Finding Mental Health Support in Ontario

On this site, in the Solid Blog and on Wellness Wednesdays on The Spin, we discuss ongoing strategies, ideas and plans for sustaining ongoing foundation for mental health and wellness. 
If you or anyone is struggling or in crisis right now, please call 911 or visit the nearest emergency room. Alternatively, crisis resources can be found here.

Finding mental health support in Ontario can be challenging, especially because it can be quite confusing to navigate all the different options available.

There is relatively little in regards to OHIP coverage when it comes to mental health support.

When it comes to public programs, the first line of availability covered by OHIP would be your primary care physician or your family doctor — who may or may not be well versed or having training in regards to mental health support.

As a result of consulting your family doctor, they may prescribe psychopharamacological medication (which is typically the first line of treatment in the medical system) and send you on your way, or they may suggest finding a psychologist, counsellor or therapist (even though these practitioners are not covered by OHIP), OR refer you to a psychiatrist, who can diagnose mental illness and prescribe treatment, again, probably in the form of medication.

Public options also include programs available at CAMH and through hospitals, generally for specific concerns such as addictions recovery and trauma.

There are differences between psychiatrists, psychologists, psychotherapists, and counsellors.

Psychiatrists are part of the main medical system and covered by OHIP.  They are the only mental health professional who can subscribe medication. You require a prescription from a primary care physician, and there is usually a wait to get an appointment with a psychologist of several months. While there are a few psychiatrists whose treatment includes talk therapy, most do not.  In the event of a crisis, going to an emergency room will provide immediate access to psychiatric services, including the psychiatric unit in hospitals.

Psychologists are licensed psychologists and in Ontario, they require a PhD in psychology. To work with psychologists, the fees are paid either out-of-pocket or may be covered by extended health benefits. There are different psychologists with different specializations and may using different psychotherapeutic styles and approaches. There are other helping professionals who work under the supervision of a licensed psychologist and the fees of those individuals may be covered by insurance. For details on insurance, check specifically with your insurance provider and as to the specific category of a helping professional, check directly with the practitioner.

Those who fall under the umbrella of Psychotherapists could be credentialed in a number of ways. There are Registered Social Workers, Registered Nurses, Occupational Therapists and Registered Psychotherapists are authorized to perform therapy, but insurance overage may differ based on the benefits package.

TIPS FOR FINDING MENTAL HEALTH SUPPORT IN ONTARIO

1) If you or your loved one is in distress or acute crisis, head to the closest hospital or emergency services.  There are also distress hotlines and ConnexOntario, the province’s mental health hotline. ConnexOntario can direct you through public resources, but they may not be fully versed when it comes to how the system works outside of the medical system.

2) Find the right fit for your needs. If you have a specific concern, you may wish to search out a professional who has specific experience in the area you are looking to explore. The Psychology Today Directory can be a good start. Also a new directory option here in Toronto called FirstSession.com where you can watch video profiles of therapists to get a better sense of how they are.

3) Referrals from others can be really helpful, but psychotherapy is a very personal process and doing research to see which therapists might be the best fit for you and it can be helpful to have introductory session with a few therapists can be helpful to find the best fit for you.

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