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

October 29, 2019
Grace Noon

psychologist vs psychiatrist

They’re both similar looking and sounding words pertaining to treatment of poor mental health so many people don’t realise they’re actually quite different. Here we’ll explore the different between a psychologist and a psychiatrist.

Put very simply, psychiatry relies on medicinal means of treatment for mental health problems and psychology relies on a talking therapy approach. They treat many of the same mental health conditions.

Psychiatrist vs Psychologist

Psychiatry is more concerned with a diagnosis which they use to prescribe the best medicines to treat the illness. Psychology is less concerned with labels and and instead uses an individuals history and symptoms to make a formulation of what is causing someones distress, they then design a treatment plan using an evidence based psychological approach.

A psychiatrist is classed as a medical doctor, they include a physical examination of symptoms in their assessment and are able to prescribe medicine: a psychologist is also a doctor by virtue of their PHD level qualification, but is not medically trained and cannot prescribe. This is not to say psychology is less effective; all psychological therapies are evidence based.

 

Which should I choose?

Both can be affective methods of treating mental health issues and which is used is often down to personal preference.

A psychiatric approach may be better for those who prefer to…

  • name what is going on/their illness
  • take medicine to help combat the negative effects
  • not talk too deeply about their issues

While psychology tends to suit those who

  • prefer not to take medicine
  • find labelling their issues unhelpful
  • want to talk through how they’re feeling to make sense of it
  • want to find ways to overcome it themselves.

There may be instances when both approaches are taken. Psychology and psychiatry can be used in tandem to treat more deeply entrenched issues and/or offer a multidisciplinary and therefore more comprehensive approach. This can help if you are struggling to manage your symptoms and they are impacting on your ability to function in day to day life: a psychiatrist would prescribe medication to help with symptom management, which then enables you to work more effectively with the psychologist on the root causes of your difficulties. Some neuropsychological issues such as Autism and ADHD also recommend a multi disciplinary approach for diagnosis.

Our focus is psychology, however we have partner psychiatrists we work alongside for both adult and child services. So if a psychological approach appeals to you and you would like to know more book a consultation.

 

Useful Links

What is Psychiatry? – Royal College of Psychiatrists

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