The Difference Between Psychiatrists and Psychologists

The Difference Between Psychiatrists and Psychologists


Mental health has got its awareness in the current era. People have started to care for their Mental health as important as their Physical health. While talking about the treatment and care for the individual’s mental illness, there are certain significant people behind the care and we call them Mental health professionals.

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Mental health professionals are individuals who help individuals heal from their mental health issues, be they minor or major. These Mental health professionals fall into different variations. Among the varied professionals in the field of helping individuals cope with various mental health challenges, two key professionals play a very significant role. These people are:

Psychiatrists and Psychologists

Though both of these professionals play a vital role in the promotion of mental well-being, there seem to be certain significant differences. The approaches, practice and training have a significant variation.

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Before we get to know the difference between Psychiatrists and Psychologists, let’s understand the meaning of Psychiatry and Psychology. Psychiatry is a branch of medicine that deals with the prevention and treatment of mental illness, abnormal behaviour and emotional disturbances. While Psychology is the scientific study of human thought and behaviour.

Differences between Psychiatrists and Psychologists

Education Background

Firstly, Psychiatrists are medical doctors. They tend to possess one or two medical degrees which could be a Doctor of Medicine (MD) or Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DM). They should also have a specialization in Psychiatry. Alongside, they must possess 4 years of practice as residency doctors. This residency practice provides them with various experiences like dealing with outpatients, and hospital settings, learning to diagnose, and formulating treatment plans which include medications and therapeutics.

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Psychologists are individuals who learn from graduate schools and complete their Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees. They further tend to complete doctoral-level degrees which could be either a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) or Doctor Of Psychology (PsyD). This would take around 4 to 6 years for the programmes to be completed. After all these, they tend to gain experience through training in various mental health institutions.

Career Options

Psychiatrists can work in

  • Government sector
  • Practice in hospitals and clinics
  • Judicial systems
  • Private practice

While Psychologists can work in

  • Psychologists
  • Business
  • Education
  • Community services
  • Human resource
  • Intelligence
  • Law enforcement
  • Public health
  • Research
  • Sales and Marketing
  • Treatment methodologies

Psychiatrists tend to use medication as their primary level of treatment. Once the diagnosis is done, they tend to formulate a treatment plan which includes the management of symptoms via medications or psychotherapy. Psychiatrists might also get trained in various therapies which include Psychoanalysis, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy etc. Psychologists use different types of therapies including Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy, Psychodynamic Psychotherapy, Gestalt therapy, Humanistic Therapy etc.

Read More: Father of Psychoanalysis: A Deep Dive into the Life of Sigmund Freud

Dealing with Patients

Psychiatrists deal with mental illnesses, especially in clinics, hospitals or private practice. They predominantly deal with major mental health issues. They might even specialize in Forensic Psychiatry, Child or Adolescent Psychiatry, Clinical Psychiatry, Geriatric psychiatry or Neurology fields. Psychologists can specialize in Clinical settings, Counseling or education sector Child, Cognitive or Behavioural or Industrial or Organizational settings.

Major Difference

Psychiatrists can prescribe medicines while Psychologists cannot. Major Mental health illnesses like Schizophrenia, Major depressive disorder, Bipolar disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) etc. do respond well to Medications. Psychologists tend to deal with minor or major mental health issues, and developmental issues through various psychological assessments for the prevention, diagnosis and formulation of treatment.

Choosing between a Psychologist and a Psychiatrist

While both of them are specifically for the prevention, treatment and intervention of mental health-related issues, both these fields remain distinct in their approach.

As a Career Option

If you’re someone who seems to be interested in analyzing and understanding the behavioral and psychological aspects of an individual including the focus on emotions, motivations, and various other aspects of a human, you could choose Psychology as your career option. You may have to study for a graduate degree and a doctoral degree is required. Training and experience is required in the respective fields.

If you’re someone looking into the learning of both the biological and psychological aspects of humans, then getting into Psychiatry would be the better option. Also, it would be a better option if you have to prescribe both medications and therapeutics. In addition to these, you may have to understand the work environment, work process and flow, training and experience to choose between a Psychologist or a Psychiatrist.

As a Client

As a client, you may first understand the differences both these fields and experts hold. Then, if you’re someone battling with minor or major mental health-related and behaviour-related issues and in need of non-pharmacological interventions, seeking treatment through a Psychologist is the best option. They address you through talk therapy or counselling, understanding your thoughts, emotions and behavioural patterns. After all these, they tend to formulate and make a tailor-made approach to every client they look upon their needs and problems.

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On the other hand, if you think that you or the person you’re seeking treatment would require medications for the intervention of the specific mental health condition, then seeking treatment through a Psychiatrist would work. They are medical professionals who provide medications according to your problem and need.

Read More: How to Choose a Therapist?

This article helped us understand a brief difference and similarities that a Psychologist and a Psychiatrist hold. Almost in most clinical settings, both these professionals work together for the benefit of the individuals or clients. Understanding the differences and similarities both fields have and making efforts to respect each other would definitely benefit the care of the human population.

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