Psychologist, Therapist, Psychiatrist…What’s the Difference?

In doing your own research or having conversations with people, you may have heard some of these words come up and don’t quite know the difference between all of them. You might be wondering what the difference is between a psychiatrist vs psychologist vs counsellor. We’re here to break that down for you. Before you embark on your personal therapeutic journey, you should know who’s going to be coming along with you. Otherwise it’d be like going on a hike with a complete stranger, and that’s probably not the best idea. 


A psychologist has studied psychological theories and therapies and is qualified to assess and make diagnoses, and provide psychological services. They all will have a Master’s degree, and sometimes a PhD, in counselling or clinical psychology, for example. All psychologists at Shift are either registered or provisionally registered with the College of Alberta Psychologists. 


Therapist is more of a general term that can be used in different fields and industries. In the context of mental health, a therapist, or psychotherapist includes psychologists and psychiatrists.


A coach may or may not have a professional certification. They help clients achieve personal and professional goals, such as navigating careers and relationships, connecting with themselves, and achieving self-actualization. Because coaches are less regulated than psychologists, their services are not usually covered by insurance providers.


Counsellors may have a range of academic backgrounds and can provide different counselling services. Currently, counsellors are not regulated provincially in Alberta, with an anticipation that this will change in Spring 2021. Depending on their backgrounds, counsellors may or may not have the training required to provide certain types of psychotherapies. Knowing this may help you decide between a psychologist vs counsellor.


A psychiatrist is a medical doctor specializing in mental health; they will have completed a residency program in psychiatry. Psychiatrists often work in hospitals, and can make diagnoses and prescribe medications.

Social Worker

Social Workers provide a wide range of services and are regulated in Canada provincially. Social Workers often work in an out-of-office setting in areas such as child protection, but may also choose to pursue therapy as well.

Who Can Help Me?

At ShiftGrit, we primarily employ psychologists, all of whom are either registered or provisionally registered with the College of Alberta Psychologists. Provisionally registered means that the psychologist is completing their required supervision hours following their graduation from a Master’s program. Services provided by psychologists at Shift are generally covered by most insurance providers, who will cover a large portion of the cost. 

ShiftGrit also employs coaches, who may be in the process of completing a Master’s program in psychology. This is a good option for those who do not have extended health benefits. While insurance providers usually cover the cost of sessions by a psychologist, they usually don’t for a Coach. This is because insurance providers will usually cover a large portion of the cost of psychological services provided by psychologists, but not for coaches. However, if you do not have access to insurance, coaching often works out to be a more affordable option. 

The great thing about Shift Therapy is that it can be delivered by psychologists, therapists, counsellors, clinical social workers or coaches. All those employed by Shift go through our carefully designed training program to ensure that they are experts on our specific therapy. This also means that regardless of who your psychologist, therapist or coach at Shift is, you will always see the same results.

ShiftGrit’s psychologists and coaches can help address concerns in various areas, including: