Federated Health Charities’ mission is to improve the health and quality of life of all Ontarians by supporting 21 different health charities providing critical services to those experiencing, or affected by, illness. We believe education and prevention are key parts of supporting the health of our communities, so our weekly Health Hint series strives to provide tangible and easy to implement hints and tips on how to maintain your health, prevent disease, and enjoy increased quality of life. Check out our latest Health Hint on the different types of mental health practitioners. We hope you find it helpful. If you would like to join our efforts to support the health of Ontario, please consider a donation to Federated Health Charities.
Taking care of our mental health is just as important as taking care of our physical health. As many of us have experienced, when dealing with a physical health issue, there are many different types of doctors and specialists who focus on different issues or types of care. There are general practitioners, pediatricians, gynecologists, neurologists, naturopaths, functional medicine practitioners, and the list goes on and on. This is not dissimilar to the various types of clinicians that focus on mental health, and this can often lead to confusion about what type of practitioner is the most appropriate for your needs. Many of these professionals require very specific licensing, credentials, registrations, or certificates to be able to legally practice, so it is important for you to ask about the education and certifications of a practitioner prior to beginning to work with them.
Different Types of Practitioners
Below we will break down some of the most common practitioners who focus on mental health and how they differ from each other.
A psychiatrist is a medical doctor that has chosen to specialize in mental health, through psychiatric training. This means they focus on both the body and mind as a whole. They can diagnose mental health conditions, prescribe, and monitor medications and provide therapy. Psychiatrists often use medication to help their clients manage more serious mental disorders where medications are very necessary, including schizophrenia and some forms of depression. Some have completed additional training in child and adolescent mental health, substance use disorders or geriatric psychiatry.
The role of a psychologist, counselor, and psychiatrist seemingly overlap, in that they all interact with their clients and help them better understand and cope with their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Unlike counselors, psychologists hold a doctoral degree in clinical or experimental psychology or another specialty. While a psychologist may be referred to as a “Dr.” it does not mean they are certified medical doctors, like a psychiatrist is. They are trained to evaluate a person’s mental health using clinical interviews, psychological evaluations, and testing. They can make diagnoses and provide individual and group therapy. Since a psychologist is not a medical doctor, they cannot prescribe medications. Some may have training in specific forms of therapy like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) and other behavioral therapy interventions.
Psychotherapist is both a title and a style of therapy. Psychotherapy is a general term used to describe a form of treatment that is based on “talking work” done with a therapist. The aim is to relieve distress by discussing and expressing feelings; to help change attitudes, behaviour and habits that may be unhelpful; and to promote more constructive and adaptive ways of coping. Someone who holds the title of a Psychotherapist could either be a Registered Social Worker or a Registered Psychotherapist, both of which are legally allowed to practice under that title.
Clinical Social Worker:
Clinical social workers are those who have undergone a master’s level education and are registered under the regulatory college. Clinical Social Workers are trained to evaluate a person’s mental health and use therapeutic techniques based on specific training programs. They are also trained in case management and advocacy services. Registered Clinical Social Workers are legally allowed to use the title of Psychotherapist as well.
These masters-level health care professionals are trained to evaluate a person’s mental health and use a variety of therapeutic techniques to diagnose and treat issues like job stress, addiction, depression, marriage and family conflict, loss and grief, abuse, and domestic violence, and general stress. They operate under a variety of job titles—including counselor, clinician, or therapist. To become a counselor, clinician, or therapist, healthcare professionals need to have a master’s degree from an accredited institution in a mental health-related field such as psychology, marriage or family therapy, and counseling psychology. Working with one of these mental health professionals can lead not only to symptom reduction but to better ways of thinking, feeling, and living.
We hope you enjoyed our latest Health Hint!