Getting Help

How do I select a therapist?

“It is important to pick someone who is licensed or regulated”
“It is important to pick someone who is licensed or regulated”

Knowing you need help and knowing where to find it are two entirely different struggles. “It is important to pick someone who is licensed or regulated,” says Dr. Karen Cohen, the chief executive officer of the Canadian Psychological Association. “But you also want the right type of professional, someone who offers the service that matches your problem.”

Here is a breakdown of the different types of therapists you can seek out:


These are medical doctors who can diagnose and prescribe medication if they deem it necessary. Psychiatrists who work at public organizations, such as CAMH, are covered by OHIP, but generally require a referral from a physician. They’re likely to run tests to rule out other physical conditions, such as thyroid abnormalities, that might underlie mental-health problems.
Letters to look for: MD


They often have doctoral degrees in psychology. They can do assessments, diagnose mental illnesses and offer cognitive-behavioural therapy, which focuses on identifying and altering harmful thought and behaviour patterns. Their services aren’t covered under OHIP, but they do fall under many extended employment-insurance plans.
Letters to look for: PhD

Social workers

They can’t diagnose, but they do offer counselling services, often to specific subgroups such as children or families. OHIP doesn’t cover their services, but most extended private insurance plans do.
Letters to look for: RSW (for registered social worker) or MSW (for master of social work)

So how do you find one?

Online resources, like the Psychotherapy Referral Service or the Ontario Psychological Association, allow you to search for professionals by practice area or health problem. Your family doctor can refer you to a psychiatrist.

Here’s another idea:

Ask your friends if they use a therapist they’d recommend. That’s both a great way to get a referral and to reduce stigma: the more we all talk about mental health, the better.

Spring 2018 cover webThis story is part of the “How to Help” feature, from our Spring 2018 Issue.




Illustrations by Wenting Li