There is a wide variety of professionals that play a part in providing mental health services.  Most are regulated professions, and some give their members the option of voluntarily meeting accepted standards of practice.

General Physicians can help identify non-mental health related causes of symptoms and may have an interest and additional training to identify mental health related causes of symptoms and/or provide limited counselling. General Physicians can prescribe medications (including those prescribed for mental illness, when working in conjunction with a Psychiatrist) and may write referrals for patients to see other mental health professionals. General Physicians’ availability can vary from a few days to several weeks.

Registered Social Workers working in private practice conduct assessments about a person’s capacity to function in life. Based on assessments, they plan and deliver interventions and services.  RSWs conduct holistic assessments and interventions.  They consider social, political, familial, temporal, spiritual, economic and physical components of their clients’ lives. Drawing from a range of available interventions, practitioners intervene directly with the client/s, into aspects of the environment, or both. Social Work is a regulated profession and clients can usually get an appointment with RSWs in private practice within a few weeks. RSWs in private practice often also work as Employment Assistance Program (EAP) Counsellors, which are covered through many workplace benefit plans. EAP services are also available to immediate family members.

Psychologists assess and diagnose problems in thinking, feeling and behaviour. Psychologists help people to overcome or manage their problems using a variety of treatments or psychotherapies. A Psychologist is also uniquely trained to use psychological tests to help with assessment and diagnosis. A Psychologist declares their areas of competency to the regulatory body and is required to practice within the bounds of her practice (for example: counselling psychology or neuropsychology). Psychologists in independent practices are regulated. Wait times to see a psychologist vary.(Read more)

Psychiatrists enhance a client’s quality of life by providing psychiatric assessment, treatment and rehabilitation to people with psychiatric disorders in order to prevent, reduce and eliminate  symptoms. Psychiatrists are trained in diagnosing and treating mental illnesses. Psychiatrists use a combination of treatment options, including medications and psychotherapy, depending on the psychiatric conditions. Often part of the treatment or rehabilitation plan will include referral to, or collaboration with, a range of social and support services. Wait times to see a psychiatrist are usually the longest of all mental health care professionals.

The terms Counsellor and Psychotherapist are often used interchangeably and do not identify a person’s specialty or training within the mental health field. Counselling and/or Psychotherapy are currently regulated in Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia. There are also a number of voluntary regulatory organizations promoting standards of knowledge and skills in their members, which accept a variety of training and education in combination with a competency exam, for example:

  • Canadian Professional Counselling Association
  • Canadian College of Professional Counsellors and Psychotherapists 



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Professional Counsellor


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Canadian College of Professional Counsellors and Psychotherapists


College of Registered Psychotherapists of Ontario


Protecting the Public

Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia College of Counselling Therapists