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    Psychologist vs Psychiatrist: 4 Key Differences & Who to See

    Many people confuse psychologists and psychiatrists but there are key differences between these professions that can determine who you should ask for help.

    Psychologist vs. Psychiatrist: What's The Difference?

    Many people confuse psychologists and psychiatrists with each other, but there are some key differences between the two professions.

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    Finding the right medical professional to help treat mental health disorders can be confusing. Usually, your search for the right specialist will lead you to two types of doctors: psychologists and psychiatrists. Both psychologists and psychiatrists understand how the brain processes thoughts, emotions, and feelings and use that information to treat mental illness. But despite what you might think, psychologists and psychiatrists aren’t the same. Even though they both specialize in mental health, the two professions have different credentials and educational requirements. In addition to that, psychologists and psychiatrists have different treatment approaches to mental health challenges and focus on treating certain types of mental illnesses.

    What Do Psychologists Do?

    Psychologists help people cope with life issues and mental health challenges. When you visit a psychologist, they study the way you think, behave, and relate to other people and your environment. Psychologists also:

    Find patterns that help them understand and predict behavior

    Work with individuals, couples, and families to make desired life changes

    Identify and diagnose mental, behavioral, and emotional disorders

    Develop and carry out treatment plans

    Collaborate with physicians or social workers as necessary

    What Do Psychiatrists Do?

    Psychiatrists are medical doctors who evaluate, diagnose, and treat people living with mental health disorders that range in severity from mild and temporary to severe and chronic. Psychiatrists can also:

    Provide urgent care for a sudden mental illness

    Help you manage long-term mental health conditions

    Provide second opinions and advice to other doctors and health professionals

    Refer you to other health professionals

    Admit you to the hospital when necessary

    The Differences Between a Psychologist and a Psychiatrist

    Many people confuse psychologists and psychiatrists with each other because their titles sound similar and they both diagnose and treat mental health conditions, but there are some key differences between the two professions.

    1. Education & Training

    Psychiatrists Have Medical Degrees, Psychologists Do Not.

    Psychologists and psychiatrists are both highly educated and skilled. Psychologists have at least 6 years of university training and supervised experience. Most psychologists have a doctor of philosophy (Ph.D.) or psychology (PsyD) degree. Psychologists that have a Doctorate (Ph.D.) can call themselves “Dr.,” but they do not have degrees in medicine. Clinical psychologists have special training in the diagnosis and treatment of mental illness.

    Psychiatrists are medical doctors with at least 11 years of training. Psychiatrists begin their education with a medical degree at a university. After that, they spend 1 or 2 years of training as a general doctor before completing at least 5 years of training in the diagnosis and treatment of mental illness. Unlike psychologists, psychiatrists have a doctor of medicine degree (MD) and are required to learn all the systems and functions of the human body, how to perform physical exams, and specific treatments for each medical condition.

    2. Authority to Medicate

    Psychiatrists Can Prescribe Medicine, Most Psychologists Cannot.

    Even though psychologists and psychiatrists treat mental health conditions, most psychologists cannot prescribe medication. However, with some additional qualifications, psychologists in the following 5 states can prescribe medication:

    Idaho Iowa Illinois Louisiana New Mexico

    Psychologists working in the military, Indian Health Service, or in Guam can also prescribe medication. The authority to prescribe medicine is much less restrictive for psychiatrists. Because of their medical degree, psychiatrists, in any state, have the authority to prescribe medication.

    3. Treatment

    Psychologists Focus on Behavior, Psychiatrists Provide a Wide Range of Treatment.

    Both psychologists and psychiatrists talk with you about the problems and challenges you’re facing. But their different educational backgrounds allow them to focus on, treat, and approach those issues differently.

    Psychologists tend to focus on your behavior patterns. For example, if you’re dealing with anxiety, a psychologist will track your sleeping pattern, the frequency and severity of panic attacks, and the negative thoughts that might be contributing to your high levels of anxiety. Based on what they find, they’ll talk with you, teach you how to change some of those patterns, and help you develop new habits to help relieve and manage anxiety. Their primary way of helping you cope is through psychological treatments and different types of talk therapy.

    Psychiatrists also look at your behavior patterns, but they have a stronger understanding of biology and neurochemistry as well. This allows them to provide a wider range of treatment that can include:

    Source : pronghornpsych.com

    The Differences Between Psychology and Psychiatry

    What is the difference between psychology and psychiatry? Both professions share some educational requirements and practices, but are distinct from one another. Learn the similarities and differences between psychology vs psychiatry.

    The Differences Between Psychology and Psychiatry

    January 19, 2022 | Nina Chamlou

    Are you ready to discover your college program?

    People often use the terms "psychiatrist" and "psychologist" interchangeably — an easy mistake to make if you are not familiar with the field. Both professionals treat patients struggling with mental health on a one-on-one basis. However, there is quite a bit of difference between the two professions when it comes to their education, training, and scope of practice.

    So, what is the difference between psychology and psychiatry? Read on to explore the similarities and differences between the two disciplines and determine which career path is right for you.

    What is Psychology?

    The study of the mind, emotions, and behavior, psychology was considered a branch of philosophy before becoming an independent discipline in the mid-1800s. Psychology students examine the cognitive and social factors that influence people's actions and reactions. Psychologists employ a variety of therapeutic techniques to help patients heal from trauma and improve their mental health.


    What is Psychiatry?

    Psychiatry is a branch of medicine focused on diagnosing and treating mental health disorders. The term literally means the "medical treatment of the soul." Like psychologists, psychiatrists use psychotherapy to help clients. However, they also understand how biology factors into a person's mental health and how to treat mental illness with medication.

    Similarities and Differences

    While the disciplines of psychology and psychiatry share a lot in common, there are some key differences in the education and practices associated with each path.

    Training and Education

    Psychologists must earn a bachelor's degree, a master's degree, and a doctoral degree in psychology. In many states, candidates also complete a postdoctoral fellowship to accrue additional supervised experience before obtaining licensure and treating clients. The educational process to become a licensed psychologist takes about 8-10 years.

    To become a psychiatrist, candidates complete a bachelor's degree before attending medical school. Prospective psychiatrists study pharmacology, anatomy, biology, neurology, and disease, acquiring the knowledge necessary to prescribe medication. Graduates complete a residency, which typically lasts about 4 years, before seeking licensure. The process lasts about 12 years in total.

    Differences in Practice

    Both psychologists and psychiatrists can provide psychotherapy. However, most psychiatrists treat patients primarily by prescribing medication, while psychologists mainly rely on providing talk and/or behavioral therapy. Some states now grant psychologists prescription privileges once they complete the required education and training.

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    Frequently Asked Questions

    Frequently Asked Questions Choosing Between Psychology and Psychiatry

    Choosing between these two career paths comes down to your personal priorities, as both professions come with pros and cons. Differing factors include educational requirements, average salary, and scope of practice.

    As a Career

    Psychiatrists typically pay more for their education than psychologists because they spend longer in school. However, the return on investment quickly pays off, as the average psychiatrist out-earns the typical clinical psychologist. While this initially attracts many students to psychiatry, there are other factors to consider when choosing between the two professions.

    Are you more interested in environmental and social effects on mental health, or biological factors? Psychology students dive deep into the external causes of mental disorders and the therapeutic approaches to treating them. Psychiatrists spend a significant amount of time exploring the biological and neurological elements of mental health, which requires a strong aptitude for math and science.

    Some prefer clinical psychology because it allows practitioners to spend more time getting to know their clients and fostering deeper relationships with them. While some psychiatrists do choose to provide therapy, most focus on helping patients with medication.

    As a Client

    It can be tricky to determine the type of mental health professional that is best for you. If you think you have a serious mental health condition, such as bipolar disorder or schizophrenia, consider seeing a psychiatrist. While individuals with these conditions can benefit from psychotherapy, medication is also a helpful treatment for many people.

    As a general rule, seeing a licensed counselor or clinical psychologist is a good place to start. Talk therapy can help you process trauma and give you tools to deal with stress, depression, and anxiety without medication. If your therapist determines that therapy alone is not improving your symptoms, then you may consider seeing a psychiatrist.

    Unfortunately, it can be difficult to find a psychiatrist who is willing to take on new patients, because they are in such high demand. As an alternative, you may choose to see a therapist in conjunction with a general practitioner who can prescribe you the medication you need. This way, you can benefit from receiving psychotherapy in addition to medicine.

    Source : www.psychology.org

    Psychiatrist: What They Are, vs. Psychologist, and More

    Psychologists and psychiatrists have a lot in common, but they also have some key differences. We’ll go over the differences between the two in practice and education before breaking down how to choose which one is right for you. Plus, learn about paying for treatment from either type of professional.

    Types of Mental Health Professionals

    Medically reviewed by George Krucik, MD, MBA — Written by Brian Krans — Updated on December 9, 2017

    Professionals Who Can Help

    Getting help for mental, emotional, spiritual, or relationship issues can be difficult. Finding the right mental health professional can help you take control of any issue in your life.

    We’ve pulled together the basic information you need to learn about different types of mental health professionals. Keep reading to learn who can help you.


    The first image that comes to mind when many people think of a psychologist is a person lying on a leather couch, telling the doctor their feelings. That does sometimes happen — but psychologists do more than ask you how you feel.

    Psychologists specialize in the science of behaviors, emotions, and thoughts. They work in places like private offices, hospitals, or schools. Psychologists treat a range of issues, from relationship problems to mental illnesses, through counseling.

    A psychologist usually holds a doctoral degree, such as a Ph.D. Psychologists can’t prescribe medication in most states.


    Psychiatrists mainly diagnose, treat, and help prevent mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders. They use psychiatric medicine, physical exams, and lab tests.

    A psychiatrist is a doctor with either a doctor of medicine (MD) degree or a doctor of osteopathic medicine (DO) degree.

    General practice doctors can also prescribe medications to help with mental and emotional problems. But many people prefer to go to a psychiatrist for complicated disorders. Psychiatrists’ specialties can include:

    children and adolescents

    forensic psychiatry

    learning disabilities

    Online psychiatry services

    Read our roundup of the best online psychiatry services to find the right fit for you.


    A psychoanalyst follows the theories and practice of Sigmund Freud by helping someone explore their repressed or unconscious impulses, anxieties, and internal conflicts. This is done through techniques like:

    free association

    dream interpretation

    analysis of resistance and transference

    Psychoanalysis has its critics. But many people find that it helps them explore deep psychological and emotional disturbances that could create patterns of bad behavior without them realizing it.

    Be careful in selecting a psychoanalyst. The title and credential is not protected by federal or state law, which means that anyone can call themself a psychoanalyst and advertise their services.

    Psychiatric nurse

    Psychiatric nurses are registered nurses who specialize in mental health. They’re known for their therapeutic relationships with the people who seek their help.

    Psychiatric nurses perform psychological therapy and administer psychiatric medication. They often deal with challenging behavior related to mental health conditions. They operate under the supervision of a medical doctor.


    “Psychotherapist” is a general term for lots of different types of mental health professionals. This can include psychologists and therapists. These professionals all provide psychotherapy. Psychotherapy is a type of “talking therapy.” It’s designed to improve your mental health and general wellbeing.

    There are many different schools of psychotherapy. They can involve therapeutic conversations, group therapy, expressive therapy, and more. The most popular type is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). You can use CBT to help learn how to change bad behaviors, thought patterns, or emotions.

    Mental health counselor

    “Mental health counselor” is a broad term used to describe someone who provides counseling. Their titles may also include the terms “licensed” or “professional.” It’s important to ask about a counselor’s education, experience, and the types of services involved since the term is vague. Counselors can specialize in fields like:

    job stress addiction marriages families general stress

    Family and marriage counselor

    A family and marriage counselor specializes in common problems that can come up in families and married couples, from differences to arguments. The length of the therapy is normally brief. The sessions are typically focused on specific issues and reaching quick resolutions.

    This type of therapy is also used on a one-on-one basis. Group sessions may be used sometimes if one person’s problem affects people close to them. You might see this with counseling for conditions like eating disorders or addiction.

    Addiction counselor

    Addiction counselors treat people with addictions. While this usually involves substance use or gambling problems, it can also include less common addictions such as sexual addictions or hoarding.

    Addiction counseling is often done in a group setting. This is similar to the methods used by Alcoholics Anonymous. It can also be private or with loved ones affected by the addiction.

    Religious counselor

    Religious counselors are also known as pastoral counselors. They’re trained to help people with a variety of problems. Their primary focus is on crises of faith, marriage and family counseling, and emotional and mental problems. This is all done within a spiritual context.

    Source : www.healthline.com

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