workers help families, individuals and communities find answers to questions, offer resources and provide psychotherapy. Social workers may be found in hospitals, community agencies, and/or private counselling offices. Social workers are regulated by the Ontario College of Social Workers and Social Service Workers. http://www.ocswssw.org

Psychiatrist is a medical doctor (MD) who has received specialized training in mental health. Medical doctors are the only clinicians with the ability to prescribe medication. They can diagnose mental health conditions and sometimes offer assessment and/or treatment for mental health issues, primarily for clients with a mental health diagnosis (e.g. schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, single or multiple episode depression). Psychiatrists are regulated by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario. http://www.cpso.on.ca

Counsellor is an unregulated title. This means that there is no regulatory college for the designation of “Counsellor”. It is a broad term to describe supportive care, guidance, and assistance with resources. There are a wide diversity of counselling approaches and a range of issues for which counselling can be helpful. There is a certification for counselling where credentials of the counsellor are evaluated by the Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association. https://www.ccpa-accp.ca

The Ontario Psychological Association created a chart to help decipher the different types of practitioners. http://psych.on.ca/OPA/media/Public/Non-OPA%20Resources/ProfessionComparisonDocumentFINAL.pdf


Now that you have a bit more information about the different disciplines, hopefully it helps when I spell out my credentials!

Check out my bio for details on my experience and feel free to contact me if you have any questions! Stayed tuned for more blogs as I explore the various types of psychotherapies. Follow me on twitter to find the latest updates.




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s