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How Does Therapy Differ in Canada Compared to the United States?

Know the Differences Before You Start

By Samantha JonesPublished 2 months ago 3 min read
How Does Therapy Differ in Canada Compared to the United States?
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In both the United States and Canada, mental health awareness has been on the rise. Along with this comes an increase in demand for mental health services, including therapy.

In Canada, providers have reported longer waitlists and larger caseloads in recent years. Psychologists in the United States say the same–and they expect demand to increase in the future.

Despite these similarities, Canada and the U.S. also have distinct differences when it comes to mental health and accessing therapy. In this post, we’ll compare and contrast the two countries.

Let’s dive in.

Similarities of therapy in the U.S. and Canada

While the United States and Canada share a border, it’s not the only thing these two countries have in common. Both have similarities regarding mental health and how people access–or have difficulty accessing–therapy services, too.

Rates of mental health issues

Experts aren’t exactly sure what causes mental health issues. Most likely, it’s a combination of factors such as genetics, upbringing, and environment. Regardless, rates of mental health issues appear to be similar between the United States and Canada.

One study found that 8.2 percent of Canadian research participants had depression, compared with 8.7 percent of American participants. According to this study, Canadians and Americans accessed therapy at similar rates, too.

Multiple routes to access therapy

In both Canada and the U.S., people have multiple options for accessing mental health care. Both countries have state and local options. For example, many Canadians get support through government-funded programs in their province or territory. Similarly, many Americans access therapy through county or state organizations.

Private practice therapy is also an option for both Canadians and Americans. Some private practitioners directly bill insurance plans while others are considered out of network providers.

Similar barriers for getting help

Despite multiple options for accessing mental health care, many people in both the United States and Canada have trouble actually connecting with a therapist.

Common barriers for people in both countries include long waitlists, lack of providers in certain regions, and stigma around mental health issues.

Differences between therapy in Canada vs. the U.S.

Though both countries have common ground with mental health, there are also vast differences. Here are just a few ways that therapy differs in Canada and the United States.


Both countries have several different types of mental health providers. However, Canada and the United States differ in regulation. In Canada, each province has an independent regulatory body that gives licenses to therapists depending on their specific profession.

The process in the United States is similar. However, the regulatory bodies are part of the state government itself–not independent groups. Regardless of whether you work with a therapist in Canada or the U.S., it’s important to ask about your therapist’s credentials.

Insurance coverage

Canada has universal health coverage, meaning that all people can access health care (including therapy). Generally speaking, this is limited to mental health services through public programs–private practice therapy isn’t usually covered.

Insurance works differently in the United States. Many people don’t have coverage, which can be a huge barrier to accessing care.

Higher costs

The health care system also costs more in the U.S. data shows that the cost of administering health care in the United States is $2,497 per person annually. The cost is much less in Canada–only $551 per person.

Despite these differences, people in both countries have advocated for increased funding for mental health services. This can help more people get the care that they need to have a thriving, fulfilling life.

Whether you're starting therapy in Canada or the United States, keep these factors in mind so you can have a successful experience.


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  • Andrew-Stuart2 months ago

    Very well balanced out in terms of explaining both the similarities and differences between these mental health care systems. Even in the UK, where healthcare is universal, many people will still opt for private or institutional therapy (e.g. student wellbeing workers at a University) because of the high level of back log for therapy within our national health service. Great analysis 👍

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