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Difference between Psychologist and a Psychiatrist

Updated: Mar 30, 2023

The phrases "psychologist" and "psychiatrist" are sometimes used synonymously to refer to anybody who offers therapeutic services. However, the content and range of the services offered by the two professions vary. It is crucial to understand the distinctions between these professions to select the expert who could be most appropriate for treating you.


To put it precisely, Psychology is the scientific examination of the human mind and behavior. Psychologists are those who specialize in the study of how people think, act and feel in various social contexts. They are authorities on how people behave. Psychologists are qualified experts adept at identifying, diagnosing, and treating behavioral dysfunctions and psychological problems that can cause daily life, including stress, coping difficulties, addiction, and other concerns. In contrast, Psychiatry's medical specialty focuses on treating mental disorders, emotional problems, and aberrant behaviour. Psychiatrists examine biological, neurological, and biochemical anomalies to identify mental diseases. Furthermore, their medical training also enables them to provide prescriptions for drugs and request diagnostic procedures to help them better comprehend and manage their problems.

The study of and development of therapies for enhancing people's mental and emotional health rely heavily on the areas of psychology and psychiatry. Both aim to support individuals in leading fully-functional and healthy lives.

Psychologists vs. Psychiatrists: Key Differences

Although they frequently emphasize medical and pharmaceutical therapies, psychiatrists are medical practitioners who can prescribe pharmaceuticals. They do this in line with offering psychotherapy.

Even though many psychologists possess doctoral degrees, most are not licensed physicians and cannot write prescriptions. Instead, they only offer psychotherapy, which may include behavioral and cognitive therapies.



Provides a variety of talk therapies

Offers psychiatric evaluations and potential talk therapy

Offer psychological testing and evaluation

Addresses conditions from a bio/neurochemical standpoint

Cannot prescribe medication

Can prescribe medications

Differences between Psychologists &. Psychiatrists

Education, Training, and Credentials

Even though some of the tasks that psychologists and psychiatrists perform—such as providing treatment and carrying out research—might be similar, their educational backgrounds are different.

Ph.D. V/s  PsyD

Psychologists undertake graduate-level instruction in psychology and work toward a Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy) or PsyD (Doctor of Psychology) in clinical or counseling psychology. The average length of a doctoral degree is five to seven years, and most regions also demand an extra one- to two-year internship before granting the license. Before giving entire licensing, several states need another year or two of supervised practice.

Those seeking a Ph.D. or PsyD attend courses in:

● Personality development

● Techniques of psychological research

● Approaches to treatment

● Mental health theories

● Cognitive interventions

● Psychological treatments

The Ph.D. option is often more focused on research. People who pursue a Ph.D. in clinical or counseling psychology prepare a thesis and undergo intensive instruction in research methodology. On the contrary, the PsyD degree choice is frequently more practice-focused. Those who choose this degree path devote extra time to studying and applying clinical strategies and therapeutic techniques.

Psychologists, much like psychiatrists, use the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) to identify individuals exhibiting signs of psychological disease. To better understand a client's functioning, they frequently employ psychological exams such as personality tests, clinical interviews, behavioral evaluations, and IQ testing.

Psychologists might potentially seek training in the following areas:

Clinical psychology - An area of psychology that deals with diagnosing and treating psychiatric issues, aberrant behavior, and mental illnesses.

Geropsychology - A subfield of psychology that uses psychological knowledge and techniques to understand the problems older people and their families face, assist them in resolving issues, and help them reach their full potential in later life.

Neuropsychology - To encourage systematic exploration into the links between brain behavior, neuropsychology emphasizes basic and applied clinical research. This helps to advance treatment.

Psychoanalysis - This mental disorder treatment is inspired by psychoanalytic theory, a branch of psychology that emphasizes the unconscious mind and is frequently referred to as "depth psychology."

Forensic psychology - In the field of professional psychology, it is a subspecialty that focuses on activities that are primarily designed to offer expert psychological advice to the legal and judicial systems.

Psychology of children and adolescents

However, not all psychologists end up working as therapists. Instead of working in therapeutic settings, many people chose teaching, research, law, and business jobs.

Doctors with specialized training in evaluating, diagnosing, treating, and preventing are known as psychiatrists. Before enrolling in medical school and receiving an MD, students must complete an undergraduate degree to become psychiatrists. They complete four extra years of a residency program in mental health after finishing their medical studies. Work during this residency frequently takes place in a hospital's psychiatric ward. They also deal with a wide range of individuals, from toddlers to adults, who could struggle with emotional, behavioral, or mental disorders.

 How to become psychiatrist

The following disorders are some of the problems that people who specialize in psychiatry learn how to recognize and treat during their medical residency:

● Schizophrenia

● Bipolar Disorder

● Post-traumatic Stress Disorder

Various psychotherapy treatment approaches, including cognitive behavioral therapy, are taught to psychiatrists during their training. Additionally, psychiatrists undertake extra training in a specialty they are interested in, such as addiction, child and adolescent psychiatry, or elderly psychiatry. Then, others could decide to pursue a fellowship in a discipline like neuropsychiatry, geriatrics, adolescent psychiatry, or psychopharmacology to deepen their specialization.

Psychiatry Subspecialties

Prescriptive Authorities

As medical practitioners, psychiatrists are authorized by law to provide patients with prescriptions for drugs. While counseling can be helpful, many illnesses, including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), etc., react well to drugs and are typically treated with them. However, psychologists are not permitted to recommend such drugs. Patients are diagnosed via psychological testing, and therapy is used to treat them. Psychologists send patients with severe conditions to psychiatrists when medication could help.

Difference in Approach

Different Approach of Psychologist & Psychiatrist

A psychiatrist prioritizes medicine in their treatment plan. Following diagnosis, the team develops a therapeutic course plan for the patient, concentrating on symptom management through drugs and psychotherapy. Even though they may also have training in psychotherapies like cognitive behavioral therapy, psychoanalysis, and more, psychologists often handle the job of treatments in a conventional mental health care environment. Psychologists primarily use different treatments to treat patients' symptoms and aid in coping with their challenges in daily life. They may employ a variety of therapeutic modalities, including Gestalt therapy, humanistic therapy, Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT), psychodynamic therapy, and cognitive behavioral therapy. To decide the best course of treatment for the patient, they are also certified to administer psychometric tests, which assess a person's mental state and individual characteristics. For instance, if a person has depression and has recently tried to take their own life, a psychiatrist will initially give anti-depressant medicine to the individual to control the suicidal thoughts and make the person more receptive to conversation and therapy. Once the patient is stable, the psychologist will start therapy to address the root causes of their issues and help them gain control over their negative thoughts and feelings. As a result, psychologists and psychiatrists collaborate to aid patients in many mental health care settings.

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