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How to become psychotherapist in ontario

Education Requirements for Registration

CRPO requires a master’s-level program central to the practice of psychotherapy for registration. This can be a master’s degree or an equivalent graduate diploma that requires completion of a bachelor’s-level program for admission. The program must provide training in the Entry-to-Practice Competencies.

When you apply for registration with CRPO, you will need to indicate whether you have completed a recognized training program/accepted bridging program or a non-recognized program. You can use the information below to determine whether you completed a recognized/accepted program.

Recognized Programs

Recognized programs have submitted applications to demonstrate that they meet the minimum education requirements for registration. Recognition does not constitute an endorsement or recommendation of a program by the College. If you have completed a recognized program, you don’t need to provide detailed information about your education and training. Except where otherwise noted, recognition is retroactive for a period of five years before the recognition date. If you graduated in the five years prior to the date of recognition, you are considered to have graduated from a recognized program.


  • Your program was recognized on April 1, 2020. You graduated in 2018. Because you graduated within the five years prior to recognition, you can use the application for recognized programs.
  • Your program was recognized on April 1, 2020. You graduated in 2010. Because you graduated more than five years prior to recognition, you are not considered to have completed a recognized program. You must select the Non-recognized program application type and fill out the Mapping Tool.

Programs are recognized by the Registration Committee for a period of five years. At the end of each five-year period, the program must submit an application for renewal to demonstrate that the program still meets the minimum education requirements for registration. If a program’s recognition is not renewed, this will be noted below. Applicants who graduated prior to the end of recognition will still be considered to have completed a recognized program.

The rise of psychotherapy in Ontario

The field is an increasingly popular second career option thanks to its diversity and anti-oppressive focus

An illustration of a pink head with a hole in the top and a blue background

dickcraft / Getty Images Plus

Psychotherapy as a profession has been around for years along with other types of therapy and counselling. But in Ontario, it has taken much longer for the field to become regulated. Since the establishment of the College of Registered Psychotherapists in Ontario (CRPO) in 2015, and the subsequent declaration of psychotherapy as one of Ontario’s 14 “controlled acts,” demand and interest in the field have skyrocketed.

When the CRPO started, around 2,500 members registered. Five years later, acting registrar Mark Pioro says that number has more than doubled to 8,000. “That doesn’t include other people who use the title but aren’t registered with us,” he says. (Nurses, psychologists or social workers can register as psychotherapists via their own colleges, but do not have to register with the CRPO.)

Demand has been so high that McMaster University recently established a five-term program for people interested in becoming psychotherapists. It launches in fall 2021, and students will earn a masters of science in psychotherapy.

Amy McGrath is the educational director of the Ontario Psychotherapy and Counseling Program (OPC), one of a few programs in the province recognized by the CRPO). She credits the growing interest to the diversity of the practice. “It’s not one size fits all; depending on the modality you train with, there are many tools available,” she says. “That diversity also lends itself to the diversity of people who are seeking mental health services.”

Psychotherapists use a variety of treatments and approaches, including cognitive, behavioural, psychodynamic and somatic therapies.

The field’s diverse models of practice is a huge advantage, McGrath adds, because of how important the therapeutic relationship – or the fit between the therapist and the client – is in terms of best mental health outcomes. “The more diverse practitioners you have, the more access that diverse populations have to finding that fit,” she explains.

Why become a psychotherapist?

People interested in equity and justice are often drawn to the field. Jason Brown, a psychology professor at Western University says an anti-oppressive current runs through counselling practices, including psychotherapy. “Counselling has roots in community service and working with folks who are among the most oppressed,” he says.

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Brown notes this angle is especially important looking at the way the COVID-19 pandemic has exasperated problems facing equity-seeking groups. “Where we see the biggest effect on mental health is the economic impact on families. The social restrictions on how we interact have cut people off from a lot of support that they would normally have just in their lives day-to-day,” he explains.

McGrath says that psychotherapy is also an attractive career because of the ability to create your own private practice.

“You really are your own boss, and it becomes an entrepreneurial job and allows for individuals to create that work-life balance,” she says.

What are the drawbacks?

Like many therapy-based professions, Brown notes that psychotherapy can be an emotionally challenging job. “One of the drawbacks is the emotional heaviness of the work,” he says. “There’s a growing emphasis on self-care, because you can get burned out really quickly if you don’t look after yourself.”

McGrath says that it’s common for those going into people-helping professions to be at an increased risk for burnout because many who are drawn to these careers also have a propensity toward caretaking.

“They tend to put themselves lower on the list, so they help their clients first and if their clients have an emergency, they’re there for them,” she says. “You could work seven days a week until midnight if you wanted to, so the challenge of self-care is one you really have to pay attention to.”

How do I become a psychotherapist?

There are currently 19 programs available across Ontario, at both private and public universities, that enable you to become a registered psychotherapist. Expect to make around $60,000 per year starting out, and depending on experience that can get as high as $100,000 a year on average.

Pioro notes many people transition to psychotherapy as a second or subsequent career, and says that some of the educational programs recognized by the CRPO offer part-time training that can be completed while working in another field.

McGrath estimates more than half of the students at OPC are second-career individuals, and says the five-year program is structured so you can train while working. “One of the things we’re looking for is a person’s capacity to look at their experience, what they’ve learned from their various jobs or other kinds of experiences, and know how to draw those into working with people,” she says.

While Brown says that usually isn’t the case at Western, he does notice a lot of new students have been doing what he calls “helping work” for years. “We love having those students, because they already know so much,” he says. “These are folks who have been doing informal counselling for years either as the first priority of their work or a related part of their work.”

Where to study psychotherapy

Adler Graduate Professional School (Toronto) Master of Psychology specializing in Adlerian or trauma psychotherapy, $46,800/program (plus fees).

Canadian Institute for Child and Adolescent Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy (Toronto) Diploma for child and adolescent psychoanalytic psychotherapist, $3,500/year (includes fees).

Centre for Training in Psychotherapy (Toronto) Diploma of the Centre for Training in Psychotherapy, $7,185/year for first two years (plus fees).

Gestalt Institute of Toronto (Toronto) Diploma of Completion of the Five Year Training Program in Gestalt Psychotherapy, $4,500/year (plus fees).

Martin Luther University College (Waterloo) Master of Arts in Theology – spiritual care and psychotherapy, $2,714/year (plus fees).

McMaster University (Hamilton) Master of Science in psychotherapy, $7,560/year (includes fees).

Ontario Association of Jungian Analysts (Toronto) Diploma in analytical psychology, $3,730/semester (includes fees).

Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (Toronto) Master of Education in counselling psychology, $10,070/year (plus fees).

Ontario Psychotherapy and Counseling Program (Toronto) Diploma in psychotherapy with focus on psychodynamic therapy, $4,500-$5,000/year (includes fees).

Saint Paul University (Ottawa), Master of Arts in Counselling and Spirituality, $7,446.80/year (plus fees).

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Toronto Art Therapy Institute (Toronto), Graduate diploma in art therapy, $8,000/year (includes fees).

Toronto Centre for Psychotherapy and Counselling Education (Toronto) Certificate in psychotherapy, tuition TBD.

Toronto Institute of Psychoanalysis (Toronto) Certificate of graduation as psychoanalyst, $4,000/year (includes fees).

Toronto Institute for Relational Psychotherapy (Toronto) Diploma, $6,600-$9,000/year
(plus fees).

Toronto School of Theology (Toronto) Master of pastoral studies with a spiritual care and psychotherapy certificate, $4,662.43/semester (plus fees).

Tyndale University (Toronto), Master of divinity with a counselling major, $12,150/year (includes fees).

University of Guelph (Guelph), Master of science with a specialization in couple and family therapy, $5,515.34/year (includes fees).

Western University (London) Master of arts in counselling psychology, $6,164,18/year (includes fees).

Yorkville University (Online) Master of arts in counselling psychology, $37,730/ program (includes fees).



Julia Mastroianni

Julia Mastroianni’s first attempt at writing resulted in the first 20 pages of a novel that she promptly abandoned, a year after starting, at age nine, because she couldn’t bear to read her own work. Since then, she’s completed assignments at various publications, including Post City Magazines and the National Post.

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How to become a psychotherapist, counsellor or psychologist

Newly trained therapist counsels young client


Updated December, 2020

Dr. Kim answers a question from a University of Toronto student who asks how to become a therapist in Ontario:


I’m going to include some practical things that don’t appear in the brochures but that are important to know.

There are several different ways to qualify. You could train as a clinical psychologist, usually by obtaining a PhD. Alternatively, a Masters of Social Work in counselling, or an M.A. in psychology or occupational therapy can teach you basic counselling skills if you pick the appropriate courses, and might get you a counselling job in outlying regions (not likely Toronto or Ottawa). Some nurses also practice psychotherapy, in most cases under medical supervision. Training in a psychotherapy school approved by the College of Psychotherapists of Ontario is another option, and may give you a deeper training. Or you could train as a medical doctor and either practice as a GPP or take further training to become a psychiatrist.

As with any training you are contemplating, think about what type of work and what type of lifestyle you have in mind, and then do due diligence to find out whether you are likely to be able to find work that suits you. For employment, you could see what jobs are being advertised and try to find out how many qualified applicants are applying. Jobs have been opening up for registered psychotherapists, but the increase in people qualifying could be increasing much faster.

If you are interested in private practice rather than working for an employer, be aware that except for MDs paid by OHIP, there has been an oversupply (relative to the number of people who can afford to pay for therapy, not to the need) for many years.

This could mean that you spend a lot more time on marketing than on counselling–and I see a lot of money being spent by therapists on advertising and expensive offices which it is hoped will bring in clients. It has also meant that many people who train for this type of work are unable to find it.

For example, about twenty years ago I knew a student in a very good (and very expensive) masters in counselling program at a quite prestigious university; most of the students I believe were intending to go into private practice. Two years later two were working as counsellors–one of them part time and low paid with a long commute; the rest were still (or again, after trying to start a private practice) working at what they had been doing before the course.

Since that time the numbers of people training as counsellors and psychotherapists seems to have increased considerably–for example, at the conclusion of 2016 there were 3,931 registered psychotherapists, and as of September 13, 2017, there were 4,882, and the Ontario College of Registered Psychotherapists has been processing 100 new applicants a month. (This does not include psychologists, social workers, doctors or others who practice psychotherapy.) Just recently new schools have been set up to train RPs, and I know of two more in the works in Toronto.

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So if you want to go into private practice think about how important it will be to have an income and where you will find clients. If you train as a psychologist, you may be able to find a specialty that is currently in demand from individuals or institutions that can afford to pay. Or you might decide to train as a social worker or psychotherapist because you have a special in–for example, if your husband is a doctor in a well-to-do neighborhood, he and his friends may be able to keep you supplied with clients, assuming you’re good enough and your talents are sufficiently diversified. I knew one charismatic and very gregarious therapist who built a psychotherapy practice in a relatively underserviced area through friends of her many friends; many people try to do that today with social networking, with what success I don’t know. Most people find they need a website–however a private website won’t be found in a search; it’s just to refer people to for information about you. (Here is an example of the absolute minimum–see psychotherapists’ web page.)

However, a large proportion of psychotherapists in private practice are middle aged and older women whose husbands are high earners; thus they can enjoy whatever clients come their way without having to worry about making a living or about how much the clients can afford to pay; it’s more about giving back. This can work out very well for all concerned. A relaxed and genuinely happy person is a better therapist than a person who is worried about paying the bills. I have even heard of therapists who tried to keep a client coming to see them against the client’s best interests for financial reasons. That is a total betrayal of the client and of the profession.

Another thing to remember, if you are contemplating private practice and calculating possible earnings, is that you are talking about “billable hours”. You need time to plan your work with your clients, consult with colleagues, contribute to the profession, continue learning, do paperwork, and run a business, even if you have enough clients and don’t need to work on marketing.

Regarding clients’ ability to pay, most people with good jobs can get a few sessions provided by their EAP and/or paid for by their plan. At this time most plans pay $600 per person per year. Plans will pay for a psychologist, and most will pay for an MSW. Payment for registered psychotherapists is in the pipeline, but at this time doesn’t seem to be moving very fast. Some therapists lower the fee substantially after the insurance runs out, and that enables some clients to continue, for a few more sessions or longer, depending on their financial situation.

There is a way to be in private practice and never have to be concerned about marketing or finding work once you get the word around. If you become a GP Psychotherapist or psychiatrist paid by OHIP the patients will beat a path to your door. Most of the training you will get is in medicine, which is essential if you are dealing with physical problems such as dementia, but not the best preparation for doing psychotherapy; however there are courses and workshops you can take over time to build up your skills.

So choose a university program, or if you prefer to train as an RP, a psychotherapy school. Entrance to most psychotherapy schools can be obtained with a bachelor’s degree. Two well-established schools with a fine reputation are the Centre for Training in Psychotherapy (in Toronto) and the Toronto Institute for Relational Psychotherapy.

I have tried to fill you in on some caveats; but let me say that for those it works out for, being a therapist can be extremely satisfying. Best wishes for your very worthwhile ambition.


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