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Health & Wellness

7 Oct 2021 admin

Mental Health Physician vs. Psychologist vs. Psychiatrist: What’s the Difference?

There are many different types of care Canadians can access to help with their physical and mental health. When it comes to your overall health, you may be given the opportunity to see a physician, psychologist, psychiatrist, counselor, or therapist. Each designation involves different training, credentials, certification, focus, and approaches. Knowing the difference can help you receive the best treatment. Here’s a breakdown of each profession, what they do, and what they treat. Mental-Health-Physicians-Whats-the-Difference--02

Types of Mental Health Professionals

Mental Health Physician

A mental health physician, or counselor, is a general term used to describe someone who provides counseling. Their titles can include terms like “professional” or “licensed.” Because credentials, licensing, registration and certification are provincially legislated, not all mental health physicians are the same. That’s why it’s important to ask about their education, experience, and types of services they provide.

Counselors, Clinicians, Therapists

A counselor, clinician, and therapist are trained professionals that 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. 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 an experienced counselor, clinician, or therapist can help reduce the underlying symptoms and provide the skills and tools to help you think, feel, and live better.


The path to becoming a licensed psychiatrist in Canada is long and arduous. A psychiatrist is a medical doctor that has chosen to specialize in mental health. This means they focus on both the body and mind as a whole. They’re therapists that can diagnose mental health conditions, and also because they’re doctors, they can prescribe and monitor medications. In fact, 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. It’s not uncommon for a psychiatrist to work with a psychologist to treat a patient. Becoming a psychiatrist takes around 12-years of post-secondary education. This includes a four-year bachelor’s degree, medical school, postgraduate residency, and certification by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada or a provincial college.


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 have a Doctorate level of education in psychology but are not medical doctors. This means they cannot prescribe medications. That said, psychologists can work in hospitals. Psychologists also work in schools and have private practices. While having a doctorate degree is generally the minimum standard to being called a psychologist in Canada, the requirements for being registered, licensed, certified, or chartered as a psychologist varies from province to province. Case in point: the minimum educational requirement to become a psychologist in Alberta is a master’s degree in psychology. Even still, many positions require a doctoral degree, which is the minimum education requirement in most other provinces. During their time at university, psychologists become uniquely trained to assess, treat, and diagnose specific fields. For example, a psychologist working with children will be trained in the area of child psychology, while others will specialize in addiction, or marriage therapy, etc. A psychologist will also specialize in specific forms of therapy, including cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), psychodynamic therapy, and behavioral therapy. Each form takes a different approach to mental health. Every individual is unique and might find one approach that works better for them than others.

The Difference between a Psychologist and a Mental Health Physician

Psychologists and mental health physicians both use talk therapy to facilitate personal change through self-awareness, emotional acceptance, and growth. Where a mental health physician has received broad training, a psychologist is very specialized. Another big difference between a psychologist and mental health physician is the severity of their clients’ symptoms, length of treatment, level of training, and clinical experience. A counselor generally treats mental health issues that are less severe and shorter in duration than those that require a psychologist.

MD Connected – Canadian Healthcare Made Simple

Finding the right treatment for emotional, mental, or relationship issues can be difficult. The mental health professionals at MD Connected can help. Our virtual healthcare doctors in Toronto will provide you with an end-to-end experience through diagnosis, assessment, treatment plan, notes, and forms. Between in-clinic or virtual visits, simply can pick the service that’s right for you. To book a virtual clinic and connect with a doctor or nurse practitioner, click the “book a virtual visit” button on our website and request an appointment. It’s that simple. Because it’s online care, it doesn’t matter where you live in Canada, MD Connected can help. If you live in Toronto or anywhere in Ontario, the virtual doctor’s appointment is free of charge, covered by the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP). You can also see a doctor virtually at one of our many telemedicine walk-in clinics located across Canada. They operate similar to a traditional clinic, except you speak with a licensed physician through a secure virtual call. If you want to see a doctor at the nearest location, click the “Find clinic nearby” link on our website. Hundreds of thousands of Canadians have used MD Connected for general consultations, prescription renewal, sexual health, mental wellness, travel health, and sick notes and forms. MD Connected is led by a diverse team of doctors with varying backgrounds and provides its specialty services in multiple languages. To learn more about MD Connected, contact us by visiting or e-mail us at  

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