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Mental Health Professionals in Ontario: Understanding the Differences

In the realm of mental health services in Ontario, it's common to come across various titles and specialties, each offering distinct approaches to therapy and mental health support. Whether you're seeking assistance for yourself or a loved one, understanding the differences between psychotherapists, social workers, psychologists, and psychiatrists can help you make informed decisions about your mental health care.

a woman sitting on a leather couch in a therapy session.


Psychotherapists are mental health professionals trained to provide therapy and counseling to individuals, couples, families, and groups. In Ontario, psychotherapists are regulated under the College of Registered Psychotherapists of Ontario (CRPO). They employ a range of therapeutic techniques, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), psychodynamic therapy, and mindfulness-based approaches, to address various mental health concerns. Psychotherapists typically hold a master's or doctoral degree in psychotherapy or a related field and undergo extensive supervised clinical training.

Social Workers:

Social workers in Ontario are regulated by the Ontario College of Social Workers and Social Service Workers (OCSWSSW). Like psychotherapists, they work with individuals, families, and communities to address social and emotional challenges. Social workers utilize a holistic approach, considering the individual's social, environmental, and systemic factors impacting their well-being. They may provide counseling, advocacy, case management, and resource referrals to support clients in navigating complex social issues and accessing necessary services.


Psychologists are mental health professionals who specialize in the assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of various psychological disorders and issues. They hold doctoral degrees (Ph.D. or Psy.D.) in psychology and are licensed by the College of Psychologists of Ontario (CPO). Psychologists conduct psychological assessments, administer standardized tests, and offer evidence-based therapies tailored to clients' specific needs. They may specialize in areas such as clinical psychology, counseling psychology, neuropsychology, or forensic psychology. Often a doctor can refer you to a psychologist for assessment and diagnosis, and can also be found privately.


Psychiatrists are medical doctors who specialize in the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of mental illnesses. In Ontario, psychiatrists are licensed by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (CPSO) and often work in hospitals, clinics, or private practices. They are authorized to prescribe medication and provide a range of treatments, including medication management, psychotherapy, and other interventions. Psychiatrists may collaborate with other mental health professionals to ensure comprehensive care for their patients. Often, a doctor can refer you to a psychiatrist for assessment and diagnosis.

Navigating the System:

Understanding the roles and specialties of mental health professionals in Ontario can help individuals and families navigate the mental health care system more effectively. When seeking support, it's essential to consider factors such as the type of issue you're facing, your preferences for therapy style and approach, any specific qualifications or expertise you're seeking in a provider, as well as learning what professon is covered with your insurance as some of these services can be costly. Exploring available resources, such as community mental health centers, clinics, and online directories, can additionally assist you in finding a qualified professional who meets your needs.

While psychotherapists, social workers, psychologists, and psychiatrists each bring unique skills and perspectives to the table, they share a common goal: to help individuals achieve better mental health and well-being. By understanding the differences between these professionals, you can make informed choices about your mental health care and embark on a path toward healing and growth.

At New Moon Counselling we have Psychotherapists and Social Workers who offer therapy using various modalities. It's important to us that you feel that it's a good fit between you and the therapist, it does impact the success of therapy - which is why we offer all new clients a free virtual consultation where you can meet the therapy, ask questions you may have and see if its a good fit.

Needing some support? Click here to book a free virtual consultation with one of our therapists!


Written by: Ivonne Hammoud MSW, RSW

A woman standing infront of a wood barn door, smiling

Ivonne is the owner, and clinical therapist at New Moon Counselling. She is passionate about supporting her clients through whatever challenges come their way. Ivonne bring an enthusiastic, inovative and down to earth approach to her therapy. She works primarily with adults and couples. Not currently accepting new clients.

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