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A Guide to Seeking Professional Mental Health Help

By: Tim De Pass

Searching for mental health help can be a stressful and confusing experience. It is already emotionally distressing enough to take that first step in seeking support. Understanding and discovering all of the available options when it comes to mental health help should not be such an arduous process. Whether it is a support group or a psychiatrist, each type of specialist plays an important role in helping us. This article will explore the process by explaining the functions of different professional supports, the differences between them, and the approximate cost of each support option, with the hope of making things a little more comfortable and more clear.


Psychiatrists are medically trained doctors. This gives them the power to prescribe medications to their clients, which other trained professionals cannot do. Since Psychiatrists are medical doctors and can prescribe medications, their services are covered by OHIP. In most cases, an individual will need a referral from a family doctor to see a Psychiatrist. Also, as the Globe and Mail reported, it is often difficult to find a Psychiatrist due to significant wait times and a large segment of Psychiatrists in Ontario seem to be dispersed within major cities such as Toronto and Ottawa. Psychiatrists focus on the emotional and behavioural well-being of clients but take an approach that is more focused on medication.


A psychologist focuses on the mental process and behavioural patterns of the individual and how they interact with their environment. A psychologist often uses a variety of therapeutic approaches and have a focus on the psychometric testing measure within their practice. They are not covered by OHIP, but a portion of the expenses could be covered by private insurance. A psychologist can usually be obtained through a self-referral.

Psychotherapist or Counsellor

Psychotherapists and psychologists are very similar in their role as mental health professionals. The big difference is the type of academic degree they have received which designates their title. Professional psychotherapists usually have a degree in social work or mental health counselling. Psychotherapy is also not covered by OHIP, but some therapists use a sliding scale payment technique which allows the client to dictate the pay rate based upon what they can afford.

Community Organizations

Finally, if you would prefer not to go through the private channels of therapy, there are community resources that are either free or of little charge. For example, the Canadian Mental Health Association has a variety of mental health professionals working in their organization including therapists, social workers, and nurses. These community organizations provide support through a variety of group therapies and community programs for individuals suffering from a range of mental health issues. However, navigating the community mental health system can be much more difficult than a private therapist and wait times could be even longer due to easier accessibility. ConnexOntario is a great resource that can help individuals access community help for addiction and mental health. Through email, call, or online chat, this resource can help link you to specific community resources that fit your needs the best.

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