Top 10 Questions about Psychological Services

  1. What is a psychologist? Psychologists study how we think, feel and behave from a scientific viewpoint and apply this knowledge to help people understand, explain and change their behaviour. In Ontario, the term psychologist applies to those who have completed a doctoral degree in psychology and at least one year of supervised professional practice as a provider of psychological services. This means that, on average, psychologists commit about 11 years to their education and training. Psychologists are regulated health service providers who work as clinicians, teachers, and researchers in various settings, including: hospitals, nursing facilities, rehabilitation centres, community health care clinics, school-based health clinics, private offices, universities, and other settings. Services provided by psychologists include assessment, therapy, consultation, and research. For more information on psychologists and the services they provide, please visit the official websites of the Ontario Psychological Association and the Canadian Psychological Association.

  2. What is a psychological associate? Psychological associates are also regulated health service providers. Psychological associates have completed training in psychology at the Masters level and at least four full years of additional supervised professional practice as a provider of psychological services. Once their training is complete, psychological associates practice autonomously and are not required to work under the professional supervision of a psychologist (although they may do so in larger psychology departments). For more information on psychological associates and the services they provide, please visit the Ontario Association of Psychological Associates official website.

  3. What is a psychometrist? The term psychometrist refers to someone who administers psychological tests. Unlike the terms psychologist and psychological associate, the term psychometrist is not a legally protected title, and professionals who hold this title do not legally require any special training. However, psychometrists often possess a bachelor's degree in psychology or a related discipline, and usually work under the professional supervision of a psychologist or a psychological associate.

  4. What is the difference between a psychologist and psychiatrist? As stated above, a psychologist is a regulated health service provider who has been awarded a doctoral degree in psychology and completed at least one year of supervised practice. Psychologists are governed by the College of Psychologists of Ontario. A psychiatrist is also a regulated health service provider. However, a psychiatrist is a physician who has completed a medical degree (M.D.) as well as additional training in mental health. Psychiatrists can prescribe medication; psychologists cannot. The services of psychiatrists are covered under the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP); the services of psychologists are not.

  5. What does it mean to be a registered psychologist or psychological associate? To practice psychology in Ontario, a person must hold a current certificate of registration from the College of Psychologists of Ontario; the regulatory body for the profession. Under the authority of the Regulated Health Professions Act, 1991 and the Psychology Act, 1991, the College registers two classes of autonomous practitioners: psychologists and psychological associates. A psychologist or psychological Associate who holds a certificate of registration authorizing autonomous practice may provide services without supervision, within his or her area of competence, and may bill for these services.

  6. What is psychotherapy? Psychotherapy involves talking with a psychology service provider about thoughts, feelings, and behaviour that may be causing problems in day-to-day life. The therapist helps people gain insight into their feelings, change behaviors, resolve problems or learn how to deal with feelings like stress, grief, loss, fear and sadness. Psychotherapy is sometimes combined with homework assignments between sessions. Therapy can be held one-on-one, with couples, families or even in groups.

  7. When should I seek psychological services? Psychology services are helpful in the assessment and resolution of problems that interfere with day-to-day life, such as physical or mental illness. Psychological services may be helpful for people:
    • Suffering from medical or health related problems
    • Who struggle with learning, resulting in poor school performance
    • Who feel an overwhelming and prolonged sense of sadness and helplessness, and lack hope in their lives
    • With emotional difficulties that make it hard for them to function from day to day. For example, they are unable to concentrate on assignments and their job or school performance suffers as a result
    • Whose actions are harmful to themselves or to others. For instance, they drink too much alcohol and become overly aggressive
    • Who are troubled by emotional difficulties facing family members or close friends
    • Who are having problems with interpersonal relationships

  8. How do I choose a psychology service provider? A list of psychologists and psychological associates in the London area can be found on our website in our Psychologist Directory. Psychologists and psychological associates may also be located through the College of Psychologists of Ontario and through the Ontario Psychological Association.
    It is important for there to be a good match between you and your psychology service provider. You can gain an initial impression by asking a few questions upon first contact with your service provider. Some questions you might ask could be:
    • Are you accepting new clients?
    • How much experience do you have helping people with my problem?
    • What special techniques do you use?
    • What does a typical session look like?
    • What are your hours?
    • What are your fees?

  9. If you feel that you can only form an impression by meeting the psychologist in person, ask him or her if you can come by for about 20 minutes to get acquainted. Some clients prefer to interview a few psychologists in person before deciding with whom to work. It is important that you feel comfortable so you can do the work you need to do.

  10. Are psychological services covered by OHIP or insurance? Psychological assessment and intervention are not listed benefits under the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP). However, teaching hospitals in regional centres (like London) usually offer integrated or consultative psychological services for many of their specialty programs. For more information on OHIP coverage, visit the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care website.

  11. For insurance coverage under disability plans or health care benefits, check with your particular benefit plan, as this varies. Many people have extended health coverage that will provide at least partial support for private psychological services. Ensure that your service provider is registered with the College of Psychologists. Also, review the specific language of your health insurance coverage to determine the full extent of coverage for you and potential family members. Psychological assessment and intervention needs are covered by the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) and by automobile insurance carriers as mandated by legislation. For more information on services covered by WSIB and automobile insurance visit the WSIB and Financial Services Commission of Ontario websites.

  12. What else do psychologists and psychological associates do? There are several different types of psychologists and psychological associates, and they engage in research, practice and teaching across a wide range of topics having to do with how people think, feel and behave. Their work might involve individuals, groups, or families, as well as larger organizations in government and industry. Some psychologists even focus their research on animals rather than people. Because there are such broad interests within psychology, psychologists and psychological associates can work in a wide range of contexts such as clinical settings, community settings, universities, human resources, organizations, educational settings, government settings...and much much more.