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Mental Health March with Cam’s Kids: Navigating the Mental Health Professional World

Mental Health March is the month I have dedicated to writing HC articles solely with the purpose of bringing awareness to different aspects of mental health! Today’s article; Learning to navigate the mental health professional world.

You may be asking yourself, “well, what is the difference between a psychologist and a psychiatrist?” or “what is the difference between a psychotherapist and a counsellor?” If you ask yourself these questions, keep reading!

The first step in getting better is recognizing that you need professional help, a realization that requires significant self-reflection and courage. For this article I teamed up with Cam’s Kids to help enlighten you on some professional jargon you may start to encounter on your search for resources. Joelle Anderson, RP, CC, MA, helps us to differentiate between the different kinds of mental health professionals and understand what sort of help we might require for ourselves.

Cam’s Kids is a not-for-profit organization committed to “Supporting Young People Struggling with Anxiety”. It was founded in 2014 in memory of Cameron Hicks – who struggled immensely with anxiety throughout high school. Tragically, Cam was killed in his first year of university after being fatally struck by a motor vehicle. His legacy of love and kindness is honoured every day through the Foundation.

Recognizing the need for accessible resources, Cam’s Kids created ​www.CamsKids.com​ – a free platform for young people and their support system, to learn about anxiety and anxiety management, consult mental health experts, explore resources around them (including from their partners at Kids Help Phone), read other young people’s experiences with anxiety, and so much more.


sad and alone girl breakup
Photo by _Mxsh_ from Unsplash

The search for help can be a very intimidating process – you don’t know what you’re looking for, nor do you know where to start. You are not alone in this! Many people need the push in the right direction. Be proud of where you stand right now.

Joelle does a wonderful job at breaking down the different types of professionals in the mental health system.

A Quick Guide

Psychiatrist – Medical Degree (MD)

  • Regulated professional
  • Prescribe medication
  • Can diagnose
  • Can formally assess
  • OHIP-coverage
  • Covered by most insurance
  • These are medical doctors specialized with mental health concerns. They are the only mental health professionals able to prescribe medication and have the highest understanding of the physical/chemical aspects of mental health. They often do not offer talk therapy and often are simply there to assess and diagnose.

Psychologist – PhD in Psychology 

  • Regulated professional
  • Can diagnose
  • Can formally assess
  • OHIP-coverage
  • Covered by most insurance
  • Psychologists have the highest degree of education, and they are often highly specialized in a particular area. They can do formal assessments and diagnose to help give you access to services. They are often more expensive than other professionals, and they may have long waitlists because they are in high demand.

Social Worker – MA in Social Work

  • Regulated professional
  • Covered by most insurance
  • They have a strong education focused on the treatment of mental health concerns. They are highly skilled, often less expensive than psychologists. They cannot give formal assessments or diagnoses.

Registered Psychotherapist – MA in Psychology or Master of Education (MEd) in Psychology

  • Regulated professional
  • Covered by most insurance
  • They have a strong education focused on the treatment of mental health concerns. They are highly skilled, often less expensive than psychologists. They cannot give formal assessments or diagnoses.

Counsellor – (CCC) Education varies

  • Not regulated
  • Context-specific
  • Counsellors are specialized for general counselling needs. They work in other environments, such as schools or community centres. They do not have any specialized coursework in mental health and cannot deliver “psychotherapy.” They are less expensive than other mental health professionals.


Two women sit at a table and talk
Photo by Christina @ wocintechchat.com from Unsplash

Which professional would be best for me?

In truth, the average client would not notice the difference between a psychologist, social worker, or a counsellor. When you are vulnerable, the only thing you are wondering is “can you help me or not?” All professionals are carefully trained to counsel clients and often at times they have the same professional development training. That being said, the higher they are on our list, the more education they have, and the more specialized services they may be able to offer.

Research shows that the effectiveness of psychotherapy does not necessarily depend on your providers education, but rather your “therapeutic relationship,” that is, how comfortable you are with them and your ability to open up to them.

If you’re concerned about what kind of specialist to pick, I would advise you to pick someone who you feel the most comfortable with and will be able to open up to.

———————

Therapy, medication, self-care – there are dozens of different ways to handle what you are experiencing.

If you are still uncertain of where to look or what would be best for you, do not hesitate to contact your family physician for some guidance on where to start. I hope that this article has given you the information you need to better understand the complex mental health system. A big thank you to Joelle Anderson for allowing me to use her as a source for this article!

Check out Cam’s Kids at www.CamsKids.com! Normally they would be running outreach and awareness events in person, but during the COVID-19 pandemic, Cam’s Kids has taken their services virtual. ​Cam’s Kids Instagram (@camskids_8)​ has become the home to countless guided yoga and meditation sessions, mental health expert takeovers, workout Wednesdays, cooking and baking classes, self-care tips, and so much more.

Thanks to their partners at Kids Help Phone, Cam’s Kids also offers a texting helpline. For immediate support, text the word “CAM” to the number 686868 to be connected with a trained crisis responder. 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. No matter the concern – big or small.

I hope this article has helped enlighten you on mental illness! Everyone must take care of their mental health, and often at times that is not easy to do. If you need immediate help, please reach out to emergency psychological services. Ontario residents can call 1-866-925-5454 to reach Good2Talk or call Crisis Services Canada at 1-833-456-4566. If someone is struggling with their mental health, whether it be someone close to you or even yourself, there are always people willing to support you. You are never alone.

 

Olivia Onesi

U Ottawa '24

Olivia enjoys binge reading her favourite young adult novels and going for evening runs. She is a second year psychology student at the University of Ottawa and can be found scrolling endlessly on TikTok.
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