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

Psychiatrist: Has a medical degree and specialization in psychiatry, which generally focuses on the prescription and management of psychotropic medication for psychological symptoms of concern. They can diagnose according to the DSM but generally do not provide more extensive psychoeducational assessments, as sometimes helpful with ADHD or learning disabilities (particularly for academic purposes). Psychiatrists prescribe medication and a small number of them may provide OHIP-covered psychotherapy. Covered by OHIP. Cost: Usually free.

Psychologist: Typically has a PhD in Clinical Psychology, although some provinces allow for practitioners to register at the Master’s level with upgraded certification. They can diagnose according to the DSM and provide psychoeducational assessments (e.g. as helpful in the case of ADHD, ASD, and/or learning disabilities). Psychologists cannot prescribe medication in Canada. Their services are often covered by most extended health (private insurance) benefits programs. Cost: Approximately $200-$300 per session.

Psychotherapist: Typically has a Masters degree in Psychotherapy, Counselling Psychology, or Counselling. They cannot provide formal assessment or diagnoses according to the DSM and cannot prescribe medication, although some, with specialized training, can provide consultation in this area and help clients identify possible symptoms of concern (e.g. through informal self-screening questionnaires) and make appropriate referrals/recommendations. Psychotherapy is often covered by most extended health (private insurance) benefits programs (not as much as psychologists, but coverage continues to increase). Cost: Approximately $100-$190 per session.

Social Worker: Typically has a Masters degree or undergraduate degree in Social Work. Some social workers are “clinical” social workers with more training in psychotherapy rather than “community” social work or other areas of social work. They cannot diagnose according to the DSM and cannot prescribe medication. Their services are covered for more private insurance than psychotherapists, although the private insurance landscape continues to change. Cost: Approximately $100-$175 per session.

Any of these clinicians should help you determine if their skills and areas of competency are in line with your needs.

Is therapy right for me?

Do you find yourself stuck in the same problem again and again? Do you experience feeling lost, hopeless, or “just getting by” on a regular basis? Do you commonly feel out of control of your emotions or situation? Are you overwhelmed with stress? Such experiences, among others, can motivate people to seek support in exploring new options and coping strategies to make lasting changes in their lives.

Seeking therapy is a personal choice. There are many reasons why people come to therapy. Sometimes it is to deal with long-standing psychological issues, while other times it is in response to difficult or unexpected life transitions. Some seek guidance as they pursue their own personal growth and exploration. Working with a therapist can help provide insight, support, and new strategies for all types of life challenges.

How can therapy help me?

Psychotherapy can provide a number of lasting benefits. Therapists can offer fresh, objective perspectives on difficult problems and point you in the direction of possible solutions. Psychotherapy also allows you to talk openly and confidentially about your concerns.

Through a therapeutic process, you can expect to:

  • Develop insight and awareness about yourself, your goals and values
  • Learn ways to cope
  • Regulate attentional and emotional challenges
  • Develop direction and motivation
  • Manage triggers
  • Cultivate healthier relationships
  • Find resolutions to longstanding concerns
  • Nurture your inner child
  • Transform and heal past hurts
  • Cultivate post-traumatic growth
  • Increase personal wellness
  • Gain a positive mindset
  • Improve communication, problem-solving, and organizational skills
  • Change old behaviour patterns and develop healthier habits
  • Pursue mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual integration 
  • Take charge of your life choices and feel more assertive
  • Reclaim a sense of empowerment and confidence
  • Restore balance in your life

How do you measure success in therapy?

It depends on a number of factors, such as the client’s goals, the severity and chronicity of the presenting concern, and the client’s readiness to make a change. Some therapists prefer to work exclusively with clients who are “ready” to “do the work” and actively make changes in their lives, whereas we work with people in different stages of readiness. The Transtheoretical Stages of Change Model outlines various stages of readiness to make a change:

The precontemplative stage is when a person is not aware that a change is needed. They may become defensive, irritated, entitled, or exhibit denial upon receiving feedback from concerned loved ones, since they are not consciously aware that a change is needed.

The contemplative stage is when a person starts to consider the possibility that perhaps a change is needed; perhaps their habit is not adaptive or serving them well; although they are not yet certain about which steps they are willing to engage in or how ready they are to make a change.

The preparation stage is when a person begins planning to make a change and may experiment with change-related steps, such as searching for treatment options, consulting with a therapist, attending a support group. They are ‘testing the waters’ to see how it might fit for them, but are not yet committed to the change.

The action stage is when a person is actively living and breathing change-related steps. They may be continuously engaging in therapy or support groups and making cognitive and/or behavioural changes in their lives.

The maintenance stage is when the effort and activities associated with making a change become a natural way of life and require less conscious effort. The change-related thoughts and behaviours have become ingrained aspects of one’s lifestyle.

When thinking of how to measure success in therapy, it is important to consider a number of factors such as the client’s readiness to make a change in their lives, since that informs which therapeutic approaches will be appropriate and relevant. This philosophy encompasses the spirit of client-centred psychotherapy, which involves tailoring therapeutic approaches to suit the needs of each unique client and seeks to meet clients where they’re at, ideally, supporting them to the next stage of readiness to make a beneficial life change.

Therapy is a learning process. Just as in any other learning process, it takes time to apply personal learning in meaningful ways and build new coping skills. It’s important to account for the time it takes our brains to ingrain new thought and behavioural patterns, which requires patience and practice. Sometimes therapy offers explicit mind-blowing revelations, and other times the personal learning and insights are subtler and take time to resonate. We believe that insight and learning can come from all therapeutic experiences, big and small!

Isn’t therapy expensive?

Unfortunately, most private psychotherapy and psychological services are not currently covered by OHIP and many Canadians are accustomed to accessing publicly funded healthcare. As a result, it can seem expensive to pay a health care provider by the hour. We get it. Embarking on a therapeutic journey can be considered an investment towards your quality of life and your future. Research has found many correlations between stress and mental health concerns and physical ailments, so maintaining mental wellness is a practical part of healthy living. Ask yourself how much living with your current difficulty is costing you in the long run. A few brief sessions may be all you need to work through your concern.

Our services are covered by most extended health benefits programs. Check with your provider for further information.

If cost is holding you back from getting the support you need, we have options for you. In addition to offering services on a sliding fee scale,* we also provide the opportunity to work with Master’s level Qualifying Registered Psychotherapists under the supervision of Registered Psychotherapists* in an effort to make wellness accessible to everyone.

*Subject to limited availability.

When weighing the pros and cons of psychotherapy, consider how much your challenge is currently costing you financially, socially, and physically. Ask yourself if this is something you’re willing to maintain or if you’d like to see changes in your life. Psychotherapy can be seen as a long-term investment in yourself and your well-being.

Contact us to see if it’s a good fit for you.

Healing with your heart in mind

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