Whether you’ve decided on your own that you would like to see a therapist in Montreal or you have been given a recommendation to see one, most people don’t know where to start looking. In fact, Quebec has the highest number of therapists compared to other provinces in Canada, so, you would think that finding a therapist in Montreal would be easy. With so many options available, where do you begin your search and how do you decide who to work with?
Types of therapists in Montreal
The term, “therapist” is a broad term that covers a wide variety of professionals specialized in dealing with particular issues. For example, you might make an appointment to see a social worker, counsellor, couples & family therapist, art therapist or drama therapist, psychotherapist, psychologist, or psychiatrist. Confused? Each of these professions differ in their training and specialization. The type of therapist you look for will not only depend on your presenting issue(s) but also your income and insurance coverage (if any).
If you are experiencing individual or family problems that are affecting your well-being, you might consider seeing a social worker. Issues of poverty, unemployment, or domestic abuse are very well addressed by social workers. In Montreal, they can be found in a variety of settings like family service agencies, CLSCs, school boards, hospitals, and also private practice.
If you are looking at changing something in your life or simply exploring your thoughts and feelings about a problem in more depth this may be well-suited for a counsellor. Counselling uses talk therapy to focus on specific problems, changes in life adjustment and fostering well-being. Counsellors will help you to develop a plan of action to reconcile these issues or teach you how to cope with them. Some common topics that counsellors tackle include addiction, bullying, illness, mental health, relationships, trauma, careers, and more.
Marital and Family Therapist/ Couple and Family Therapist
If you are in a couple or have issues that involve family, you might be served best by someone specifically trained to work with couples and/or families. You can find Couples & Family therapists in Montreal mostly in private practice and in private clinics, like the Montreal Therapy Centre. Some also work in units like the Jewish General Couple and Family Therapy Service. Many therapists lack the specific training to work with families, therefore MFTs or CFTs are often better equipped to address issues in this area.
Creative Arts Therapist
People who are more artistically inclined might want to work with an art or drama therapist. These professionals use art tools and artistic expression, such as role playing, to deal with individual and personal problems. They are often associated with child therapy but are, in fact, very effective at working with youth and adults of all ages as well. Therapy using the creative process can help you to tap into different parts of yourself which may be less accessible through verbal therapy alone. In addition, creativity can be therapeutic in and of itself.
Psychotherapy uses various psychological methods to help a person change, overcome problems, improve mental health, and mitigate certain problem behaviours, beliefs, compulsions, thoughts, or emotions to improve relationships and social skills. Some aspects of psychotherapy may overlap with counselling, however psychotherapists tend to work with a more long-term focus and will explore patterns, history and ongoing issues. In Montreal, professionals like social workers and counsellors can obtain permits to practice psychotherapy with extra theoretical and practical training.
Psychologists evaluate and study human behaviour and mental processes and typically have a doctorate degree to practice in Montreal. In general, psychologists are trained to assess and diagnose problems in thinking, feeling, and behaviour as well as to help people overcome and manage these problems using a variety of treatments and/or psychotherapies. Psychologists can work as part of clinical teams, in CLSCs, or in private practice.
People dealing with serious mental disorders, which may require management with medication and therapy, will typically be referred to a psychiatrist through a family doctor or other professional. Psychiatrists are medical doctors who specialize in mental health and mental disorders. They often use medication to help their clients manage their mental health issues, some of which especially require medication (schizophrenia and some depressions, for example).
Deciding on a therapist
Whether you want to see a social worker, counsellor, art or drama therapist, psychotherapist, or psychologist, your choice may be affected by the cost of therapy, the waiting period, and the urgency of the problem(s). Montreal offers a number of options from CLSCs to private clinics, all found online with a google search. For now, therapy is generally not covered by RAMQ unless you are using a service within a hospital like the Montreal University Health Centre. Some employers provide health insurance coverage for mental health services. If so, this coverage will either have a specific dollar value, will cover a percentage of the cost, or cover a specific number of sessions. Insurance companies typically specify which type of professional(s) they cover. It is important to check the details of your insurance plan if you want to use it for mental health services.
If you don’t have private health insurance coverage for mental health services, a CLSC (centre local des services communautaires) in your local neighborhood will typically have a psychologist, social worker, and or counsellor on-staff that offer free services. The waiting period to see a mental health professional at CLSCs or other free service can vary from a few weeks to a few months. This will depend on their wait list.
If your issue(s) requires more immediate attention you can look for private clinics in Montreal that offer a sliding scale to determine fees, which are based on your income. People with less overall income will be offered a lower rate making private therapy more widely available.
Some final tips
It’s important that you develop a good rapport with your mental health professional. Don’t be afraid to “shop around” when deciding whom to work with. Particularly if you think you will be working with a professional over several months, or more, you want to feel comfortable and safe.
Montreal is a multicultural city with plenty of therapists that can practice in English, French, and many other languages. If speaking your mother tongue is important to you, chances are, you will be able to find a therapist that practices in your language.
Hearing the therapist’s voice over the phone before your first appointment is another way to help you get comfortable with your therapist. Some therapists will contact you by phone automatically or provide you the option to be contacted by phone or email to book the first appointment. Choosing to speak over the phone can help you get a sense of who they are, how they communicate, and answer any initial questions you might have about therapy.
Finally, verify the professional’s credentials and, if choosing a practitioner in private practice, ask about insurance coverage receipts. You want to know exactly how much the sessions will cost and that you are working with a professional that you have coverage for.
Written by: Mayte Parada, PhD.
Montreal Therapy Centre