What is the difference between a counsellor, psychologist, and psychiatrist?

Counsellors are mental health professionals who have a diploma or college or university degree in a mental health-related field such as psychology or professional counselling. Counsellors mostly work in private practice either independently or with other counsellors. Counsellors may be regulated by a professional body, such as a college or association.

It is important to know that the title ‘counsellor’ is not protected and can be used by anyone, even those without training. Be sure your counsellor is registered with a professional association or regulatory college to ensure they have professional oversight.

Psychologists are mental health professionals who have a masters degree or a doctorate degree in clinical psychology or counselling psychology. Psychologists are trained in therapy, psychological theories, and research. Psychologists provide therapy and assessments. Psychologists can work in private practice, university counselling centers, teach at universities or colleges, or in hospitals. Psychologists are regulated by the provincial board or college of psychologists where they practice.

Psychiatrists are medical doctors who specialize in mental and behavioral health. Psychiatrists can prescribe medications, do therapy, and diagnose mental disorders. In Nova Scotia, only a psychiatrist can involuntarily admit someone to the hospital (commonly thought of as ‘being committed’ or ‘being admitted’).

Can you give me a diagnosis?

No. Psychological assessments and diagnosis are a protected healthcare service in Nova Scotia and can only be completed by a licensed medical doctor or psychologist.

Is everything I tell you confidential?

Yes, mostly. Anything we talk about is confidentiality and private, with exceptions as outlined by ethical and legal regulations. Exceptions to confidentiality include:

  1. Your counsellor believes you are at immediate risk of hurt yourself or someone else
  2. Your counsellor has reasonable suspicion of abuse or neglect of of a child or vulnerable person (e.g., child, elderly, or adult with cognitive impairments),
  3. Your counsellor or their records are subpoenaed by the courts or a warrant is produced,
  4. The regulatory body audits your counsellor’s files as a need to protect the public,
  5. Your counsellor’s clinical supervisor deems there is a need to protect the public
Can I use health insurance?

Counselling provided by a Registered Counselling Therapist is usually covered by extended healthcare insurance such as Blue Cross or Green Shield. Direct billing is not available. Check with your health insurance provider to determine if they cover services provided by Registered Counselling Therapists or Registered Professional Counsellors (clinical counsellors). All receipts have a provider number that can help with insurance verification.

Why is there tax on my counselling fee?

Unlike services provided by psychologists (psychological services), ‘psychotherapy’ provided by counsellors is not a tax-free service in Canada. There are ongoing discussions in government to have psychotherapy be declared as tax-free, but this is not the case currently. To determine how to claim counselling fees on your income tax, check with your tax professional.


I read about your research, can I participate in a study?

No. To maintain professional and ethical boundaries, my counselling work and research projects are kept entirely separate. I do not advertise research studies, and have no active research ongoing.

What ethical precautions are in place for your research?

To comply with ethical research practices, all of my research projects are designed to adhere to the Tri-Council Policy Statement (TCPS2) guidelines as well as the Declaration of Helsinki (DoH). The protection of all research participants is paramount in any research project.

What kind of research do you do?

My research projects are limited to survey-based research using volunteers. Research includes areas such as personality, motivation, and power.