Since psychiatrists and psychologists work together in many situations, their treatment plans can overlap. And this can cause some confusion when looking for treatment for a mental health disorder or therapy. But there are distinct differences between the two that are important in which type of counseling you should look for. So how can you tell the difference?
A psychologist has a graduate-level degree such as a master's or doctorate and has had at least one to two years of clinical experience. These individuals spend an average of eight years in school and two in training. A psychologist will either have a PsyD (Doctor of Psychology) or a Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy) and have studied behavioral therapy, cognitive therapy, psychological therapy, treatments, psychological research, and personality development. Those with a Ph.D. will also have an extensive amount of training in research. These professionals have one of the highest levels of knowledge compared to all types of mental health.
Once they have been through school and had at least 2,000 hours of supervised training, they then must take a license in their state to practice psychology. These individuals typically have a specialized type of psychology that they are focused on, such as development, social, physiological, educational, or industrial-organizational psychology. These individual specializations each require its education, and to specialize in any one issue; the psychologist must complete both schooling and training in that specialty. But what does a psychologist do? That depends on their specialization.
Psychologists use assessments, evaluations, and tests to determine their client's needs, and they have the necessary training to administer treatment. They can make diagnoses with these assessments and can provide the therapy needed in most cases. The psychologist must know their client's characteristics, personality, cognitive abilities, strengths, and weaknesses. Some of the treatments that psychologists often provide include:
A psychiatrist is a medical doctor that specializes in mental health conditions. They are either M.D.s or D.O.s, and one of the main differences between them and psychologists is that a psychiatrist can prescribe medication. Thus, they must attend medical school to learn general medicine before going to college for psychiatry. They must practice for four years in a medical training program as a resident, typically in a hospital psychiatric unit. A psychiatry resident will see various patients, from children to adults, with many different mental illnesses.
Like psychologists, psychiatrists sometimes specialize in one mental health issue or group. For example, some may only treat children and adolescents, while others treat mainly elderly patients. Some psychiatrists focus on an illness like addiction or family therapy. Others may be specially trained in working with brain injuries or diseases, so they must know more about how the brain works.
No matter which type of psychiatrist one chooses to be, they are more of a medical doctor than a psychologist. They typically focus more on the physical aspects and treatments rather than psychotherapy and CBT. Some of the treatments that a psychiatrist will usually use include:
Although some psychiatrists use psychotherapy as psychologists do, they typically leave that to the psychologist. They will work closely with a psychologist to ensure both the physical and mental aspects of the patient's disorder are effectively treated. In some instances, a psychiatrist will send a patient to a psychologist because their issue is not a medical one, and they try to stick to the medical part of mental health. For example, if you and your significant other have relationship issues, a psychiatrist will usually refer you to a psychologist or relationship therapist for psychotherapy.
If you and your partner are having relationship troubles, you may need to speak to someone. But how do you know if it is time to talk to a psychologist or therapist? If you and your significant other spend more time arguing than you are talking or if every conversation seems to end in a fight, you could benefit from counseling. If one of you were unfaithful or trust issues, a counselor, therapist, or psychologist could help you. Any relationship could benefit from couples counseling because no relationship is perfect. That is not to say that you will have a perfect relationship after counseling, but you may at least learn why you and your partner are not getting along like you used to.
Sometimes you and your loved one get in a rut or need some variety and excitement. Or if one or both of you have suffered from loss. For example, a miscarriage or loss of a child can be a major blow to the relationship and tear you apart. Couples counseling can help you bring each other comfort rather than distancing yourselves from each other. Everyone reacts differently to this type of situation, but with some psychotherapy and cognitive behavioral therapy, you may be able to figure out how to deal with these emotions together.
Online Couples Counseling
Couples counseling or therapy can be done by any mental health professionals, including psychologists, therapists, or counselors. Of course, everyone is busy, and nobody has time for therapy, right? With online couples counseling, you and your partner can be at home together or in two different places. For example, if your significant other is at work and you are at home, online therapy can be perfect. Another benefit is that you do not have to make an appointment, and you can reach out to your counselor anytime, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Because when you and your honey are arguing, you do not want to wait weeks or even months for an appointment. With online couples counseling, you can contact your counselor whenever you need them, and you don't even have to leave home to do it.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Is it better to see a psychiatrist or psychologist?
Psychologists and psychiatrists have different specialties, and they often work together. There are some differences when it comes to their approach to mental health treatment. If you’re wondering, “What’s the real difference between the two? Should I see a psychologist or a psychiatrist?” Here is the simplest way to define it.
Psychiatrists are more like medical doctors than therapists. They may implement psychological techniques in their work, but they’re more focused on physical symptoms and treatment. If you’re looking into prescription medication to treat your mental illness, a psychiatrist would be a more suitable option.
Psychologists are more focused on doing a thorough evaluation and finding techniques and exercises that can help you reshape the way you view the world over time.
There are a variety of specialties within the psychological world. Some study forensic psychology, others study clinical psychology. Psychology students choose a specialty to focus on throughout their training to become experts in a specific field throughout their career in psychology.
Psychiatrists and psychologists both may specialize in a specific field. There are branches within both of their practices. For example, there is geriatric psychiatry, which focuses on mental health disorders related to old age.
What’s the difference between a psychologist and a psychiatrist and a therapist?
Psychology students are trained in behavioral habits and mental disorders and treat them without a focus on medication. They specialize in a person’s thoughts, feelings, distresses, and moods.
Psychiatrists are more focused on physical symptoms and disorders. For example, in geriatric psychiatry, much of the focus could be on a mental disorder like Dementia or Alzheimer's. They may use a combination of medication and therapeutic practices to treat these issues that have to do with a chemical change in the body.
Psychologists and psychiatrists are different but often work hand-in-hand to ensure their clients get the best treatment possible.
Is a psychologist a doctor?
Though psychologists have a Doctor of Psychology, they are not medical doctors. In some parts of the country, they can prescribe medication, but even then, they’re limited.
This is one of the main ways psychologists and psychiatrists are different. Psychiatrists are classified as medical doctors. This makes their lens on mental health a little different.
Psychologists and psychiatrists may have different backgrounds in education, but they are both highly respected specialists and have the ability to work toward healing.
Can a psychologist diagnose?
Both licensed psychologists and psychiatrists can diagnose mental health disorders.
Though psychologists and psychiatrists may evaluate a mental disorder differently, their expertise in mental health is unmatched. They both have extensive knowledge of the human mind - psychically and functionally.
Who gets paid more, a psychologist or psychiatrist?
Psychologists and psychiatrists both make a very comfortable living. What can make a difference in pay grade is their specialty in the field.
Someone who is an expert in forensic psychology, for example, may make more than someone who is trained in clinical psychology because forensics is a highly specialized field. Psychiatrists can, on average, make a higher salary due to their classification as medical doctors.
What are the 4 types of therapy?
There are many options for therapy. There are four common types used today. Within each of these categories, there are more specialized treatment plans. The types are:
How many years of schooling do you need to be a psychologist?
On average, people spend at least 8 years studying to become licensed psychologists. This includes an undergraduate degree, followed by a doctorate. Psychologists and psychiatrists both undergo extensive training before they are licensed and able to practice.
Do psychiatrists do talk therapy?
It depends. Psychiatrists are licensed, educated, and able to do talk therapy and psychotherapy if they decide to. Some decide to use tools from other therapy models in conjunction with prescription medication. Others decide to focus on physical treatment models - such as ECT, antidepressants, or light therapy.
Psychologists and psychiatrists approach mental health from different perspectives, but both help you reach your highest potential.
The study of the human mind is a vast and ever-expanding field of study. There are many intricacies within it. There is a huge difference in the day-to-day life of someone trained in forensic psychology and some who regularly practices clinical psychology.
Whether you opt to see a psychologist or a psychiatrist - or both - taking steps toward having a healthy mind is the most valuable gift you can give yourself. Psychologists and psychiatrists both have the training to help treat you or guide you in the right direction.