What is the difference between a Psychologist and a Psychiatrist?

While there is considerable overlap between the services offered by Psychologists and Psychiatrists, there are some differences in training and services.


  • Both Clinical Psychologists and Psychiatrists can provide Psychotherapy and counselling services.
  • Both Clinical Psychologists and Psychiatrists are trained to diagnose neuropsychological disorders and dysfunctions plus psychotic, neurotic and personality disorders and dysfunctions. Both professionals are granted the right to make such diagnoses by law while other health care providers cannot.
  • Both Clinical Psychologists and Psychiatrists help people maintain and enhance their physical, intellectual, emotional, social and interpersonal functioning.


  • Psychologists have earned a doctoral level degree (Ph.D., Psy.D., or D.Ed.) in Psychology, after having obtained a Bachelors degree and a Masters degree in Psychology.
  • This amounts to at least nine years of university education and training in Psychology. Psychiatrists have a general medical degree first (4 years at the undergraduate level) and then advanced training in psychiatry (usually 4 years residency after the M.D. degree).
  • Psychologists can do psychological testing with well-researched tests. Psychiatrists typically do not do psychological testing.
  • Psychiatrists can prescribe medication, while in Ontario, Psychologists cannot.
  • Psychologists are regulated by the College of Psychologists of Ontario while Psychiatrists are regulated by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario.

What is a Psychologist?

The scientific study of behaviour, feelings, motives and thinking is the basis of Psychology. Psychologists also study the biological and physiological bases of behaviour because of the interdependence of mind and body. The job of the Psychologist is to apply this knowledge to help people solve personal problems or to enable a group – a family, a school or a corporation – to function better. As a field of study, Psychology is a science. As a practice, it is a profession. While there are several branches of applied Psychology, the core training of these professionals is much the same.

To become a Psychologist in Ontario, an individual must earn a doctoral degree in Psychology, which means a minimum of nine years of intensive academic training in a university program recognized by the College of Psychologists. The psychology candidate is expected to be knowledgeable in the biological, mental, emotional and social bases of human behaviour. The candidate must also be proficient in research design and methodology, statistical analysis, scientific and professional ethics and standards, and their particular area of special interest (for example, clinical, educational or organizational psychology).

Upon completion of the doctoral degree,  the new graduate takes an additional year of supervised training and is evaluated by written and oral exams much like the articling lawyer or interning physician.

What is a Clinical Psychologist?

Clinical psychology is concerned with  identifying and treating problems which adults and children have both within themselves and with other people. These conflicts can involve emotions, thinking, learning , as well as social and sexual problems. A Psychologist practicing in the area of clinical psychology can provide diagnostic, therapeutic and counselling services to an individual, a family or a group sharing similar problems. The word “clinical”, used to describe the Psychologist, does not mean that he or she works in a clinic. It means that he or she has skills to work directly to help people who have the type of problems mentioned above. “Clinical” distinguishes these Psychologists from research Psychologists, educational Psychologists, organizational Psychologists and so on.

The psychologist helps people achieve changes in lifestyle or habits that can correct health problems and result in more productive living – such as overcoming alcohol and drug addiction, controlling fears, alleviating depression, reducing anxiety and stress, overcoming feelings of low self-esteem and so on. Psychologists sometimes work with patients with physical problems such as persistent headaches, chronic pain, hypertension and ulcers, sometimes in conjunction with medical treatment.

Psychologists are trained to apply a wide range of methods to assess the clients’ needs for treatment and to develop programs of therapy. Psychologists tailor the treatment to the needs of the clients. Psychologists have been in the forefront in developing new and better treatment procedures and have an ethical responsibility to continue their education and maintain their competence. In Ontario only health care providers registered and regulated by the College of Psychologists can call themselves Psychologists. Thus, clients are assured of high standards of practice and health care delivery when they consult a clinical Psychologist.

What is the difference between a Psychologist and a Psychotherapist?

Most clinical Psychologists do psychotherapy but a general Psychotherapist is not the same as a Psychologist. Psychologists are regulated by the College of Psychologists. Those with much less training and experience than psychologists are able to be registered by the College of Psychotherapists. They will not be Psychologists and cannot use the restricted title of Psychologist. Psychologists have the legal right to use the title “doctor” while psychotherapists cannot. Also, clinical Psychologists are authorized in law to diagnose mental disorders while psychotherapists are not.

The entry requirements for someone to become registered with the College of Psychotherapists are much lower than the requirements for becoming a Psychologist. As discussed elsewhere on this website, Psychologists must have three degrees in psychology, including a Ph.D., Psy.D. or D.Ed. These doctoral degrees are the highest awarded by universities and represent many years of scholarly and clinical work and training (a minimum of 10 years of university). Psychologists have been regulated in Ontario since 1960. In 1993, the Regulated Health Professions Act came into force, regulating and licensing Psychologists and many other health care providers, such as physicians, dentists, optometrists, chiropractors and so on.

More recently, the College of Psychotherapists Act of 2007 was passed in order to regulate other psychotherapists and counsellors who did not meet the highly demanding entry criteria that were established for Psychologists. This College governs a very widely diverse group pf mental health providers who are not eligible for the Colleges which license the other health professionals who do psychotherapy, such as Psychologists, some Registered Nurses, and some Physicians.

We at Gilmour Psychological Services® are firmly committed to providing you with the best care possible and we believe that Psychologists represent the gold standard of psychotherapy. It is also true that the long established profession of scientific clinical psychology has led the way in developing the evidence-based approaches to psychotherapy that are used around the world and by diverse practitioners. We pride ourselves on being in the mainstream of modern, research supported psychotherapy services.

My Psychologist mentioned she/he is in supervised practice. What is supervised practice?

The process to become registered as a Psychologist in the province of Ontario involves several steps. To begin, an application is made to the College of Psychologists of Ontario, the regulatory agency. Applicants must show that they have completed a doctoral degree in psychology and must also demonstrate that they have provided a minimum number of hours of psychological service. For someone involved in clinical or counseling psychology, they must also have completed an internship in which they offered clinical services in an accredited program at a hospital or clinic. The College of Psychologists reviews the application and, if all the necessary conditions have been met, offers a certificate for supervised practice. Thus, it is typical for therapists to have accumulated at least 5 years of clinical experience prior to receiving the certificate for supervised practice.

The certificate of supervised practice stipulates that the applicant must work under the supervision of one or more Psychologists. While doing so, the applicant accumulates a required number of hours of service provision and writes two comprehensive exams to ensure a broad and thorough understanding of the field of psychology and the laws, ethics and standards of care for the profession. When all of this is completed, the College of Psychologists invites the applicant to an oral exam in which he/she is interviewed by a panel of Psychologists. If successful, the applicant then becomes fully registered with the College and need no longer use the term supervised practice. This process is similar to the articling year of work and examinations to become a lawyer, or the licensing requirements required for specialty training in medicine.

Who needs a Psychologist?

For some people, seeing a clinically trained Psychologist may be embarrassing, an admission of failure in coping with life’s problems. In fact, the services provided by Psychologists can be seen simply as an important part of complete health care.

Psychologists see people who have a wide range of problems. Some people consult Psychologists when they simply have an important decision to make and need an objective and private sounding board.

Other people suffer from diagnostic psychological disorders such as anxiety, depression, post traumatic stress reaction. A psychological disorder may be indicated by any of the following: severe mental turmoil and extreme mood changes, loss of contact with reality, insomnia and loss of appetite, feeling of guilt, sexual dysfunction, isolation, withdrawal and irritability, rage, violence, suicidal feelings, self-defeating behaviour and so on.

Some people experience difficulties when they go through transitions such as marriage breakdown, job loss, retirement, parenthood, accidents, serious illness, bereavement and others. The ability to cope varies from person to person and within a person depending on the number and severity of stressors.

Psychologists are trained to recognize the possibility of physical bases to clients’ difficulties. They work within their range of competence and with the resources of the community to provide quality health care. Psychologists will ensure that the client seeks medical attention and also will refer the client to other social services when they are important to the resolution of the problem. In Ontario, only health care providers registered and regulated by the College of Psychologists can call themselves Psychologists. Thus, clients are assured of high standards of practice and health care delivery when they consult a Psychologist.

Are Psychological services covered by OHIP?

No, services offered by a Psychologist are not covered by OHIP. However, our fees are reimbursed by extended health care insurance, which you may have through your work. The fees situation is more like that at a dentist’s office than at a physician’s.

We work on a fee for service basis, and people typically pay as they go, at the end of each session, receiving a receipt suitable for submission to their insurance company. A personal cheque or cash is acceptable to all our Psychologists and some accept payment by credit card or Interac. Whatever is not reimbursed by your insurance company is claimable as a tax deduction on your income tax as a medical expense.

You will find that, when you pay for your therapy after each session, debt is not built up and your therapy becomes a budgeted expense, like other weekly expenses such as groceries.

Why should I pay more to see a Psychologist?

Why should I pay more to see a Psychologist when I can pay less and see a psychiatrist covered by OHIP or a “Counsellor” or “Social Worker” who is not covered by OHIP but charges less per session? There are a number of very important reasons why you may want to see a Psychologist rather than a less expensive or “free” therapist.

  • Clinical Psychologists have more mental health and psychotherapeutic training and experience than any other health professional.
  • Clinical Psychologists have studied at a university for a minimum of 9 years to earn a doctoral degree in psychology and the work placement experience. After obtaining their doctorate, Psychologists must complete a postdoctoral year of supervised experience, write two sets of examinations and pass oral examinations.
  • Psychologists are regulated and licensed by the College of Psychologists of Ontario, which has the power to discipline, fine and revoke the licence of Psychologists who have not performed their job competently and hurt a client. As a result, the proficiency level and honour of the profession of psychology is ensured and protects you when you seek help.
  • Only therapists registered with the College of Psychologists can use the title “Psychologist” and the terms “psychology” and “psychological” (as in, for example, a “psychological report”.) Therefore, when you see a psychologist, you can be assured that he or she is an exceptionally well trained, well experienced, and well regulated health care professional.
  • You also have recourse to a higher authority, the College of Psychologists of Ontario, if you are unhappy with the behaviour of the psychologist. There is no recourse with counsellors and other therapists unregulated by law. This is why insurance companies will reimburse you for our Psychologists’ fees but will not reimburse you for the fees of an unregulated provider.
  • Many people do not want to see a psychiatrist because they do not want a medical approach to their problems. Many (but not all) psychiatrists are very biomedical and believe that moods are the result of biochemical imbalances that should mainly be treated by pills. This is like saying your tension headache always requires an aspirin and couldn’t be cured by relaxation, a massage or some problem solving.

We at Gilmour Psychological Services®,   stay within our area of competence and work with the other health care professionals relevant to our clients problems. Clients are given full opportunity to work on their problems without medication, but if medication is indicated, we refer appropriately and the client can see us for psychotherapy while also seeing a psychiatrist or family physician for prescription and monitoring of medication.

Psychology as a Career

Dr. Iris Jackson, C. Psych.
Gilmour Psychological Services®
437 Gilmour St., Ottawa, ON, K2P 0R5
(613) 230-4709, ext. 0024


There are many different types of psychologists.

For example, there are:

  • Clinical Psychologists
  • Educational Psychologists
  • Industrial/Organizational Psychologists
  • Forensic Psychologists
  • Research Psychologists
  • Academic Psychologists

They all have the following education and standards in common:

  • An Honour B.A. in psychology…………4 years of university
  • A Masters degree in psychology………2 years of university
  • A Ph/D degree in a particular area of psychology..3 or more years of university

Total years of university: at least nine (9) years.

A Ph.D. is a scientific and scholarly degree, requiring original research written in a scholarly format.

A Ph.D. is the highest degree awarded by a university.

After the doctorate, the aspiring Psychologist must complete a year’s postdoctoral work experience supervised by a senior Psychologist. During that year, in addition to working in the field, the aspiring Psychologist must write an exam on all areas of psychology (The Exam in the Professional Practice of Psychology, or E Triple P exam). He or she must also write a Jurisprudence Exam on the laws and ethics that govern the practice of psychology in Ontario. After successfully passing these written exams and toward the end of the supervised practice year, the candidate must sit for oral exams conducted by a panel of senior Psychologists who are representatives of the regulatory body for psychology, The College of Psychologists of Ontario.

The process of becoming a Psychologist is designed to ensure that Psychologists have a good range of information, knowledge, skills and ethical awareness. It is a way of ensuring accountability so that the public can be protected from unscrupulous practitioners who might take advantage of them. Only professionals registered with the College of Psychologists are entitled to call themselves “Psychologists” or use the terms, “psychological”, “psychology” or any derivative such as “psych.” People who do not have the credentials and are not registered with the College of Psychologists, and who use these terms, are breaking the law and are subject to fines and even jail time.

It is also true that only five health care providers are entitled by law to call themselves “Doctor” when offering health care services to the public. These are: Psychologists, Physicians, Dentists, Optometrists and Chiropractors.

Since 1993, people who have Masters degrees in psychology can be registered with the College of Psychologists as Psychological Associates, provided that their Bachelorate degrees and their Masters degrees are in psychology and they have had five (5) years of supervision by a Psychologist or psychological associate. Masters level psychological providers must write the same exams listed above and sit for oral exams. They are not entitled to call themselves “Doctor”.

Psychologists’ fees are not covered by OHIP, but the fees are reimbursed, at least in part, by extended health care plans that most people have through their work. Psychologists who work in hospitals or school boards are on salary, paid for by the provincial government. However, in Ontario, many hospitals have cut back their psychological services. Also, In Ottawa, access to hospital-based Psychologists is not automatic, but is at the discretion of the physician handling the case. That is not true in other parts of Ontario, where, in some hospitals, patients can request to see a Psychologist directly.

Psychologists in private practice are paid directly by the client on a fee-for-service basis. The client is then reimbursed by his or her insurance company, or uses the receipt as a tax deduction. Thus, Psychologists in private practice run their business more like a dentist than a physician. In private practice, Psychologists’ incomes are comparable to other professions requiring similar lengths of time acquiring their education. For example, the average Psychologist earns a similar amount of money to a lawyer. MostPsychologists in private practice earn a lot more than family physicians or community-based psychiatrists do. This is due, in part, because OHIP fees, which pay physicians, have not kept up with the times, while private practice Psychologists have been free to raise their fees appropriately over the years without government interference. However, salaried Psychologists earn slightly less that salaried physicians in hospitals.

For further information, especially about clinical psychology, please use the links to Canadian Psychological Association, the College of Psychologists of Ontario, and the America Psychological Association, which can further expand your knowledge of this fascinating field.

How do I make an appointment?

For information or guidance on how to choose a Psychologist, call reception 613-230-4709 ext. 0 at Gilmour Psychological Services®. To make an appointment, call the Psychologist of your choice at one of the following extension numbers:

Administrative Staff

  • Ms. Shanning Edouard Ext.0037
  • Ms. Susan McCallum Ext. 0038
  • Mr. Adam Davies Ext. 1

Fax: (613) 230-8274

Where do I find Gilmour Psychological Services®?

Gilmour Psychological Services® has a main administrative office at 437 Gilmour St. Our many psychologists are in buildings at 437 Gilmour St., 430 Gilmour St., 436 Gilmour St., 440 Laurier Ave. West, and 237 Argyle Ave. Please read the psychologists’ biosketches to note the psychologist’s specific address. Parking is to be found on the street (generally two hour parking) and in the parking lots near the particular offices.

Our large group of psychologists provides services to individuals, couples and families across the age spectrum. Since we opened our doors in 1983, and with the continued expansion of our services, literally thousands of clients have been helped.

Our large group of Psychologists provides services to individuals, couples / partners and families across the age spectrum. Since we opened our doors, literally thousands of clients have been helped.