- What is a Psychological Assessment?
A psychological assessment permits the Psychological Associate or Psychologist to better understand their client’s situation and the factors (thinking processes, emotions, behaviours, personality and environmental factors) that may contribute to the issues to be addressed. An assessment includes relevant history gathered during an intake interview, and most often it involves looking at several sources of information including standardized questionnaires or tests. Psychological tests are carefully researched and validated tools that systematically measure personal characteristics relevant to the questions being addressed. The tests and other sources of information are carefully chosen to let the Psychological Associate or Psychologist build a complete and accurate picture of the issue that will ensure that a diagnosis and/or a proposed intervention is appropriate and well-targeted. Psychological assessment provides the foundation for diagnosis and is an important prelude to most interventions or therapies.
- What is Psychotherapy? What is counselling?
Both psychotherapy and counselling involve a process in which a client, assisted by a licensed professional, learns to better understand and to deal constructively with life problems or mental health concerns that are causing significant upset, difficulty in relationships, or pain. Through dialogue, a clearer picture emerges of the factors causing stress or difficulty and of the possible changes that could be made to alleviate problems or to better cope with them. Most often, counselling focuses on problem-solving and is guided by treatment goals, with smaller steps to work on between sessions. The Psychological Associate or Psychologist may also identify the emotions, attitudes and beliefs that seem to cause problems, and may suggest ways of substituting more realistic or constructive thoughts, feelings or beliefs. Psychotherapy usually involves carefully delving deeper into repeated patterns that lead to difficulty managing emotions, thoughts and interpersonal relationships. Psychotherapy is recommended when there is a more serious disorder affecting judgement, insight, behaviour, communication or social functioning. (Psychotherapy Act 2007 http://www.e-laws.gov.on.ca/html/statutes/english/elaws_statutes_07p10_e.htm)
There are a number of different approaches to psychotherapy that research has shown to be valid or helpful to most people. Psychological Associates, Psychologists, and other professionals licensed to provide psychotherapy have learned how and when to apply the treatments that are most likely to be of help.
- What happens in psychotherapy and counselling?
During counselling and psychotherapy, most people find they are developing a clearer idea of what they are feeling and of what is causing their difficulty. In the safe and supportive context of the professional dialogue, they can explore different perspectives that let them feel differently or see possible solutions. They usually find it easier to try out new ways of dealing with their issues, thanks to the structure of the therapy process and the support of the therapist.
Sessions may be offered one-on-one, with a life partner, as a family, or in a therapy group. Sessions often occur weekly or bi-weekly, with more time between sessions as the client begins to feel better and considers ending therapy or counselling.
- Is what I share kept private?
An important part of our work is maintaining the confidentiality of each client’s information. All information is kept in confidence, according to the standards of The College of Psychologists of Ontario.
However, there are instances in which confidentiality must be broken. These exceptions are often necessary for protecting clients and the public. For example, if a client is intending to harm him- or herself or another person, the Psychological Associate or Psychologist must take reasonable steps to prevent harm. If your therapist is told that a child or teen is being neglected or abused, he or she is legally obliged to contact the Children’s Aid Society. Also, a therapist can be subpoenaed and required to attend court along with the file that he/she is required to keep as a record of your meetings.
Information about confidentiality and limits are discussed when you meet with a Psychological Associate or Psychologist.
- What if I don’t like my psychology professional?
It is your right to stop at any time. Therapists have different approaches and styles and it is possible that you may not “click” with a therapist. You can request referral to another psychology professional or search the list of Psychological Associates and Psychologists through The College of Psychologists of Ontario.
If you think that a Psychological Associate or a Psychologist has acted unethically, The College of Psychologists of Ontario is empowered to investigate.
- Will OHIP or my supplementary insurance cover the cost of services?
The cost of psychological services may be covered in some settings (e.g., schools, hospitals, family health teams), however, OHIP does not cover the services of Psychological Associates and Psychologists in private practice. A supplementary insurance policy that includes coverage for psychological services will usually cover at least some of the cost. Some insurance policies specify coverage only for certain types of psychological service. It is important to discuss your coverage with your service provider when beginning services.
- Are you a medical doctor?
No. Our roles often overlap in terms of assessment and diagnosis, but we offer therapy, not medications, as treatment for cognitive and emotional issues. While some medical doctors provide counselling and psychotherapy, Psychological Associates and Psychologists are specifically trained when it comes to assessing and providing psychotherapy for a variety of emotional and mental health issues.
- What's the difference between a Psychological Associate and a Psychologist?
Psychological Associates and Psychologists work within the same scope of practice, perform the same clinical activities including communicating a diagnosis, and assume the same professional responsibilities. They must pass the same licensing examinations. The difference is in the type of training that prepares them to practice psychology. Psychological Associates and master’s-prepared Psychologists are required to complete five years of practical training, similar to an apprenticeship, after finishing their master’s degree in psychology. Doctoral Psychologists have practical training as part of their doctoral studies and are required to complete one year of on-the-job training after finishing their degree.
- Why are there two different titles for people who do the same work?
By law since 1994, the College of Psychologists of Ontario has been responsible for granting and regulating two titles, Psychologist and Psychological Associate. The two titles were created to denote a difference in the type of education and training that prepared the individual to meet the rigorous requirements for licensing. In Ontario, both titles indicate that the professional is competent to practice independently in the full scope of professional psychology and can fulfill the same responsibilities at work.
The rationale for using two titles has become even more confusing since federal legislation to facilitate the movement of professionals among provinces came into force in 2010. In seven provinces and three territories only one title, Psychologist, denotes all professionals who practice psychology. If a Psychologist from another province moves to Ontario and meets all standards for licensing in Ontario, federal law requires that they be granted the same title in both provinces.
Master’s-prepared Psychologists in Ontario are licensed based on the same criteria as Psychological Associates. With a few exceptions, these practitioners have been licensed in another province where their title was Psychologist. Like Psychological Associates, master’s-prepared Psychologists meet requirements that place much emphasis on experience in psychological practice.
- What is the difference between a professional association like OAPA and a professional College?
Professional associations and regulatory colleges have different goals and activities.
The goal of a college is to protect the public. A college controls entrance requirements to the profession, sets exams for those wishing to enter the profession, and sets standards for developing and maintaining professional competence. A college sets standards of practice and conduct, receives and acts on complaints from the public, and has the power to impose consequences on its members in various ways including removing the right to practice. Membership in a college is obligatory to practice in certain professions such as psychology, medicine, nursing, and dentistry; to use a title limited to members of that profession (e.g., “Psychological Associate” or “Psychologist”); and to perform certain controlled acts, such as communicating a diagnosis.
An association has a different purpose. It acts in the interest of its members who are usually members of a regulatory college. It advocates on their behalf. It provides services for members such as professional liability insurance. It creates professional development opportunities by organizing conferences and workshops. It supports its members in the pursuit of competent and ethical service to their clients. Membership in an association is voluntary.
The College that regulates the profession of psychology is the College of Psychologists of Ontario (CPO). There are two professional associations for members of the CPO, the OAPAfor Psychological Associates and master’s-prepared Psychologists, and the OPA (Ontario Psychological Association) for Psychologists. At the national level, the Canadian Psychological Association (CPA) is a professional association.