Mental health professionals in Canada are regulated and licensed by province or territory. When professionals are regulated, there is a legal Act established that sets the terms and standards for practicing, and there are Colleges that regulate the professionals under that Act.
In provinces where regulations are not in place, self-governed professional organizations exist (Associations) to maintain their own standards of safe and ethical practice. It’s important to check the credentials for mental health professionals where you live, and to know if they belong to the appropriate College or Association.
Here’s a quick summary of the types of mental health therapists in Canada:
Medical doctors specializing in mental health. They can diagnose mental health conditions and illness, and are the only type of therapist who can prescribe medication. It’s unlikely you would work with a psychiatrist for general therapy sessions. They are regulated anywhere in Canada.
Trained in psychology at a masters or PhD level, they can diagnose and treat mental health conditions using evidence-based therapeutic approaches. They can work one-on-one with clients. Often, they will continue to do research to contribute to theoretical knowledge. They are regulated anywhere in Canada.
Psychotherapists and Counselling Therapists:
Trained at a masters’ degree level and above, they use various therapeutic approaches to help individuals navigate emotional or behavioural challenges, relationships, and personal growth, or specific challenges such as grief. Regulations vary for these professionals—check for licensing credentials or association membership in your province.
Equipped with social work degrees often at a master’s degree level and above, they can and do offer counselling. They are regulated everywhere in Canada except Nunavut and the Yukon.
Any of these types of therapists could offer individual, family, couples, or group therapy depending on their area of practice.
- Written by Nicole Laoutaris