If you find that your mental health is suffering, you might be ready to reach out for support from a professional. With the various clinicians available, it’s easy to get a little confused and even curious about how they differ. The most common ones include psychiatrists, registered psychotherapists, registered social workers, and clinical psychologists.

Many mental health professions overlap when it comes to what they cover and whom they treat. So, how do you know you’re making the right choice? What exactly is the difference between different areas of expertise? In this blog, we’ll give you the information you need to make an informed choice with your mental health care.


A psychiatrist is a medically trained mental health professional. A key differentiator between a psychiatrist and other mental health professionals is that a psychiatrist can also prescribe medication, as well as provide psychotherapy. 

A psychiatrist in Canada will have gone through medical school, have a license for practicing medicine, and have a specialist certificate in psychiatry, which is recognized by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada. It takes approximately 12 years of post-secondary education to become a psychiatrist.

How Can a Psychiatrist Help You?

Psychiatrists address biological and psychological issues. This means that while a psychiatrist specializes in mental health issues, they also offer clinical diagnoses and prescriptions. In the mental health realm, a psychiatrist can help with addiction, substance abuse, anxiety, panic attacks, suicidal thoughts, and more.

Yet, across Canada, wait times continue to be a problem for obtaining psychiatric care. Someone might spend up to a year on a waitlist before they have their first appointment. For Ontario residents, OHIP funds psychiatric care. This is often why some individuals seek a referral from their doctor for psychiatric care.

Registered Psychotherapist

A registered psychotherapist focuses on developing a therapeutic relationship with their clients through talk therapy. This may include discussions and actionable practices for controlling one’s negative thoughts, feelings, moods, beliefs, and behaviours. 

In 2007, a controlled act of psychotherapy was introduced. This regulated the profession, which meant that a person presenting themselves as a registered psychotherapist must have a Master’s degree in counselling, or a related profession, and be a member of the Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association (CCPA). In Ontario, they also must be recognized by the College of Registered Psychotherapists of Ontario.

How Can a Registered Psychotherapist Help You?

Registered psychotherapists cover a broad range of topics, including career, marriage, cognitive behavioural therapy, and family counselling. This means that therapy may take place in a group or one-on-one setting. They also may use tools, such as creative outlets, to help the person discuss previous trauma. 

Registered Psychotherapists may specialize in a myriad of modalities, ranging from Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), EMDR therapy, and more. Each professional is different, so it’s important to get to know your therapist to determine if their experience is a match for your circumstances.  

The cost of seeing a registered psychotherapist varies. This is because psychotherapy is provided by private practices that set their rates accordingly. Your extended health plan may cover some services offered. 

Registered Social Worker

A registered social worker focuses on social issues and environments contributing to individual problems. This type of mental health professional may take on many roles, including research, clinical treatment, or case management. 

The Ontario College of Social Workers and Social Service Workers (OCSWSSW) regulates this profession. A registered social worker further requires a master’s degree and must take part in continued education to develop their skills and to fulfill requirements laid out by the OCSWSSW. Under this regulatory body, they also have a code of ethics, which they must follow.

How Can a Registered Social Worker Help You?

A social worker can help identify societal and interpersonal issues. Through this, they can then apply their knowledge and skills to develop interventions and strategies to assist families, groups, individuals, communities, and organizations. Like RPs, some social workers also have additional training in modalities, such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), emotion-focused therapy (EFT), marriage and family therapy, and more.  

While it depends on the therapist, wait times are minimal. Further, many employee benefits and insurance cover the costs. As always, we recommend you check with your extended health plan before you book an appointment.

Clinical Psychologist

A clinical psychologist holds a Doctoral Degree in psychology. This process takes about five to eight years. For someone to become a clinician in Ontario, they must complete four years of work experience, alongside a year involving supervision of their practice. From there, they must register with the College of Psychologists of Ontario.

Psychologists, specifically, focus on how a person thinks, feels, and behaves. They then work with the person to understand why these thoughts, feelings, and behaviours are occurring, and how they can change them.

How Can a Clinical Psychologist Help You?

A clinical psychologist may help with developmental disorders, relationship issues or stress, and various mental health issues. They work with you to help you find management strategies for your condition or disorder. They also address your symptoms and help you find practical strategies for them. 

While you don’t need a doctor’s referral to see a clinical psychologist, you will want to ensure you check the credentials of any psychologist before you book a visit so that you know you’re getting the care you need. Often, this type of care is covered by insurance and employee benefits. Depending on the therapist, there may be a short waitlist. 

What to Ask When Looking for Support

Not all practitioners are qualified to provide psychological and psychotherapy treatment. We recommend that individuals seeking psychological or psychotherapy services should ensure they book with qualified professionals who are registered with their respectable governing bodies. On that note, all clinicians at Bhatia Psychology Group are registered and in good standing with the governing bodies of their professional practice. 

If you’re ready to book an appointment, contact us and begin your journey toward improved mental health and well-being. We are here for you.

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