Service Provider Types

Service Provider Types

There are a number of professional training programs, credentials or designations that entitle individuals to achieve the licensing requirements to work with client’s who have mental health challenges and disorders.

Here are brief explanations of each of the major professions:


Psychologists study the physical, cognitive, emotional, and social aspects of behavior, and provide mental health care in hospitals, clinics, schools, and private practices. They conduct laboratory experiments and perform intelligence, performance, personality, and aptitude tests. Psychologists obtain information through surveys, questionnaires, interviews, observation, and clinical studies. There are many different types of psychologists, but those with the training to provide clinical services include:

  • Clinical psychologists who often work in hospitals, prison systems, private practices, clinics, and employee assistance programs. They are skilled at diagnosing mental health problems as well as providing treatment for a variety of clinical problems (mood, anxiety, developmental, personality, addictions, etc). They are taught in a research/practitioner model which means that they are trained to conduct research, but their studies included extensive training in clinical practice skills.
  • Counseling psychologists who focus their practice on assisting individuals to improve their coping skills with everyday living. They often provide services through counseling centers, EAP’s, hospitals, and private clinics.
    Both Clinical and Counseling psychologists must complete a doctoral degree (Ph.D. or Psy.D.). A doctoral degree requires 5 to 7 years of graduate study, along with a dissertation based on original research, practical work, examinations, and a 1-year internship.

Psychologists offering direct client care must pass internships, examinations and meet licensing and certification requirements in the state or province where they practice. For more information on Licensing Boards.


Physicians can receive additional training during their medical specialization to treat and diagnose mental and emotional disorders.

Psychiatrists are trained medical doctors who are specially trained to prescribe medication to treat mental health disorders, as well as to test and diagnose. They can also be skilled in the practice of psychotherapy.

A psychiatrist must have a Medical Degree from an accredited medical school and 4 years of residency training, with a minimal of 3 years in Psychiatry. They must pass extensive examination and licensing requirements. For more information on Licensing Boards.


A psychotherapist is licensed within their field of practice to offer psychotherapy. Psychotherapists might be Psychologists, Psychiatrists, or Registered Psychiatric Nurses.

In some provinces or states there are other practitioners of psychotherapy who practice unlicensed, such as some professionals with a Master’s degree in psychology or education, priests, addictions counselors, or rabbis. For more information on Licensing Boards.


The term counsellor or counselor can be defined in different ways.  Frequently it means someone who is licensed or trained to offer therapy or care services to a person with mental health difficulties or seeking development or personal growth.

There are many professionals who use this term to describe their work including social workers, marriage and family counselors, psychologists, psychiatrists, or addictions counselors. The term itself can be defined as “to give guidance to” or “to advise.”

Mental health counseling generally focuses on approaches that assist individuals to grow beyond personal difficulties and adjust in their abilities to handle life struggles. This might involve gaining greater insight, learning skills to adapt or approaches that help them recover from traumatic events.

Clinical counseling is the use of clinical mental health counseling values, principles and methods for the purpose of assisting clients in understanding their issues and concerns, in order to enhance self-growth, personal effectiveness, interpersonal relations, life adjustments, spiritual growth, and mental health. This may involve developing insight into, and/or learning to prevent and/or eliminate maladaptive behavior or symptoms, in addition to the enhancement and strengthening of health coping styles and functional relationships with self and others.

For more information on Licensing Boards.


The term therapy or psychotherapy may be used by professionals from a number of professional backgrounds. They are generally trained in methods for assisting others to recover from mental health difficulties, but the approaches they use would be varied as no one method is used by all therapists. Therapists specializing in certain types of mental or emotional struggles will likely take training that fits the needs of a specific client group.

Depending on where you are located therapists may be “licensed” in their professional training as a therapist, or unlicensed. You will need to search for information on Licensing Boards practice requirements within your district.

Social Worker

A social worker often works in social service agencies, legal aid, health care, and governmental organizations. They frequently train in social advocacy or public policy development, but also have training streams to allow them to work directly with individuals who need assistance in managing the demands of their daily lives.

Many have counselor training and focus their professional efforts on helping individuals with emotional and mental health problems.  For information on Licensing Boards.