Q & A about Training in Medical Psychotherapy 

through the Medical Psychotherapy Association Canada (MDPAC)


Q.  How does a physician become certified in medical psychotherapy in Canada?

A.  Unlike in the UK there is no academic stream for training physicians in psychotherapy in Canada.  Some family medicine residents choose to apply for an R3 year of training in psychotherapy through the medical school where they are doing their residency.  These applications are considered on a case by case basis by the university and there is no fixed funding for this R3 position in any medical school in Canada.  MDPAC has asked that the CFPC establish a Certificate of Added Competency (CAC) in Mental Health and Psychotherapy that family physicians could apply for after a certain amount of extra training, but the CFPC is not interested in doing this at this time.  Their assumption is that all family doctors receive some training in psychotherapy during their residency and that most of them provide some psychotherapy services to their own patients as part of a comprehensive family practice model.

We at MDPAC believe that this approach contributes to the perception that doctors don’t know enough about psychotherapy, and we seek to increase standards of education in psychotherapy among physicians, comparable to that required by such organizations as the College of Registered Psychotherapists of Ontario, and the Canadian Psychological Association.


Q.  What is Medical Psychotherapy?

A.  For our purposes, Medical Psychotherapy is simply psychotherapy that is practiced by a physician.  Our current direction is analogous to a movement in the U.K. that values the support and training of both specialists and family physicians who want to be skilled in providing psychotherapy to their patients. 


Q.  What modality of “psychotherapy” are you talking about?

A.  All modalities.  Short-term, long-term, CBT, psychodynamic, mindfulness, group, family, marital, etc.  We are a “Big Tent” organization.  We’re not concerned about exclusivity.  We value both evidence-based and experience-based approaches to quality psychotherapy.


Q. I’m a physician in private practice who does a lot of psychotherapy.  What could I get out of your organization?

A.  Having a solo practice can be very isolating.  In MDPAC, you will find a community of like-minded physicians who believe that the art and science of psychotherapy is a life-long pursuit.  We encourage interaction with colleagues who can offer support, guidance, and new ideas.  You will find a peer group that values your work, and you’ll receive regular communications on psychotherapy workshops, conferences and training in various psychotherapeutic modalities, all across Canada.


Q. Does MDPAC offer a certificate in Medical Psychotherapy to its members?

A. MDPAC has no legal authority to grant a certificate in Medical Psychotherapy to its members. We do however offer a certificate level membership in the association which has been recognized in some provinces as evidence of an added level of competency for the physicians who have obtained this.  The requirements for certificate level membership in MDPAC can be found on the website www.mdpac.ca/certificant.html and include a certain number of hours of didactic learning, supervision by an approved supervisor, as well as a personal growth work usually in the form of participating in group or individual psychotherapy.  In addition members are required to have attended two comprehensive conferences on psychotherapy over the past four years and to have references from two colleagues who are familiar with their professional work.


Q.  How do I go about obtaining the didactic learning required to apply for certificate level membership in MDPAC?

A.  The didactic learning should be a balance of learning the general principles of medical psychotherapy as well as of a particular method of psychotherapy such as CBT, DBT, Internal Family Systems Therapy, Sensorimotor Psychotherapy, Gestalt Therapy or other recognized form of therapy that offers a formal training program. General principles of medical psychotherapy focus on the elements of the therapeutic relationship itself as well as the legal and ethical considerations in providing psychotherapy to patients in your office. MDPAC offers a comprehensive five weekend course to teach these general principles to physicians who are new to the area of medical psychotherapy. For more information about the MDPAC Psychotherapy Training Program please click HERE. There is also a training program offered by the Department of Family Medicine at the U of T through the Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto. McMaster University offers an online training program in Medical Psychotherapy called PTeR which is also recognized for Continuing Professional Development credits by MDPAC (pter.mcmaster.ca).



Q.  Does MDPAC offer training in the basics of psychotherapy?

A.  Yes we do! Our MDPAC Psychotherapy Training Program has been receiving excellent reviews and is much appreciated by physicians who are preparing to offer more psychotherapy in their medical practice or to transition to doing only psychotherapy. CLICK HERE FOR MORE DETAILS


Q. How do I go about finding a psychotherapy supervisor who is approved by MDPAC?

A.   MDPAC has developed a policy that outlines the requirements that must be met by a person wishing to act as a supervisor for an MDPAC member.  In general, the person must be licensed by a college that would be recognized in their own province as having the authority to provide psychotherapy to clients.  In Ontario this includes the College of Physicians and Surgeons, the College of Psychologists, the College of Nurses, the College of Occupational Therapists, the College of Social Work and the College of Registered Psychotherapists.  In addition to being licensed to perform psychotherapy, the person must have been in practice for a minimum of five years and have evidence in their CV of training or experience in providing psychotherapy supervision to others. 


Q. Where do I go to find out more about becoming a certificant level member of MDPAC?

A . The first step to becoming a certificant level member of MDPAC is to join the association as a clinical member and start asking questions of the other members in the association.  You can do this through joining the Listserv, through collegial interactions with others at educational events, and through becoming involved on a volunteer level in some of the committees that are currently working to develop these policies and training programmes.


Written by Catherine Low, MD, MDPAC(C)

September, 2017



In this section