Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is the difference between counselling and psychotherapy?

A: Often used interchangeably, there are differences that set counselling a part from psychotherapy. Counselling tends to focus on issues of the here and now and offers education and strategies to assist with the client's presenting issues. Psychotherapy tends to be a deeper form of treatment that can focus on a person's formative history, core beliefs and aspects of self that are contributing to a person's ongoing distress or impairment. 


The controlled act of psychotherapy is defined in the RHPA as follows: Treating, by means of psychotherapy technique, delivered through a therapeutic relationship, an individual’s serious disorder of thought, cognition, mood, emotional regulation, perception or memory that may seriously impair the individual’s judgement, insight, behaviour, communication or social functioning.

Q: Who can practice psychotherapy in Ontario?

A: As of December 30, 2017, the controlled act of psychotherapy has been proclaimed in force, and becomes one of fourteen controlled acts defined in the RHPA. A controlled act is an activity thought to have the potential of posing a risk of serious harm to the client. Restricting the performance of controlled acts to certain regulated professionals who are legally authorized to perform them is the approach to protecting the public set out in the RHPA. As a result, as of December 31, 2019, performance of the controlled act of psychotherapy is restricted to members of the following regulatory colleges:

Q: What is the difference between a psychotherapist, psychologist and psychiatrist?

A: Psychotherapists provide counselling and psychotherapy services but are unable to provide diagnoses or medication in Ontario. Professionals who practice psychotherapy typically have a Masters level degree (but may possess an undergraduate degree or college diploma) with varied training in therapeutic modalities or approaches. 


Psychologists hold a doctorate level degree and are able to provide diagnoses as related to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Health Disorders and are also able to provide psychotherapy services. Psychologists can also administer other types of psychological testing depending on their area of expertise such as psycho-educational assessments.


Psychiatrists are medical doctors who have attended medical school and went on to specialize in psychiatry. Psychiatrists typically engage more with the medical model as it relates to mental health and are able to provide diagnoses and medication to their patients. Psychiatrists can but don't often provide psychotherapy in Ontario.