We often have clients, family, or friends ask us – what’s the difference between a psychologist, psychiatrist, and psychotherapist? These titles all sound so similar, it’s no wonder people get confused! We thought we’d write a quick blog post to help clarify.


  • Medical Doctor with mental health specialty
  • Registered with the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (CPSO)
  • Can prescribe medication
  • Can diagnose Psychiatric/Psychological conditions
  • Can provide mental health treatment
  • Private practice, hospitals, and institutions


  • PhD in Clinical Psychology
  • Registered with the College of Psychologists of Ontario (CPO)
  • Can not prescribe medication
  • Can diagnose Psychological conditions
  • Can provide mental health treatment
  • Private practice, hospitals, and institutions


  • Master’s Degree in Psychology, Counselling, or Psychotherapy
  • Registered with the College of Psychotherapists of Ontario (CRPO)
  • Can not prescribe medication
  • Can not diagnose Psychological conditions
  • Can provide mental health treatment
  • Private practice and institutions

Social Workers

  • Bachelor or Master’s of Social Work
  • May be registered with the Ontario College of Social Workers and Social Service Workers (OCSWSSW)
  • Can not prescribe medication
  • Can not diagnose Psychological conditions
  • Can provide mental health treatment
  • Private practice and institutions


It is important to note that mental health services by any of these practitioners is likely not covered under OHIP unless seen through a hospital, school, or doctor’s office. However, any of these services may be covered under your extended health benefits. Most extended health care plans specify the type of the practitioner that you can see in order to get fees covered, so it is often helpful to understand the difference.

Each of these types of practitioners is typically trained in some capacity to address mental health concerns, and is registered with a regulating body to ensure that they are practicing ethically and within their scope of practice. Regardless of who you choose as your therapist/counsellor, the most important factor is the therapeutic relationship, and how well you connect with your therapist. Research has shown that the therapeutic relationship is more important than education, length of practice, type of practitioner, or modality of practice in determining success in therapy (Lisa Firestone, 2016).

Remember, it’s okay to talk to a couple of different practitioners before you choose, and it’s okay to switch therapists should you meet one that doesn’t work for you.

We know – this can be confusing! Here is a chart to summarize:


Designation Can Prescribe Medication Can Diagnose Psychiatric Conditions Can Treat Psychiatric Conditions
Psychiatrist Yes Yes Yes
Psychologist No Yes Yes
Psychotherapist No No Yes
Social Worker No No Yes



Lisa Firestone, P. (2016, December 22). The Importance of the Relationship in Therapy: How a strong therapeutic alliance can lead to real change. Retrieved from Psychology Today: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/compassion-matters/201612/the-importance-the-relationship-in-therapy

Kayleen Edwards

Registered Psychotherapist


When deciding whether to talk to a therapist or not, you may have the thought – what’s different about talking to a therapist than talking to a friend? Why invest the money, when I can talk to my friend for free?

While it’s true that friends can be great sources of support, there are some times when we need a little bit more. Here’s how a therapist is different than talking to your friend:

1) A therapist is specifically trained in mental health.

This is probably the biggest advantage of seeing a therapist. Therapists are specifically trained in understanding psychological issues, in addition to various treatment methods. Understanding psychological issues means that we can understand specific symptoms you may be experiencing and how these impact your life. Sometimes it may be difficult for a friend to understand, and we may hear things like “You need to just get over it”, “Don’t think about it” or “Cheer up”. This sometimes serves to isolate us more, making us feel as though we aren’t being heard or that there’s something wrong with us for not being able to not think about it.

This is where a therapist comes in. As therapists, we understand why you feel this way and can offer techniques and tools to help. Whether it’s specific techniques and strategies such as mindfulness, or simply listening compassionately and holding space, we are specialists in helping you to cope with these difficult situations.

2) A therapist can provide an unbiased perspective.

A feedback I often hear from clients is that it feels good to get a fresh perspective from someone who wasn’t previously close to them. This can be helpful sometimes because it means that sometimes we can notice or catch things that friends haven’t noticed before. As therapists, we are specifically trained in noticing how bias can get in the way of helping others. We are experts at checking our own bias, and knowing how to handle our own thoughts and feelings to prevent them from negatively impacting the therapeutic relationship.

We are also going to ask you the tough questions when necessary, where your friend may not. We do this because we know that at times you need to face something that may be difficult, and in order to do that, we have to ask questions that may feel probing or uncomfortable. We are here to help you to work through these difficult questions and move forward on your path to living a better life.

3) Therapists are bound by confidentiality.

Confidentiality is at the core of a therapeutic relationship. We are bound by confidentiality regulations set forth by our respective colleges (e.g. the College of Registered Psychotherapists of Ontario), and uphold these standards each and every day. We know how important trust is, and you can rest assured knowing that when you’re talking to a therapist, what is said will stay between the counselling office walls.

These are only a few examples of the differences between talking to a therapist and a friend. All in all, both are helpful to talk to! Talking to friends and therapists can be a great way to feel heard, hear a different perspective, and create a deeper connection with yourself and others.

Kayleen Edwards

Registered Psychotherapist



CLICK HERE to take a short survey to give feedback on the services in your community!

As many of you may know, the month of June is pride month. It’s a month where we take time to celebrate the LGBTQ2S+ community all across Canada and the world. There are parades, events, concerts, shows, and gatherings.

Pride month is about more than just pride, however, for the majority of people. It’s about increasing awareness, educating the public, and reminding the world that the LGBTQ2S+ community is out there. It’s also often about activism and moving towards equal rights for the community, as there are still many ways in which the community is discriminated against.

While many are excited to participate in the pride events taking place this month, I think it is important to recognize those individuals who cannot participate this year. There are many in the LGBTQ2S+ community who have not yet come out for fear of backlash, or even violence, from the people around them. During this month, while we celebrate how times have changed and champion for even more change, I’d like to also take some time to quietly and respectfully recognize those who cannot celebrate with us. To those of you who have not and cannot come out right now, know that we are here to support you, we love you, and you are not alone. Know that when it is safe for you to come out, we will be here to support you, as we recognize that everyone’s journey is different.

youth_line_logo For those of you living in silence and in fear, know that there is hope, and there are people who care about you and love you as you truly are. Should you ever need someone to talk to, keep in mind that as a therapist, I am bound confidentiality, and will not reveal your information to anyone around you. You can talk to me, or another therapist, without fear of your secret getting out. You can click here to see a list of support centres, hotlines, and other resources if you need to talk to someone.

As someone who does not identify as a member of the LGBTQ2S+ community, I am on a journey to being the best ally that I can be. I identify as a cisgender female, and my goal is to provide a safe and open environment for individuals from all walks of life to express themselves and get the help that they need. I also try my best to be an advocate for the LGBTQ2S+ community, by educating the public in any way I can, whether that’s simply being a supportive presence online and in the community, or calling out prejudice when I see it.

2000px-Straight_Ally_flag.svg The difficulty in being an ally, I find, is that I often find I am lacking knowledge. I’ve attended workshops and training related to the process of transitioning, including learning how individuals can get HRT and surgery if they’re transitioning, and how to provide a safe space for the LGBTQ2S+ community. I have this knowledge, yet I’m left wondering what it is the LGBTQ2S+ community really needs and wants from me as a therapist.

My goal in the next year is to become more involved in the community by attending and participating in events, volunteering, and possibly becoming a member of the pride committee in my home town. I want to provide the community with resources, information, and support that they don’t have, and in order to do that, I need to learn first hand what it is that they’re missing. I’m hoping over the next year, I can meet more individuals in the community, get to know you, and begin to implement more resources that you find useful.

If you’d like to provide me with feedback, I’d love to hear any ideas you may have. Please call, text, or email me:


Or, CLICK HERE to take a short survey to give feedback on the services in your community!


Happy pride everyone!


Jennifer Thomson

Registered Psychotherapist


Hi everyone – we are so excited about the launch of our new business, Roots in Wellness!  We wanted to take some time to explain to you the rationale behind Roots in Wellness, our philosophy, and the way that the business works.

5622261010_d6a8eb66ed_bSo, why Roots in Wellness?  What does that mean, and how do our values tie into it?  Strong roots are so important in order to have successful growth.  That’s what we do, after all – we promote growth in our clients and work to help them grow into whoever they want to be.  The other main aspect of our businesses that we really wanted to promote was this idea of overall health and wellness, not just therapy or mental health.  The idea of Roots in Wellness suggests that in order to move forward and grow, we have to go back to our roots- we need to go back to basics and remember our simple, basic human needs.  Similarly to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, we need to go back to basics, and take care of ourselves.  While your mental health may be your main concern when you come to see us, we typically see that your physical health has suffered as well.  We believe that everything is interrelated, and in order to be mentally healthy, we have to be physically healthy, and vice versa.

MaslowMaslow’s Hierarchy of Needs suggests that we start off at the bottom rung, and we slowly move our way up.  We can’t get to the next level until we’ve fulfilled the one below it, and this fits in well with our model of therapy.  We start off with physiological needs: we need to eat, breathe, sleep, etc. to survive.  Without these things, we will die.  Second is safety, and not just from physical harm, but financial safety and security as well.  If we’re not taking care of ourselves physically, it’ll be pretty difficult to hold down a job or be able to buy a home.  Next we have love and belonging, which refers to having positive relationships, and the idea of feeling like you’re a part of a group.  Next we have esteem, which really comes from within.  How do you feel about yourself?  Well, if you don’t have the other things below, you’re likely not feeling great about yourself.  And then finally, the last step is self-actualization.  Some posit that very few reach this level, as it can be difficult to fulfill all of these.  But we believe that it is possible, and we make it our mission to help you get there.

Roots in Wellness therapists have the following shared beliefs:

  • Each and every individual is capable of growth and movement towards their values and what they want out of life. It’s not that people are incapable, it’s that we are sometimes unequipped to handle what life throws at us.  We provide you with the tools to be able to handle what life throws at you, and move forward in a positive manner.
  • The key to making improvements in our lives lies in a holistic approach to health. This doesn’t mean you have to take a bunch of supplements or vitamins and start meditating every day (although it doesn’t hurt!).  Holistic means: “characterized by comprehension of the parts of something as intimately interconnected and explicable only by reference to the whole.”  In other words, we advocate for the integration of physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual health.  These things are going to be defined differently for each and every person, and that’s okay.  We take the time to get to know you and your unique needs, and help you begin building the life that you want.  We can work on your mental health as much as we want, giving you strategies to help you cope with stress or anxiety, but at the end of the day, if your physical health is suffering, you’re going to have difficulty moving forward.  This doesn’t mean we’re going to force everyone to go on a diet or start running marathons.  Rather, we work with individuals to ensure they’re living the way they want to live in every aspect of their lives.
  • Every person is unique, and the same approach does not work for every individual. While we take a holistic approach in general, everyone has different needs, and as therapists, it’s extremely important that we understand this.  We want to get to know you, talk about your goals for therapy and for life, and come up with a plan with you to move forward.
  • Everyone deserves to have a support system and a safe place to express themselves. We know that being yourself can be difficult, especially when you feel like no one else can relate to you.  While we don’t claim to have personal experience with every type of difficulty, we are able to provide you with a safe place to express yourself, talk about your struggles, and be open and honest with yourself.  We can offer active listening and support, empathy, and guidance that fits your unique needs.  We think of each client as an opportunity for us to learn and grow as well, and we do our best not to make assumptions; we understand that you are the expert in your life, and we are just here to help guide you.

At Roots in Wellness, we aim to help you move towards living the best life you can live, and the life that you want to live.  We put a focus on your values and moving forward from where you stand now.

We are officially accepting new clients, for both counselling and coaching.  We are looking forward to working with the individuals in Hamilton, and we welcome any feedback or suggestions for services, groups, or changes to our approach that you think may be helpful.

Give us a call today, and get on the path towards living your best life!