Psychologist, Psychiatrist, or Behavioural Health Consultant… What’s the Difference?

Mental health support is not a one-size-fits-all approach. A strategy that worked for your friend or family member may need to be adjusted to work for you, or you may need entirely different supports even if your concerns are the same.

Your family doctor can help you find a strategy that works for you, and help you make a team to support your physical and emotional wellbeing. Sometimes, this support will include talking to someone who can help. Your doctor may refer you to a Behavioural Health Consultant, Registered Psychologist, or Psychiatrist to talk with you about your concerns.

But what are the differences between these options?

  • Behavioural Health Consultants (BHCs): help with habits, behaviours, stress, or emotional concerns that get in the way of daily life and/or overall health. They will help you come up with a plan that works best for you, and use an evidence-based approach. BHCs keep you in the driver’s seat for your own health decisions. You can access a BHC free of charge through a referral from your ESPCN family doctor.

  • Registered Psychologists: assess, diagnose, and treat mental health problems and disorders. Psychologists have an advanced degree like a master’s degree or PhD. A psychologist can take you through specialized tests to help diagnose emotional or cognitive function. Then, they use evidence-based therapies to support your mental health needs. There may be a cost for you to access support from a registered psychologist.

  • Psychiatrists: medical doctors who can diagnose mental illnesses and provide counselling. Unlike psychologists or BHCs, psychiatrists can prescribe medications to help treat mental illness. You need a referral to see a psychiatrist, but the cost of this treatment is covered by the province.

For more information about building your mental health team, visit the Canadian Mental Health Association’s How to Get Help page or talk to your family doctor.