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Psychologists, Psychological Associates & Psychiatry—a Primer

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Psychologists and psychological associates

OPA Lobby Day

Psychologists and psychological associates are regulated health professionals, much the same as family physicians, medical specialists and nurses. They also work in academics and research.

  • Psychologists and psychological associates use clinical interviewing techniques, behavioural observation, and psychometric tests to help patients identify problems or issues and to work on solutions.
  • Psychologists and psychological associates are the only professionals qualified to use certain kinds of psychometric tests to assess intelligence, as well as emotional, personality and behavioural problems and neuropsychological impairment.
  • Psychologists and psychological associates work with groups and organizations to assess individuals and foster behavioural change. They also work in private practices or in clinics, schools, institutions such as hospitals and prisons, or in business and industry settings.

Areas of specialty include:

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Counselling Psychology
  • Clinical Neuropsychology
  • Forensic Psychology
  • Industrial and Organizational Psychology
  • Rehabilitation Psychology
  • School Psychology

Difference between Psychology and Psychiatry

One of the advocacy issues that OPA has been working on is raising awareness about the difference between “psychology” and “psychiatry”. Psychiatrists and psychologists have separate and overlapping areas of expertise. Collaboration between the two disciplines and the provision of their joint knowledge and skills in the delivery of comprehensive assessments, accurate diagnosis, effective medication management and psychotherapeutic treatment modalities has proven to be the most effective model of mental health care.

  • Psychologists and psychiatrists are regulated health professionals and are highly regarded mental and behavioural health professionals.
  • Psychologists, psychiatrists and family physicians are the only professionals who are legally allowed to diagnose mental health issues.
  • Psychologists who have a PhD are one of only five health care professionals legally allowed to use the title of “Doctor”.
  • Psychologists and Psychological Associates are registered with the College of Psychologists of Ontario and have declared areas of specialization following advanced training (internship, residency).
  • Psychologists have doctoral degrees and psychological associates have masters degree in psychology and specialize in the assessment, diagnosis, care planning and treatment of impairment in cognition, emotion, thought, personality, and behaviour.
  • Psychologists and Psychological Associates have advanced training in psychotherapy and the science of behaviour change. They adhere to a biopsychosocial model of mental health.
  • Psychiatrists, by contrast, have a degree in medicine and advanced training (internship, residency) in their area of specialization. They focus on the biological aspects of mental health. In Ontario, their practice is largely focused on medication management and consulting with family physicians, psychologists and other health professionals. Psychologists and psychiatrists are colleagues and often work closely together.

While psychiatrists are covered by OHIP, the fees for psychologists in private practice are covered by extended health plans, employee assistance programs, government services and agencies, or self-pay. An advocacy initiative for OPA is improving access by expanding funding for psychological services.

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