In Ontario, 97 percent do not have access to psychotherapy

A total of 97 percent of those with urgent medical needs in Ontario do not have access to publicly funded psychotherapy, a joint study by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) and ICES found.

The study also found physicians are concentrated in large urban areas and rarely can take on new patients. Of a total physician population of more than 12,000, less than 1,000 practice psychotherapy in the province.

Dr. Paul Kurdyak, CAMH Director of Health Outcomes and Performance Evaluation in the Institute for Mental Health Policy Research and ICES lead of the Mental Health and Addictions Research Program, served as lead author of the study.

“The need for innovations in mental health to improve access and quality of care is urgent,” Kurdyak said. “But increasing the number of physicians who provide psychotherapy alone will not solve the existing problem of poor access to psychotherapy in a publicly-funded system.”

According to the study, a partial solution would be to allow psychotherapists and other clinicians who are not physicians to provide publicly-funded cognitive behavioral therapy. The therapy is used to treat patients with mild to moderate depression or anxiety.

Ontario can use an English program as a model. England trained non-physicians to provide publicly-funded therapy.