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  • Writer's pictureVanessa de Souza

Who Does What?! A Quick Guide to Mental Health Professionals

Updated: Dec 27, 2022

So, you are looking for a therapist but are wondering what all of the letters behind a counsellor’s name means? MA, CCC, MSW, CRPO….the list goes on. It can feel overwhelming when looking for a therapist so we wanted to provide some clarity on what type of mental health professionals are out there. Then you can make an informed decision when choosing the right therapist for you.

Let’s break it down: What do those terms mean and what role do each of those professionals play in our mental health journey?

Counsellor: These folks also use therapy techniques and are usually wellness oriented, helping their clients navigate life transitions, learn healthy coping strategies and effectively problem solve. They often hold a Masters degree as well and can also treat mental health challenges. Service rates can range from $100-200/session. Look for:

  • Canadian Certified Counsellor (CCC)

  • Association of Cooperative Counselling Therapists of Canada (ACCT)

Psychotherapist: psychotherapy is a protected act in Ontario which means the government asserts regulations on what type of training, skill sets and code of ethics psychotherapists hold in order to practice psychotherapy. Individuals usually need to complete at least a master's degree. All of these programs centre on understanding and treating mental health disorders . They also practice counselling strategies focused on wellness, coping and problem solving. These folks tend to be covered by extended health benefits because they are regulated. Service rates can range from $125-250/session. Look for registrations from: ​​

  • College of Registered Psychotherapists of Ontario (CRPO)

  • 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 (OCSWSSW)

Psychologist: Requires a PhD in psychology which is approximately 4 years of research and practicums with the specialization in mental health. Psychologists can diagnose mental health disorders and complete client assessments. They can also complete mental status exams and perform psychotherapy. Psychologists may charge $200-300/hour depending on your service area and their level of experience. They often teach in universities and run clinics.

Psychiatrists: Specialized physicians that complete 3-5 years of additional training focusing on mental health. They can assess for diagnoses, prescribe medication and provide psychotherapy. They don't often have the time to perform the latter due to their limited capacity with high community demands. Because of this, it can be difficult to find one without a waitlist. Your family doctor can provide a referral to see a psychiatrist which is the easiest way to get in touch. Their services are covered by OHIP.

Social worker: Provide counselling and practice psychotherapy if they've completed a number of supervision hours and received adequate training. They are versatile and offer a variety of services such as advocacy, policy advising, leadership in organizations, resource navigation, and work in a number of service provision roles in nonprofits, education or hospitals. Service rates range from $100-200/session. Look for: MSW, BSW. RSW means they are registered with the College of Social Workers and Social Service Workers.

Ultimately, don’t let these designations trip you up. If you are looking for something specific in your mental health care then it can be helpful to know who to turn to. What’s most important is that you feel comfortable with the person you’re working with so you can be your most authentic self and get what you need out of counseling.

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