What is a Registered Psychologist?

In Ontario, a psychologist is a member of the College of Psychologists of Ontario and is a regulated health professional, much like nurses, doctors and physiotherapists. A psychologist has completed a master’s and/or doctoral degree in psychology, as well as at least 3,000 hours of training (over 6 to 10 years) under the supervision of another psychologist. They have advanced training in the use of psychological tests for assessment, and in psychotherapy.

Clinical Psychologists apply the knowledge about human behaviour to the assessment, diagnosis and/or treatment of individuals with disorders of behaviour, emotions and thought.

Clinical Health Psychologists apply psychological knowledge and skills to the promotion and maintenance of health, the prevention and treatment of illness, and the identification of health and illness determinants.

What is the difference between a psychologist, psychiatrist and psychotherapist?

Psychologists have a master’s and/or doctoral degree in psychology and specialize in assessment, diagnosis and treatment of difficulties in thoughts, emotions and behaviour. Although knowledgeable about the treatment of psychological disorders with medication, psychologists are not licensed to prescribe medications in Ontario. For more information about psychologists, please visit the Ontario Psychological Association.

Psychiatrists are medical doctors who specialize in mental health disorders. Psychiatrists often use medication in treatment, as well as psychotherapy. For more information about psychiatry, please visit the website of the Canadian Psychiatric Association.

Psychotherapists must complete a recognized education and training program in psychotherapy, a well as 450 direct clinical contact hours, and 100 hours of supervision. They focus on assessment and treatment of cognitive, emotional or behavioural disturbances by psychotherapeutic means, delivered through a therapeutic relationship based primarily on verbal or non-verbal communication. For more information about psychotherapy, please visit the website of the Canadian Counseling and Psychotherapy Association.

For a useful comparison chart of different mental health professionals, please click here.

How long does therapy last?

Most therapies typically last between 8 and 20 sessions. Sessions are 50 minutes in length, usually once per week. Should more or less intensive treatment be required, the session length and frequency may be adjusted. Treatment progress is regularly reviewed to ensure that your goals are being met.

As treatment progresses, these sessions may be spaced out to allow you more time to practice the skills you have learned in the session.

You always have complete control over the therapy process and have the right to discontinue treatment at any time.

What happens in the first session?

During the first session, a full intake assessment will be completed including a semi-structured diagnostic assessment. The goal of this session is to assess your symptoms and formulate an appropriate treatment plan.

What are the risks and benefits of therapy?

Since therapy can involve discussing unpleasant aspects of your life, you may experience uncomfortable feelings including sadness, anxiety, anger, frustration and guilt. However, the benefits include a greater understanding of your difficulties, providing resolution to your difficulties, and maintaining the gains you have made over time.

What if I have an emergency situation?

In case of emergency, you should go to the Emergency Department of the nearest hospital or call 911. You can also call the Gerstein Crisis Centre at 416-929-5200. They have crisis workers available to speak to you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

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Reaching out for help isn’t easy,
but you have already taken the first step.