“Do my benefits cover Psychotherapy?”
Although Psychotherapy (“talk therapy”) has been around since the early-1900s, it only recently became a regulated profession in Ontario. To me, this is a good thing. Before regulation, literally anyone could call themselves a psychotherapist and offer therapy, which had the potential to be really dangerous. Regulation protects you, the client, from receiving therapeutic treatment from providers who are not qualified to offer them, which is intended to keep you safe.
Before it was regulated, few insurance providers, employee assistance programs, and benefits plans covered Psychotherapy. The education, supervision, and hands-on experience requirements through regulation have legitimized the profession in more providers’ eyes, which has in turn led to more plans covering the services of a Psychotherapist.
In my previous blog post, I described the differences among psychiatrists, psychologists, psychotherapists, counsellors, and coaches in terms of training, regulation, and scopes of practice.
Here, I offer a few things to keep in mind when checking your benefits plan/talking to your insurance provider to see if they cover psychotherapy:
- Be sure to look for Psychotherapy/Psychotherapist, not Psychologist (the latter have a PhD, usually in Clinical Psychology, and are registered with a different provincial college).
- The Registered Psychotherapist designation has three levels in Ontario that relate to experience: RP (Qualifying), RP, and RP (Independent Practice). All are legally qualified to practice psychotherapy, but the first two require supervision from a more experienced practitioner. Some benefits providers/insurance companies may not cover RP (Qualifying).
- Many plans cover psychotherapy performed by an MSW (someone with a Masters of Social Work and registered with the province as such) but not by an RP (Registered Psychotherapist). MSWs and RPs are both provincially regulated, but MSWs have been so for much longer than RPs, and many insurance and benefits providers haven’t “caught up” yet. I have heard of people whose plans name MSWs but not RPs calling their provider and getting an exception to have an RP covered.
- Counselling and Coaching are not regulated, so most benefit plans don’t cover them. Neither is legally allowed to offer certain types of therapy, unless they are also registered with one of the provincial colleges whose members are allowed to conduct the “controlled act of psychotherapy,” as defined in Ontario’s Psychotherapy Act. The line between regulated and unregulated therapy can be fuzzy. If you’re seeking help for complex mental health issues, it’s probably safer for you, and for the practitioner, if you seek support from someone legally allowed to conduct the “controlled act.”
I hope that’s helpful! Don’t hesitate to reach out if you have questions.