Anxiety Therapy and Counselling in Toronto

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Frequently asked therapy questions

What are the different designations of therapists and counsellors?

In Ontario, there are four regulated types of therapists: psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, and psychotherapists. Being regulated means these practitioners have education requirements, they must adhere to rules (regulations) set by the government. and those therapists are overseen by a governing body called a “college.” Colleges register and license these practitioners under these titles once they’ve met their requirements. 

Psychiatrists have a medical degree and are able to both diagnose mental illnesses and disorders and prescribe medication. While they can provide counselling and psychotherapy, it’s rare to book a psychiatrist for this on your own—you’d most likely see them through a doctor’s referral only for a diagnosis and/or drug intervention (i.e. a prescription) and will likely need to seek out other professionals for therapy.

Psychologists in Toronto are highly educated at a PhD level in the science of human behaviour and the mind (“psychology associates” will have a master’s degree). Many psychologists remain working in academia, furthering research and evidence-based techniques. If they work with clients, psychologists can diagnose mental health conditions (not all therapists can do this) and they may offer psychotherapy or counselling therapy.

Psychotherapists in Toronto are regulated by Ontario provincial law. Psychotherapy and counselling therapy are often referred to as “talk therapy”—you can expect to work with them on mental, behavioural, or emotional needs through verbal or non-verbal communication methods. 

Psychotherapists are overseen by the College of Registered Psychotherapists of Ontario (CRPO). Once they’ve met their requirements (exams plus direct and supervised client hours), they’ll be listed as a Registered Psychotherapist (RP). If they’re in the process of finishing their requirements, members of the CRPO can use the titles of Registered Psychotherapist (Qualifying) or RP (Qualifying). They may be available at a lower cost per session. If your insurance covers Registered Psychotherapists, in most cases an RP (Qualifying) will also be covered. See below for more information on therapy pricing. 

It’s a common assumption that social workers in Toronto are only available via community services. However, social workers are therapists and you can book them for counselling or therapy, including on First Session. Registered Social Workers (RSW) have a bachelor’s degree or master’s degree (MSW). They can work in a variety of settings. In Ontario, Registered Social Workers can use the title psychotherapists in certain contexts.

You can book therapy appointments on First Session with social workers, psychotherapists or psychologists in Toronto.

What are therapy insurance coverage and payment options?

“How much does therapy cost?” is one of the first questions many ask when they’re considering seeing a therapist. 

You can expect therapy to cost anywhere from $50 to $300+ per session. Costs are typically affected by the therapist’s level of education and specialization. For example, new psychotherapists or counselling therapists may charge around $50 per session. Psychologists hold a PhD, so you expect them to charge closer to the $200 to $350 range. In some cases, psychologists will offer reduced cost counselling for as little as $150 per session.

If you’re in Toronto, the only therapy covered by provincial healthcare plans (OHIP) is a visit to a psychiatrist via a doctor’s referral, a family doctor who also provides psychotherapy services, or a therapist working in a hospital or another public health setting. The provincial government does, however, have a resources page available with a number of affordable and accessible mental health care options.

Therapy coverage by workplace insurance benefits can significantly reduce the amount you pay out-of-pocket to see a therapist. In that case, you work directly with the insurance provider to ensure your costs are covered. Your employer will not be aware of your usage. Every policy is different, but usually you pay for your session and then submit it as a claim to your insurance company for reimbursement. Your insurance provider’s benefits booklet will tell you what kind of coverage you have, and how to file claims.

Finally, affordable and sliding scale therapy options are offered by some (not all) therapists. This may allow you to pay lower rates if you are facing financial hardship. First Session lists clearly if a therapist offers sliding scale therapy. Always feel free to ask if there is availability.

What types of appointments can you book with therapists and counsellors?

Online therapy in Toronto allows clients to meet with therapists via phone, computer, or tablet. Your therapist may have a specific digital platform, or you might connect via platforms like Zoom or Google Meet. Whatever virtual platform is used, it should meet privacy standards.

If you’re more likely to seek in-person therapy in Toronto, you can expect to meet your therapist at a private practice office (which may or may not be shared with other therapists), at a clinic, or perhaps at their home office.

Before you get started, free phone therapy consultations in Toronto are common so that therapists can better understand how they can help. It’s also your chance to assess if that therapist is a fit for you. Not all therapists offer phone consultations so be sure to check out our partner therapist intro videos on First Session to get a sense of whom a therapist is, their specializations and their approach to therapy. 

To book either online or in-person therapy, you can contact a therapist’s office directly or you can easily book therapy online with First Session

There are also some free therapy options, such as Telehealth, a hotline that is accessible 24/7. You can expect to talk to a registered nurse (RN) who may provide some talk therapy over the phone or who can offer additional resources. Phone calls are completely confidential.

How can therapists and counsellors treat mental health issues?

Therapists and counsellors will use core techniques for treatment known as modalities. Some of the most commonly searched modalities include cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT), eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy, dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT), and somatic therapy.

With CBT therapy, a therapist will help guide you through understanding distorted thought patterns, how those patterns create a certain view of the world around you, and how that impacts your behaviours and emotions. CBT is usually limited to a certain number of sessions, and will often involve homework to do between sessions. 

“Dialectical” means opposing forces; two opposing truths may exist at once. DBT therapy is a form of CBT that is shown to be more effective for people with heightened emotional responses, impulsive or self-destructive behaviours. DBT aims to guide people out of the kind of binary, all-or-nothing thinking that leads to intense responses to life’s complexities. DBT often involves group therapy.

While CBT is a form of “talk therapy”, somatic therapy puts a focus on the body. If you pursue somatic therapy, you’ll look at how your body is physically reacting to stress and trauma or perceived danger, known as fight, flight, or freeze. Somatic therapy involves recognizing bodily sensations and learning how to discharge them to calm the body and address the mind.

Finally, EMDR therapy was originally developed to treat PTSD and can be applied to trauma therapy and other mental health concerns. As you recall memories, your therapist will guide you through eye movements that help your brain make new neurological connections with these memories. The intended outcome is to start to observe and process them productively. This is a specialized area of psychotherapy and you should ensure you are working with a therapist who is trauma-informed or trauma-trained before beginning.

You can search for therapists by-modality on First Session, and read about which modalities they use on their profile pages. 

What Kind of Therapy Is Best for Anxiety?

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is widely recognized as one of the most effective types of therapy for anxiety. CBT focuses on identifying and challenging negative thought patterns, teaching practical skills to manage anxiety symptoms. On First Session, you can explore therapists specializing in CBT and view their profile videos to find the right fit for your needs.

How do I Know When to Look for Help?

Symptoms of an anxiety disorder include general feelings of restlessness, difficulty concentrating, and frequent fatigue. These symptoms are outcomes of anxiety acting as that “alarm bell”—humans go into a fight, flight or freeze mode when we sense danger. When we are in a state of perceived danger constantly, it wears down on our energy levels and we run out of cognitive and physical stamina to cope. 

Other signs and symptoms of anxiety include:

  • Excessive and ongoing worry
  • Constantly feeling like you are absolutely certain something will go wrong
  • Sleep disruption
  • Chronic muscle tension or other physical sensations (shaking)
  • Life avoidance or regular routine disruptions
  • Over preparing and requiring constant reassurance
What is anxiety vs. anxiety disorder?

Anxiety can be characterized by feelings of fear, worry, and nervousness. If these feelings are happening to an extent we start to avoid regular life situations because we always anticipate future concerns, it may be more serious. A generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is characterized by significant disruptions to someone’s day-to-day life for an extended period of time—affecting most of your days for at least six months. 

Can Anxiety show up as physical symptoms?

Yes, anxiety can present certain physical symptoms. 

Common symptoms include:

  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Shortness of breath
  • Excessive sweating
  • Feeling lightheaded or dizzy
  • Headaches and tense muscles 
  • Upset stomach or digestion issues

Learn more about how to relieve physical symptoms of anxiety. If symptoms persist, inquire with a mental health professional who specializes in anxiety

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