Psychiatrist versus Psychologist: What’s the Difference?

Psychiatrist versus Psychologist

An average person doesn’t usually know the difference between a psychiatrist and a psychologist. Don’t feel bad. It’s not your job to know that and the media as a general rule completely screwed this up. Most television show or movies suggest that if you want therapy you should go to a psychiatrist. And that’s just not correct.

What’s the difference between a psychiatrist and a psychologist?

A psychiatrist is an MD who can prescribe medication. Psychiatrists attend a four-year medical school after obtaining an undergraduate degree. After graduating medical school, a psychiatrist attends a residency program specifically in psychiatry, in which they learn the practice of assessment of mental illness as well as medical treatments of mental health problems.”

A psychologist, on the other hand, has either a PhD or PsyD degree, depending on if their specialty is likely to be research or clinical practice, respectively. Psychologists train to deliver evidence-based psychotherapy and to conduct psychological assessments.

When should you see a psychiatrist versus a psychologist?

If you know you need medication management, you should go to a psychiatrist. If you are interested in psychotherapy, a psychologist may be preferable. Therapy requires motivation to change and a willingness to work hard on one’s problems. 

As to what conditions tend to warrant a trip to a psychiatrist as opposed to a psychologist? Severe mental health problems such as bipolar disorder, psychosis, or schizophrenia require medications as part of treatment. On the other hand, depression and anxiety are two conditions that often don’t require drugs, and for which psychotherapy may be more beneficial.

To sum all this up, a psychiatrist is an MD who can prescribe drugs and who has broad medical training. A psychologist is a PhD or PsyD who has more focused training in diagnosing mental health disorders and treating them with non-drug therapies. If you’re still not sure which one is for you, find an office that houses both. “Psychiatrists and psychologists typically work in collaboration, and can also refer to each other to incorporate many methods of treatment into a particular patient’s plan of treatment,” In other words, whichever you choose to see, you’ll likely end up in the right hands.

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