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What Is a Psychologist & What Can They Do?

March 23, 2023

People are more aware of their mental health needs than ever before. And with that awareness comes a desire to be proactive in their mental health care. But that's where we usually reach our first stumbling block. When it comes to therapy, who should the average person go see?   


Of course, we recommend it's always best to see a licensed psychologist. But what exactly is a psychologist, and what can they do for you? Let's take a deeper look at what psychologists can offer and what part they can play in your mental health support system. 


What is a Psychologist?


Let’s start by breaking down the word “psychology.” The suffix “-ology” means “the study of,” while “psych-” means the mind. So in the broadest of terms, a psychologist studies the mind—how we think, feel, and behave. 


Some psychologists focus on research, but for the sake of this article, when we use the term psychologist, we are referring to practitioners who apply their research and clinical knowledge to help people in their day-to-day lives. These psychologists undergo special licensing exams to become registered psychologists who engage in different types of intervention and assessment.

Psychologists can specialize in all sorts of areas. These include school and applied psychology practice, clinical practice, forensic work and child and adolescent interventions.  

The requirements for who can use the title of psychologist changes from country to country and even province to province.  

In Canada, a PhD is considered to provide the best educational foundation and preparation for a career in psychology. To become a bona fide psychologist in Ontario, you must hold both a master’s and a PhD in psychology — holding a master’s degree alone is considered insufficient to use the distinction of psychologist. Some provinces, like Alberta or Saskatchewan, will accept a master’s degree as a sufficient educational foundation. Throughout Canada, there are rigorous training experiences and licensure requirements that must be completed to be able to practice independently and work with individuals experiencing mental health issues.


What Kind of Help can a Psychologist Offer Me?


Psychologists can assess and treat a wide range of behavioural, cognitive, and emotional issues. However, it is important to note that psychologists are not medical doctors, and they cannot prescribe medication. 

Like almost any field of study, psychology is constantly evolving and changing. Researchers are discovering and testing new therapies all the time. Psychologists can offer a massive scope of help and support, and that scope continues to grow.  

Some treatments a psychologist might offer include but are not limited to: 

How Are Psychologists Different From… 


Some people use the terms therapy and counselling interchangeably. It makes sense because the two are very similar. But that does not mean a counsellor and a psychologist are the same. 


In Ontario, anyone with a bachelor's degree or a master's degree in mental health, psychology, counselling, therapy, or other areas of social services can become a counsellor as long as they have done enough clinical work under supervision.   

While a counsellor may have some similar foundational knowledge to a psychologist, their area of study may not actually be psychology. They also have not undergone the same degree of schooling and clinical training as a registered psychologist.



Much like psychologists, a psychiatrists’ area of specialty is focused on the mind and mental health issues. The difference is that psychiatrists have a medical degree. That degree allows them to prescribe medication and dig deeper into mental health issues as part of your body's overall system health.  


If medical intervention is needed, your family doctor will likely refer you to a psychiatrist so you can get the additional help you need. While you need a referral to see a psychiatrist, you do not need one to see a psychologist.  


Are Sessions with a Psychologist Covered by OHIP? 

For the most part, OHIP does not cover psychotherapy from private practitioners. If you have health benefits through your employer, your benefits may offer some coverage for psychotherapy through a private practitioner.  


Some psychologists in Ontario do offer rates at a sliding scale based on your income. It's just a matter of seeing who is practicing in your area and what they offer.  


How Do I Find a Psychologist? 

There are a few different ways to find a psychologist based in Ontario. One of the easiest ways is to use the OPA’s e-referral service:  

The website will give you a few simple questions to answer. Once you've provided the relevant information, we will identify a psychologist to match your unique needs. Within a few days, your new psychologist will contact you. Don't worry; they will discuss fees with you before making your booking.  

Visit to start the process of finding your psychologist and getting the support you need.