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Psychotherapist in toronto covered by ohip

We know that navigating Ontario’s complex mental health care system can be daunting, so here’s some useful info that can help.

Making the decision to start therapy is stressful enough. Figuring out how to pay for it shouldn’t be an added stressor. That’s why we’ve put together this outline of what is and isn’t covered by the Ontario Health Insurance Plan – OHIP.

There is no easy answer to whether therapy is covered by OHIP. Sometimes yes, sometimes no…

Part of the problem in answering this question is that there are a number of different regulated health professionals who all offer therapy. These professionals have different training, educational backgrounds and titles. Plus, there are different words that people use to describe therapy: for example therapy, counselling, psychotherapy, or psychological therapy. All these terms refer to “talk therapy” as opposed to pharmacological or drug-based therapy. Drug-based therapy is covered by OHIP but if you’re looking for talk therapy, covered services are much harder to find . If you’re fortunate enough to have a job that offers an extended benefits plan, you may have therapy covered through this plan. But even then, this mix of public insurance (OHIP) and private insurance can be confusing. Let’s talk about OHIP therapy coverage in Ontario.

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Paying for Therapy: OHIP, Therapy, and Private Coverage

All professionals who provide therapy do so through the lens of their own training, philosophy, and background education. Yet, therapy is called different things depending on the type of professional doing it: therapy, counselling, psychotherapy, or psychological therapy. It is important to know that all these terms refer to “talk therapy” (as opposed to pharmacological or drug-based therapy). Therapy can be cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), narrative therapy, dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT), mindfulness, trauma informed/trauma therapy, or more. However, talk therapy may or may not be covered by the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP). As well, individuals may have access to private insurance through an employer or as a result of an accident. It is this mix of public insurance (OHIP) and private insurance which can be confusing. Let’s talk about OHIP therapy coverage in Ontario.

Special note on Family Health Teams. The Government of Ontario encourages family doctors to join together and form “one stop shop” teams for patients. Family Health Teams work out of the same building and provide a family doctor, as well as access to physiotherapy, dietitians, nurses, social workers, and sometimes psychologists, though there may be a waitlist and not much selection. FHTs are covered by OHIP. You can access them only if your doctor is already part of that FHT: if your doctor is a solo practitioner working on their own, or they work in a walk-in clinic, they are not part of a FHT.

Please note: remember to confirm which type of therapist is covered by your benefits plan, and make sure the therapist has the credentials your insurance plan requires!

Coverage: Social Workers

I am a Registered Social Worker in Ontario (RSW) providing psychotherapy services in Toronto. Unfortunately, OHIP does not cover the services of a Registered Social Worker. All RSWs are under a provincial regulatory college and must receive ongoing training upgrades to remain competent to practice.

Note that Social Workers may be accessed, for free, if you are already part of a Family Health Team.

Special Update: since December 2017, legislation has been changed to allow Registered Social Workers who meet certain requirements to call themselves “psychotherapists”.

Social Workers are often covered by private insurance plans (e.g. Employee Assistance Program (EAP)). In addition, automobile insurance, worker’s compensation, or WSIB may cover the services of a Registered Social Worker. Social Workers often have specialized Bachelor, Masters, or Doctoral level degrees, but they must proactively seek out therapy training to be competent to provide psychotherapy, because the degrees themselves rarely provide specialized psychotherapy training.

Coverage: Doctors and Psychiatrists

Therapy is covered by OHIP when done by a medical professional such as an MD (e.g. family doctor or a psychiatrist), or a Nurse Practitioner. However, family doctors or doctors at walk-in clinics likely do not have the training required, or have the time to provide in-depth/ongoing psychotherapy. In Ontario there is a limited number of MDs who actually dedicate their practice to providing psychotherapy. Often, your doctor will refer to others, such as a psychiatrist. A referral to a psychiatrist must come from a doctor, and any therapy provided by a psychiatrist will be covered by OHIP. However, because of their education, some psychiatrists (not all!) may emphasize medical diagnosis or drug therapies which may or may not fit with what the client wants or is looking for. Generally, visits with a psychiatrist may be once a month, or every few months, and will include review of medication, symptoms, and health conditions. Therapy with a psychiatrist may not offer the amount of in-depth support clients are looking for.

You can find a family doctor one of three primary ways: through a walk-in clinic, in the community as a solo practitioner (they work alone in the community), or in the community as part of a Family Health Team (FHT).

Coverage: Psychologists

Psychologists have Masters or Doctoral level education and a lot of experience with diagnosis and formal cognitive testing, and are regulated by a regulatory body in Ontario. Unfortunately OHIP does not cover psychologists in private practice. Note that Psychologists may be accessed, for free, if you are already part of a Family Health Team. Psychologists must access ongoing training upgrades to stay competent to practice.

Psychologists are often covered by private insurance benefits plans, however they typically charge higher fees, and you will therefore be able to access fewer sessions via your benefits.

Coverage: Psychotherapists

Psychotherapists also have a regulatory body in Ontario which requires a certain level of education and experience which allows them to use the term “psychotherapist”. As a Registered Social Worker, I can now also provide ‘psychotherapy’ (due to changes in Ontario legislation in December 2017). However, OHIP does not cover psychotherapy. Some insurance plans cover psychotherapy, but it seems to be more common that Social Work is covered instead of Psychotherapy as this designation is still relatively new in Ontario. Psychotherapists can access ongoing training upgrades to stay competent to practice.

Coverage: Unlicensed Professionals

The titles “therapist” or “counsellor” are not regulated terms, and anyone can call themselves a therapist or a counsellor regardless of their qualifications, experience, etc (there is no regulatory body). OHIP does not cover these professionals. There are no formal requirements to ensure unlicensed professionals are accessing updated/ongoing training materials, as there is no college they may belong to that mandates such things.

Coverage Outside of OHIP

If you do not have OHIP, there are some places you can access health and social services.

Coverage by the Federal Government of Canada

Veterans Affairs (VA) provides mental health counselling and case management services to Veterans, members of Canadian Forces, and the RCMP, as well as their families. VA providers are paid for via the private insurance provider Medavie Blue Cross which the federal government contracts with. Visit here for more information including a list of registered providers.

Health Canada covers short-term crisis counselling for First Nations and Inuit people provided by Social Workers. They used to have a list of approved providers but it seems as of July 2020 there is no such list anymore. Mental health services appear ‘incorporated’ into existing health service providers e.g. community health centres or other places where you may access Indigenous or First Nations health services.

Hospital Services

If you are seen as an inpatient in a hospital for a mental health concern, or are referred to a hospital support e.g. for group therapy, you can likely access a free OHIP covered therapist of some type likely a psychologist or social worker. To get into a hospital program you will need a direct referral. Often this support is provided in group therapy, but not always. In Toronto for example a CAMH intake process might lead to you being referred on to group therapy; similarly, some hospitals have special programs available sometimes e.g. the trauma program at Women’s College Hospital provides structured group therapy.

Tax Reimbursement

As of 2012, because I am a Registered Social Worker, my counselling service fees can be claimed as a medical expense tax credit in Ontario (federal). Registered Social Workers are listed as “medical practitioners” in federal legislation. Learn more at this website.

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Private members bill to remove HST from psychotherapy and counselling

To support Bill C-218, see

To support Bill C-218, see

Counselling and social support for low income Ontarians

Status Natives: You may be eligible for free counselling, whether you have a low income or not. See therapy for First Nations and Inuit.

Abusive partner? Domestic Violence Care Centre at Womens College Hospital 24/7 416-323-6040

Unfamiliar with IT? see free technical help for seniors

Free online CBT for anxiety and depression at

Free online government program: Help with alcohol or drugs

Your doctor may be able to refer you to free psychotherapy by a doctor covered by OHIP. In some cases this can work out really well. However GP psychotherapists are trained as doctors with varying amounts of additional counselling training, and psychiatrists are in such short supply that most try to see as many people as possible and therefore cannot spend the amount of time needed for doing psychotherapy. So if you have tried psychotherapy under OHIP and it hasn’t helped, don’t assume that psychotherapy doesn’t work for you.

You may have a limited amount of free counselling available through your work via an Employee Assistance Program (EAP).

Ontario Caregiver Organization help line. If you are caring for a family member and need respite care or information, call 1-833-416-2273 or visit

Help for parents (including parents with concerns about adult children)

Online Parent Support Groups

Find a Peer Support Chapter

Low cost therapy, supervised students, $40.

Short term affordable groups for LGTBQ+ people recovering from religion. See

The Family Services Association has variable fees based on income and number of dependents. The counsellors are social workers trained in counselling, and their main focus is marriage and family counselling.

Redbird Therapy has some supervised trainees with lower fees.

You may have to put yourself on one or more waiting lists.

The quality of counselling and psychotherapy varies a lot in both in the private and public sectors, and a service that is a good fit for one person or family might not be useful for someone else. If your counselling is not helping, discuss it with the provider, get a second opinion, and /or look for another resource.

From CAMH: Finding digital mental health tools during pandemic

See also: 

Free online stress reduction/mindfulness training for youth aged 14 to 27 at

Mood Disorders Association of Ontario

Women’s College Hospital groups for women

Help for children with mental health issues and their families

Programs for women who have experienced violence

Egale Youth OUTreach, a youth housing support and crisis intervention centre for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer, questioning and Two Spirit (LGBTQ2S) homeless youth (16+), those who are unstably housed, or those who are at risk of homelessness in the GTA. See

Family Law in Toronto for information about dealing with separation, divorce, family violence, custody etc.

Centre for Addiction and Mental Health
DRUG AND ALCOHOL INFORMATION  Taped  information messages at 416-595-6111 or 1-800-463-6273. Some are available in Cantonese, Mandarin, Greek, Hindi, Italian, Polish, Portuguese, Punjabi, Spanish and Urdu as well as English and French.

The Toronto Institute for Relational Psychotherapy offers private appointments with a supervised student therapist for a fee of $20 (including HST) per session, and this fee is applicable for as long as the student is in training. Relational therapy with recent graduates of the Institute is available at $40 (including HST) per session for up to 20 sessions. They also offer couples therapy at $40 (including HST) per session for up to 12 sessions. The school is run by Pat de Young, a leading Toronto psychotherapist and educator.

Good2Talk Helpline for Post Secondary Students: 1-866-925-5454

East Metro Youth Services Walk in Counselling Clinic: 416-438-3697

Scarborough Mobile Crisis Unit: 416-495-2891

Toronto Distress Centre: 416-408-4357

KIDS HELP PHONE 1-800-668-6868,

NEIGHBOURHOOD LINK–SUPPORT SERVICES FOR SENIORS, including social activities and help to enable seniors with disabilities to stay in their own homes 416-691-7407,

SMOKERS HELPLINE run by the Canadian Cancer Society offers free telephone counselling to help you quit at 1-877-513-5333. (British Columbia call 1-877-455-2233; Quebec, call J’arrete at 1-888-853-6666). 

SCARBOROUGH WOMEN’S CENTRE: educational and support services geared to the needs of low-income women and women who are or have been in abusive relationships, some services free, others affordable, 2100 Ellesmere Road, Suite 245,  416-439-7111. Scarborough Women’s Centre

ANOREXIA BULIMIA FAMILY SUPPORT GROUP  meets at Metro City Hall downtown. For information, call leader Antionette Dunn at 416-766-8134.

SHEENA’S PLACE, 87 Spadina Rd., Toronto, 416-927-8900. A variety of groups for adults and teens with eating disorders and body image issues.

BIRTH PARENTS AND ADOPTEES NORTH YORK SUPPORT GROUP For information, call Rishy, North York, 416-226-3015 or Dena, Thornhill 905-889-5646

SOUTH ASIAN FAMILY SUPPORT SERVICES  Ellesmere/Markham Rd. , Scarborough; 416-431-4847. Counselling, advocacy, interpreting, English classes, workshops etc., all free.

ARTHRITIS SELF MANAGEMENT PROGRAM, 6 week program presented by the Arthritis Society, small fee, 416-979-3760.

CREATIVE CHILD/PARENT CENTRE, West Scarborough Neighbourhood Community Centre–drop-in for parents and caregivers of pre-school children, 416-755-9215

ASSOCIATION OF PARENT SUPPORT GROUPS IN ONTARIO INC.  Their 24 Info line is 416-223-7444 or 1-800-488-5666.

PFLAG: Parents, Friends, Families of Lesbians and Gays, meets in Scarborough. 416-438-3697

THE WOMEN’S HEALTH RESOURCE CENTRE, free library and referrals to resources, downtown Toronto at 790 Bay Street, part of the Regional Women’s Heath Centre of the Women’s College Hospital, 416-351-3716

GP PSYCHOTHERAPISTS, general practitioners (medical doctors) who do counselling. They are not psychiatrists, but all have some training in counselling/psychotherapy, and some have a lot of experience. Doctor’s referral needed.

WHAT’S UP WALK-IN  A free mental health service for youth and families–drop in if there is a personal problem you need to talk about. Markham and Ellesmere in Scarborough. No appointment or health card needed. Most things you would talk about are confidential–feel free to ask for details on the confidentiality policy. For hours, see


SCARBOROUGH PSYCHOLOGISTS They are not free, but your work plan would likely pay for a few sessions

Dr. Arunkumar S. T. Pillai PhD., C.Psych and Dr. Pushpa Kanagaratnam PhD, C.Psych

Psychological Recovery Clinic [Consultants in Clinical and Rehabilitation Psychology]

2100 Ellesmere Road, Suite 334, Scarborough, ON M1H 3B7

Phone: (647) 342-5444 | Fax: (647) 342-7000


eMail: [email protected]

Serving Adults and Couples

Languages: English, Hindi, Urdu,Norwegian, Malayalan and Tamil

Services Provided:
(a) Psychological Treatment – Individual, Couple, Group; Treatment of Driving Fear/Passenger Fear/Pedestrian Fear; P-GAP (Pain Disability Management);  Stress Management, Anger Management, Addictions Treatment; Cognitive Behaviour Therapy for Depression/ Anxiety/ Pain/ Posttraumatic Stress Disorder/Specific Phobia; Crisis Intervention/Trauma Counselling 

b) Psychological Assessments – Comprehensive Psychological Assessment, Phobia Assessment (Driver, Passenger, Pedestrian), Psycho Vocational Assessment, Assessment for Immigration purposes,Assessments for Employee Assistance Programs, Custody and Access Assessments, Critical Incident or Trauma Assessment and Independent Medical Examination. 

For further resources, phone:

For newcomers: Free multilingual help getting access to health & community services, GLBTQ welcome 416-324-0927

The Self-Help Resource Centre  416-487-4355, for self-help groups, including 12-step groups

The Centre for Addiction and Mental health, Addiction Research Division 595-6111, for free addiction and alcoholism programs and up-to-date phone numbers for twelve-step groups such as CODA (Co-dependents Anonymous) and ACA. (Note: The former Clarke Institute of Psychiatry and the former Addiction Research Foundation have been amalgamated to form the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.)  Centre for Addiction and Mental Health

Community Information Toronto 416-397-4636

Information Ajax-Pickering 905-686-2661

Canadian Mental Health Assocation has a quick guide to free and inexpensive services

Links to more information:

211 Toronto (City Hall information line)

Re social agencies and government services

Links to Canadian non-profit organizations by subject

American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry:
Fact sheet on child and adolescent development to find a family doctor or specialist


Vitamin D tests conducted on a group of University of Toronto students  found that virtually all non-white and a majority of white students had insufficient levels, putting them at risk of diseases such as osteoporosis, cancer and diabetes. In Canada, everyone should take Vitamin D throughout Fall and Winter, and older people and dark-skinned people should take it year round. It is believed that many people need more than the RDA (official amount). Discuss with your dietician or doctor.

Give your energy and mental health a boost with better nutrition. Free advice from government-licensed dieticians. Call this toll-free number: 1-877-510-510-2 or visit


Copyright © 1998 Beth Mares

Last updated September, 2016