What's the Difference Between a GP Psychotherapist, Psychiatrist, Psychologist, and a Registered Psychotherapist?

By Ava Kavianpour (Get Well Clinic)


Mental health is equally as important as physical health, and we must take care of both aspects of our lives. With the many options available, finding mental health support can sometimes be confusing. Psychologists, psychiatrists, general practitioner psychotherapists and registered psychotherapists are mental health professionals that are similar in what they cover, but there are also differences between them. Continue reading for a summary of each specialty and what they can offer you.

General Practitioner Psychotherapist

A general practitioner (GP) is frequently the first person turned to help with mental health. They can prescribe you medicine, have a brief conversation or refer you to the proper specialist. A GP psychotherapist is a general practitioner (GP) or primary care physician (PCP) with psychotherapy-focused practice (1). A GP psychotherapist can offer psychotherapy to support you with your mental health.


A psychiatrist is a clinically trained, licensed medical doctor and is certified by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada. Psychiatrists can diagnose, treat and provide care for mental health disorders (2). Psychiatrists can prescribe medication in addition to providing psychotherapy (2). You need a referral from a family doctor to book an appointment with a psychiatrist.


A psychologist has a masters or a doctoral degree in psychology, normally taking 6 to 10 years of university study to complete (3). They are regulated by the college of psychologists of Ontario and are licensed generally but they declare an area of competency to practice within (4). With an academic background, psychologists understand how to apply research to take an evidence-based approach that is effective (5). They use a variety of treatments and psychotherapies. You do not need a doctor's referral to speak to a psychologist. It is important to talk to a psychologist that has experience with your case and to ensure they are licensed (5).

Registered Psychotherapist

Psychotherapists in Ontario require a master’s level degree and are regulated by the College of Registered Psychotherapists of Ontario (CRPO). They primarily use talk-therapy and are trained to use therapies such as: Cognitive and Behavioural, Experiential and Humanistic, Psychodynamic, Somatic, Systemic and Collaborative therapies (6). Psychotherapists can provide a wide range of approaches ranging from art and drama to one-on-one sessions (5). You do not need a referral from your doctor to see a psychotherapist.


What to do now?

It is important to do your research, speak to your family doctor and find what works best for you. Get Well Clinic has a team of mental health professionals, click on the links to learn more about them and their services:

Dr. Laura Lee Copeland: Medical Psychotherapist
Dr. Neil Levitsky: Psychiatrist
Dr. Esther Ko: Clinical Psychologist
Rachel Ying Zeng: Registered Psychotherapist

Interested in booking an appointment? Call 416-508-5691 or start a chat today.


1. https://www.cmajopen.ca/content/8/1/E105.full#ref-6
2. https://www.cpa-apc.org/faqs/
3. https://cpa.ca/public/whatisapsychologist/
4. https://cpo.on.ca/resources/faqs/">
5. https://globalnews.ca/news/3825025/psychotherapist-psychologist-psychiatrist-difference/
6. https://www.crpo.ca/what-is-psychotherapy/

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