Are you looking to become a therapist in Canada?

Then you might have scoured the internet to find information about what you need to do to successfully gain therapist status. However, throughout your search you may have only received bits and pieces about the possible paths you can take and process you’ll need to follow in order to become a therapist in Canada.  

Some questions you might be asking yourself are: what educational program do I need to become a therapist? How many years does it take to become a therapist in Canada? Are there additional requirements beyond my educational training that I need to know about or consider?

This article will explain three ways that you can become a mental health therapist in Canada.

Paths to Become a Therapist in Canada 

If you’re experiencing confusion regarding the process to become a therapist, there’s a likely reason for it – because there are multiple ways you can gain therapist status. In fact, there’s several types of therapists such as mental health therapists, occupational therapists, massage therapists, recreational therapists to name a few. However, for the purpose of this article, I’ll be discussing the process to become a mental health therapist in Canada specifically. 

In Canada, there are typically three ways to become of a therapist: (1) to become a psychotherapist, (2) to become a social worker or (3) to become a psychologist. And depending on the route you choose and the province you work in, you’ll need to obtain specific qualifications, register with a specific regulatory body, and in some cases follow specific legislation. Even though in this article we’ll be discussing these three ways to become a mental health therapist, there are other professionals who may receive special training or have unique experiences in mental health and able provide mental health counselling or psychotherapy. Such professions include but not limited to physicians, nurses and occupational therapists.

When it comes to becoming a therapist in Canada, in most cases, the professional titles used by these professions are protected and you’ll be required to register with the professions regulatory body in order to use the protected professional title. We’ll break this down even further in upcoming sections of this article.

Educational Requirements

In Canada, there are specific educational requirements and qualification that you’ll need in order to become either a psychotherapist, social worker or psychologist:

  • To become a psychotherapist, you’ll need a minimum education of a master’s degree in counselling. 
  • To become a therapist as a social worker traditionally you’ll need a minimum of master’s degree in social work. However, there are social workers with a bachelor’s level education who also provide mental counselling in various capacities across the country. Whether or not a social worker with a bachelor’s level education may provide mental health counselling typically depends on their scope of practice, their provincial regulatory body’s standards of practice, experience and professional development beyond their bachelor’s level training. To hear about a social worker, who has a bachelor’s in social work, and how she started her private practice as a mental health counsellor, listen to Episode 17 of the Designer Practice Podcast called How to Build a Private Practice with a BSW with Tia Bell.
  • To become a psychologist, you’ll need a minimum education of a master’s degree or PhD or PsyD in psychology, depending on the province that you want to practice.

Professional Registration 

Contrary to what many people believe, whether you can use one of these professional titles doesn’t depend on the type or level of education you have but rather whether you’re registered with the regulatory body of that profession. And that’s because in provinces and territories that have regulated the profession, the titles are protected under a regulatory body. For example, let’s say you have a master’s degree in social work and you live and want to practice as a social worker in Alberta. To use the terms when referring to yourself social worker or registered social work, you would need to be registered with the Alberta College of Social Workers. Typically, each province and profession have their own their own regulatory body with criteria for registration, standards of practice or ethical guidelines and who holds the right to the protected professional title of that profession.

As registration for each profession is both profession-specific and province or territory-specific, it would be impossible to discuss every possible requirement in this article. But there are some key nuances to be aware of:

How to Become a Psychotherapist

How to Become a Social Worker

  • In Canada, almost all provinces and territories are regulated (Canadian Association of Social Workers, n.d.) with the exception of Yukon and Nunavut (Association of Social Workers in Northern Canada, n.d.).  
  • If a person holds the title social worker, it does not necessary mean they are or classify themselves as a therapist as social workers work in various capacities across the profession. But social workers can be therapists.
  • Social workers, regardless if they are therapists, may hold a bachelor’s degree, master’s degree and/or PhD. And in Alberta, social workers may also hold a diploma in social work.

How to Become a Psychologist 

  • In Canada, most provinces and territories are regulated with the exception of Yukon (Canadian Psychological Association, n.d.1). However, there are plans for the Yukon to regulate the profession through the Health Professions Act which is expected to come in effect in 2024 (Hatherly, 2023 August 9) but at the time of writing this article, it has not come into effect.
  • As mentioned earlier in the post, to become a psychologist in regulated provinces you’ll need to have either a graduate or doctorate degree. The level of education you’ll need for registration depends on the province you work in. (Canadian Psychological Association, n.d.2)

Provincial Legislation

Similar to regulatory bodies governing protected titles, in some provinces there are provincial legislation that control the act of psychotherapy. For example, in Alberta there’s the Health Professions Act RSA 2000, c H-7 (Province of Alberta, 2023, December 7) and in Ontario the Regulated Health Professions Act 1991 (Province of Ontario, 2023, September 25). So before practicing the act of psychotherapy, you’ll want to ensure that you have the appropriate credentials as defined in the legislation before doing so.


So, when it comes to becoming a therapist in Canada there are several paths you can take. But in regulated professions you must also register with the profession’s college in that province or territory to practice and use protected professional titles.

If you’re considering becoming a therapist, it’s important to do your research with respect to which path aligns best with your career goals. You may also want to ensure that you know the educational criteria, regulatory requirements and provincial or territorial legislation governing that profession.

In addition, with the rise of virtual and telehealth therapy since the COVID-19 pandemic, many therapists work across provincial and territorial lines. If you intend to provide therapy in provinces other than the jurisdiction in which you reside, you’ll also want to know the registration requirements of any province you intend to work in as well, prior to practicing in that province.


Please be advised that this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended to be professional advice. Please note that the information in this article is relevant up to the date it was written and is subject to change depending on regulatory or legislative changes.


Association of Social Workers in Northern Canada, (n.d.).  Who we are. Retrieved by

Canadian Association of Social Workers (n.d.) Regulatory Bodies. Retrieved from

Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Associations. (n.d.) Professional Regulation. Retrieved from,of%20Psychotherapy%3A%20Ontario%20and%20Quebec.

Canadian Psychological Association (n.d.1). Provincial and Territorial Regulatory Bodies. Retrieved from

Canadian Psychological Association. (n.d.2) Becoming a psychologist. Retrieved from

College of Registered Psychotherapists of Ontario. (2019, November 21). Professional Standards of Practice for Registered Psychotherapists. Retrieved from

Hatherly, D. (2023, August 9). Anyone can claim to a psychologist in Yukon – for now. Retrieved from

Ontario College of Social Workers and Social Service Workers. (n.d.) Psychotherapy. Retrieved from

Province of Alberta. (2023, December 7). Health Professions Act. Retrieved from

Province of Ontario. (2023, September 25). Regulated Health Professions Act. Retrieved from

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