Health Providers: Glossary of Terms


Clinical psychologist

A clinical psychologist is a professional with specialized knowledge about the diagnosis and treatment of mental health problems. Like a counseling psychologist, a clinical psychologist is trained in psychotherapy and counseling. However, clinical psychologists often work with those whose problems are more severe than those a counseling psychologist may deal with. A referral from your doctor is not necessary to see a psychologist. However, a clinical psychologist will not be able to prescribe medication for treatment. Clinical psychologists have at least a Master’s degree, and many have a Doctorate Degree as well.

Counseling psychologist

A counseling psychologist is trained in psychotherapy and counseling and can help assess emotional and behavioural problems, as well as help deliver intervention for these issues. A referral from your doctor is not necessary to see a psychologist. However, a counseling psychologist will not be able to prescribe medication for treatment. Counseling psychologist will have at least a Master’s degree and may also have a Doctorate degree.

General Practitioner (GP)

A general practitioner is your family doctor, also known as a primary care physician, and will hold a degree in medicine. A GP may be able to prescribe you medication as well as provide you with a referral to other services and professionals, for example to see a psychiatrist. If you do not have a family doctor, you can go to a walk-in clinic to find a doctor that is close to you.
Find a walk-in clinic:


Like a counseling psychologist or a clinical psychologist, psychiatrists are trained in psychotherapy and counseling. However, since psychiatrists are medical doctors (MDs), they are also able to prescribe medication that may be needed and have extensive training in medical and mental health related conditions. You will need to have a referral from a doctor (e.g., your general physician) in order to see a psychiatrist. In Canada, the psychiatrist’s services are covered under provincial health insurance, although the wait to see a psychiatrist may be long. Psychiatrists have a degree in medicine as well as specialist certification in psychiatry.


Finding a Psychologist


Psychologists are individual practitioners- that means that their training, specialization, and preferred methods may be very different. Some psychologists may be better suited to deal with certain mental health issues than others. Additionally, there is a wide range of different psychological approaches. For example, this will affect the way your psychologist approaches treatment or how you discuss problems together. Try to find someone that you are comfortable with and who will fit your needs.


In Canada, each province and territory has a psychological regulatory body, which grants a license for psychologists to practice. Check to see that your psychologist is registered by calling the regulatory body in your province or territory to check their current standing.


If you are still in school (e.g., at college or university), your school may offer individual or group counseling services that are free or at a reduced cost. Check your school to see if you may be able to access any of their services.

If you are seeing a psychologist that works at a hospital, community clinic, school, social agency, or correctional facility, the service will be covered by provincial health insurance. Unfortunately, wait lists can often be long for psychologists working out of these settings.

However, if you are going to see a counselor at a private practice, the province will not cover the services you receive. Check your health insurance benefits (e.g., with your employer or at school) to see what your coverage is like, for example, insurance may cover you for a few sessions.

Read More:
List of psychological regulatory bodies in each province and territory:
List of psychological associations in each province and territory:
Find a registered psychologist in BC: