Understanding the Landscape of Mental Health Therapy: A Guide to Different Therapist Roles

by | Jan 28, 2024 | Uncategorized

Navigating the world of mental health support can often feel daunting with the variety of therapists available to help. At Mindful Therapies, we have Registered Clinical Psychologists and Registered Clinical Social Workers. We are often asked what the differences are between these types of therapists as there are also often differences in rates charged. In Nova Scotia, various pathways lead individuals to become mental health therapists. Commonly recognized categories include Psychiatrists, Psychologists, Social Workers, and Registered Counselling Therapists. The distinctions between these therapists lie in their educational backgrounds, training, and the therapeutic approaches they offer. This post will help you understand some of the similarities and differences between therapists and hopefully make your choice easier.

When selecting a therapist, feel free to inquire about their training, therapeutic approach, and its suitability for your specific concerns.The most important element is that you feel comfortable 

Here’s a breakdown of the different types of therapists you might encounter:

1) Psychiatrists: The Medical Specialists

Psychiatrists are medical doctors with a specialization in mental health. They complete full medical training and additional years focusing on psychiatric care. These professionals are adept in the medical/biological model of illness and are authorized to prescribe medications. They diagnose mental health issues and often work in settings where mental health concerns are moderate to severe. Some psychiatrists also receive training in psychotherapy and are registered with the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Nova Scotia.

2) Psychologists: The Behaviour Experts

Psychologists delve into the study of behavior, personality, development, and mental wellness. This group does not have medical training but specializes in various evidence-based therapies. Master’s level Psychologists might focus on diagnosing learning or developmental issues in children, while others are trained exclusively in therapeutic skills. At the PhD level, psychologists engage in research, diagnostic testing, and multiple forms of therapy. They do not prescribe medication but can offer diagnosis and treatment for mental health disorders. Learn more about what distinguishes Psychologists from Psychiatrists at the Association of Psychologists of Nova Scotia.

3) Social Workers: The Community Champions

Social Workers come from a background rooted in social justice, societal systems, human rights, and community services. Their Master’s education often includes individual intervention strategies, social welfare policy, and sometimes training in psychotherapy. Many also pursue post-graduate training in psychotherapy. For detailed information on the work and expertise of Social Workers, the Nova Scotia College of Social Workers is an excellent resource.

4) Registered Counselling Therapists: The Emerging Specialists

The title of Registered Counselling Therapist (RCT) is a more recent addition to the regulated therapeutic professions. To gain this title, a Master’s degree in counselling is mandatory. Their academic backgrounds vary, encompassing education, psychology, social work, or related fields. RCTs are skilled in techniques to support individuals with diverse concerns. The Nova Scotia College of Counselling Therapists provides further insights into this profession.

What Matters in Your Therapeutic Journey

Despite the differences in education and approach among these professionals, they share a common commitment to mental health. All are highly trained, registered, adhere to ethical standards, and prioritize continual learning. Each therapist is going to have differences in their educational background, including the type of therapy or therapies they are trained in. When choosing a therapist, consider not only their professional background but also the comfort and trust you feel during your interactions. Remember, the therapeutic relationship is vital.

While knowing this information can be helpful, it is also relevant to know that regardless of who you choose as your therapist, feeling good about the therapeutic relationship is of utmost importance. It is also important to feel that your therapist genuinely understands your concern and has the knowledge and skills to help you. Do not be afraid to ask questions in therapy to understand who you are working with and how they can help.

Rebecca Boehm

Rebecca Boehm

Dr. Boehm is a Registered Psychologist, who received her PhD at the University of Saskatchewan. She worked for a number of years in the Nova Scotia health care system in the areas of Addictions, Operational Stress Injury and Forensic Assessment. She started Mindful Therapies in 2016, and continues to offer diagnostic assessment services related to trauma and military service. She is currently on leave from therapy services.