Psychotherapist vs. Psychologist vs. Psychiatrist: Who's Right for You?
Updated: Nov 21, 2022
Mental fitness is a lifelong journey and finding the support we need can be confusing.
How do we figure out who to make an appointment with, when many of us don’t even
understand the differences between the psychotherapist, psychologist, or psychiatrist?
While they’re all experts in mental health counseling, their strengths and approaches
differ. Choosing which professional is best for you can be very intimidating. So, we’ve
pulled together a snapshot of each mental health practitioner’s specialty to highlight the
differences and similarities.
What is a Psychotherapist?
A psychotherapist specializes in supporting their clients through the process of
psychotherapy, which is a general term used to describe a form of treatment that is
based on “talking work” done with a therapist. Through talk therapy, psychotherapists
help clients build resilience by developing better cognitive and emotional skills and
learning healthy coping mechanisms to make sense of challenging emotions and
The approach of a psychotherapist to mental health is from a psychological perspective.
Clinical therapists offer a variety of integrative therapies specifically tailored to meet the
needs of their clients. At Toronto Psychotherapy Space (TPS Therapy), their clinicians
have training and a strong foundation in attachment theory, emotion focused therapy
(EFT), cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT), and dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT).
These services may be conducted one-on-one, as a couple, as a family, or in a group.
With modern psychotherapy services, the psychotherapist can help people of all ages
with various needs. Each psychotherapist often has their own set of specializations,
which may include anxiety, stress, burnout, depression, isolation, disordered eating,
self-esteem and body image, relationships and sexuality, trauma and PTSD, grief and
bereavement, addictions and substance use, parenting support and family, couples
therapy, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and productivity, and major life
Psychotherapists help to make mental health support more accessible. Taking a holistic
approach, a psychotherapist will work within your circle of care. This means that with
your signed permission, they’ll work closely with your doctor, other specialists, and your
school. They will even work closely with your psychiatrist if you decide to explore taking
medication or a formal diagnosis. Psychotherapists can work in a variety of workplace
settings such as private practice, hospitals, and in community mental health agencies.
Many health benefit plans in Ontario cover services from a psychotherapist.
What is a Psychologist?
Psychology is the study of people: how they think, how they act, interact and react. In
the process, a psychologist may monitor sleep and behavioural patterns, eating habits,
and negative thoughts to better understand, explain and change unhealthy behaviours.
Trained in conducting formal assessments, they often specialize in treating
neuropsychological disorders and dysfunctions such as insomnia, developmental
disorders, panic and anxiety disorders, phobias, and post-traumatic stress disorder
School psychologists advocate for the well-being of students and offer support services
to students at all levels, helping them process and overcome problems, diagnosing
disorders (such as ADHD), and providing treatment. The primary objective of a school
psychologist is to help develop and meet the goals of each child’s Individualized
Education Program (IEP). This may be done for students struggling in a certain area, as
well as for those who are gifted.
Professional psychologists who work in Canadian schools typically have a masters
(MA, M. Ed, MSc) or doctoral (PhD, EdD, PsyD) degree from a school psychology
training program in the faculty of education at a Canadian university, or from a university
in other countries. Many private health benefits providers in Ontario cover services from
a clinical psychologist.
What is a Psychiatrist?
Psychiatry is the field of medicine that focuses on the prevention, diagnosis, and
treatment of mental, behavioral, and emotional disorders. Unlike a psychotherapist and
psychologist, a psychiatrist is a medical doctor who cannot only diagnose and treat
mental health conditions but can also prescribe medication and other medical
treatments. Their approach is from a biological and neurochemical level.
Medication can reduce chemical imbalances in the brain. It's a process that can take
time and requires regular follow-up visits to ensure the medication dosage is helping
and to make any adjustments as necessary. Referrals are usually made through your
family doctor; keep in mind that it may take a few months to get an appointment.
Psychiatrists typically treat more complex mental health conditions such as
schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and major
depressive disorder but can also treat a number of other conditions. In Ontario, most
psychiatry services are covered by OHIP.
The path to good mental health is different for everyone and the relationship you build
with your therapist is an integral part. So, do some research, ask a lot of questions and
pay close attention to your responses to find the help and support you need.
Call TPS Therapy at (647) 267-8920 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org to book a free 15-minute phone consultation with one of their experienced psychotherapists and start your
wellness journey today.
Appointments are offered both virtually and in-person.