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

October 29, 2019
Select Psychology

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 someone’s 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.

More Information

What is the Difference Between a Psychologist and a Psychiatrist?

When it comes to Psychologists and Psychiatrists, they aren’t the same, however they are both professionals and will have an educational background but this will be different. They will also have different roles in providing different treatments. Psychiatrists come with medical degrees and will have advanced qualifications that come from specialities in psychiatry. Psychiatrists will also use talk therapy and medications if necessary, some may experiment with other treatments, especially for those who are living with mental health conditions.

Psychologists will have an advanced degree, from PhD or PsyD, more commonly talk therapy is used to treat mental health conditions, they may also provide consultancy services alongside healthcare providers, as well as study therapy for treatment programs. These types of providers need to be licensed in their area in order to practice, psychiatrists are also licensed as medical doctors.

Psychiatrists and psychologists are different and will use different tools to help treat mental health conditions, psychiatrists can work in a number of settings, this includes: private practices, psychiatric hospitals, nursing homes, hospitals, rehabilitation programs, hospice programs and prisons.

Psychiatrists will treat people with mental health conditions, this includes those that will need medication, this can be for anxiety disorders, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, post traumatic stress disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity order and major depression.

Psychologist vs Psychiatrist for Depression

When it comes to serious feelings of depression, especially where you may be experiencing more physical symptoms, especially severe ones, maybe you are struggling to take basic care of yourself, psychiatrists will generally have more formal training and can offer different treatment options. If a psychologist is treating someone who may feel that they are experiencing severe symptoms, then they may suggest a consultation with a psychiatrist, this will help to clarify a diagnosis and prescribe medications.

Psychiatrist vs Psychologist for Anxiety

Psychologists can treat anxiety and will use different types of psychotherapy or talk therapy as well as behavioural activation techniques. Psychiatrists will use biopsychosocial models and focus on the biological aspects of psychiatric illnesses, they will also use medications and these will be used to help treat depressive symptoms. They may also use talk therapy and cognitive or behavioural approaches, with this being said they use both psychologists and psychiatrists who will use effective, evidence based interventions and this will help depressed patients.

Useful Links

What is Psychiatry? – Royal College of Psychiatrists

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