top of page

What is the Difference Between a Psychiatrist, Psychologist, and Psychotherapist in Canada?

Are you wondering what the differences are between a Psychiatrist, Psychologist, and Psychotherapist in Canada? If so, you have come to the right place!

The differences between Psychotherapists, Psychologists and Psychiatrists

While all three are mental health professionals, they differ in their scope of practice, which boils down to the practitioner’s educational background and credentials. For this reason, it is important to recognize the differences so that you can choose the appropriate specialist for your needs.

It is also important to understand that in Canada, psychologists and psychotherapists are regulated by provincial and territorial governments, which establish legal requirements for practice. Local organizations, such as colleges or associations, oversee adherence to these laws and licensing. However, regulation of the psychotherapist title varies by province, for example, some provinces use the title “counselling therapist” while others use “psychotherapist”, with some provinces lacking specific regulations. It is important that you are aware of the protected titles in your province/territory and to verify the credentials of the practitioner that you choose to work with. Regulating bodies have public registries where you can look up the practitioner’s name to ensure they are in good standing and registered to practice.


A Psychiatrist in his office

A psychiatrist is a physician, also referred to as a medical doctor (M.D.) specialized in

psychiatry, which deals with diagnosing, treating, and preventing mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders. They evaluate both the psychological and physical aspects of such conditions and provide diagnosis and treatment accordingly. They have the authority to prescribe medications and other healthcare interventions. Psychiatrists generally address more intricate mental health issues, particularly those necessitating medication or medical interventions. For example, if you suspect that you may have a personality disorder, major depressive disorder, eating disorder, addictions, or another serious mental health concern, a psychiatrist is highly recommended to diagnose and formulate a treatment plan that could involve prescription medication and other therapeutic treatments based on a thorough medical assessment.


A psychologist can hold a master’s or a doctoral degree (PhD), usually specializing in clinical psychology, and often possesses significant training in research or clinical application. Some psychologists focus primarily on conducting research and serving as faculty members at universities, governmental agencies, and non-governmental organizations. Others primarily engage in clinical practice, working in settings such as hospitals, schools, clinics, correctional facilities, employee assistance programs, and private offices. Some also work as consultants for corporations and various organizations. Many psychologists are involved in both research and practice simultaneously. They are able to assess and diagnose mental health disorders, however, unlike a psychiatrist, they do not have the authority to prescribe medication. They address mental health issues primarily through psychotherapy, also known as talk therapy. Oftentimes, a client will visit a psychiatrist for diagnosis and medication and be referred to a psychologist for psychotherapy treatment.


An effective Psychotherapy session between psychotherapist and client

A Psychotherapist holds a minimum of a Master’s degree. Psychotherapists cannot diagnose or prescribe medication; however, if they suspect a serious issue is present or beyond their scope of training, they will refer you to a medical doctor for assistance. Psychotherapists work with children, young adults, and adults in various settings, such as private practices, hospitals, clinics, care facilities, and universities. Registered Psychotherapists work with individuals, couples, and families, fostering positive changes in thoughts, emotions, behaviors, and social interactions through the use of treatment modalities such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), Experiential and Humanistic therapies Psychodynamic therapies, Somatic therapies, and Systemic and Collaborative therapies among many others. Clients primarily seek therapy when issues start to affect their daily lives. Some common examples include lacking purpose, low self-esteem, facing major obstacles, grieving loss or a romantic breakup, experiencing family issues, career problems, or even needing assistance in managing symptoms of depression and anxiety, among many other issues. Some clients may be referred to a psychotherapist by their medical doctor or psychiatrist. However, a referral is not needed to seek the assistance of a psychotherapist. 

Now that you know the differences between psychotherapists, psychiatrists, and psychologists, you are better equipped to decide which specialist best suits your immediate needs. If you are unsure but feel that you need mental health support, please reach out to us for a Free Consultation, and we will be happy to get you on the right track! We suggest you browse our list of practitioners, as they all have different specialties that may suit your needs.

For general questions reach us at 647-255-8458 or Email Us


Canadian Counselling & Psychotherapy Association. (n.d.). The profession and regulation. 

Canadian Psychological Association. (n.d.). What is a psychologist?. 

College of Registered Psychotherapists of Ontario. (n.d.). What is psychotherapy?. 

Cleveland Clinic. (2022, April 10). Psychiatrist. 


bottom of page