Are you looking for a mental health professional to help you out with some problems that you’re having?
Maybe you’re seeking out a career in the mental health field and you want to know which option is better for you, but you’re not sure of the difference.
You’re not alone. Many people don’t know the difference between a psychologist vs. psychiatrist, and the ones who do can still get them mixed up!
We want to help explain so that you don’t have to pretend to know anymore. We’ve got you covered.
Keep reading to learn about psychiatrists, psychologists, and what makes them different.
What Is a Psychologist?
A psychologist is someone who has gone to school to learn about the mind. Generally speaking (and in the context of this article) psychologists are most commonly referred to as therapists. Not all psychologists are therapists, but it’s a common application of that degree and skillset (you can view more about therapists here).
There are 54 different subgroups that fall under the psychology umbrella!
Mental health psychologists are the ones that the average person will think of upon hearing the term “psychologist”. Even those psychologists can be broken down into categories.
There are talk therapists, marriage counselors, EMDR specialists, school counselors, and so much more.
Some psychologists use their skills for research instead of application. They learn more about different mental illnesses through studies and experiments to contribute to the scientific community.
What Can They Do?
As mentioned, psychologists are able to perform therapy for their clients. They’re also able to diagnose mental health conditions based on their findings from therapy sessions.
They’re able to choose specializations and work within those specializations to provide care for people who are suffering from mental health conditions.
Some of them also choose to be social workers.
Many people think that psychology is a “lesser” field than psychiatry, but this isn’t true. It also isn’t easier. Therapy is challenging, and many psychologists get burnt out early in their tenure.
What Can’t They Do?
Psychologists are limited despite their expertise.
A psychologist that is qualified in one area of therapy won’t necessarily be qualified in other areas. In short, an EMDR therapist won’t be able to offer marriage counseling unless that’s something that they’re also experienced or certified in.
Psychologists are also unable to prescribe medication to their clients. They can make suggestions and they can refer their patients to psychiatrists, but they’re not able to actually help in that area.
What Qualifications Do They Have?
A psychologist can have a variety of qualifications, but they do begin with a Masters degree. Some go on to complete special certifications in specific areas of their counseling while others choose to go on to a doctorate.
Because of the wide variety of psychologist positions, there isn’t one kind of degree or certification that they must have. Requirements may also vary by state.
What Is a Psychiatrist?
A psychiatrist is a different kind of mental health professional. Psychiatrists are trained medical doctors, unlike psychologists.
A psychiatrist is unlikely to work in talk therapy, though they may do it as a part of their position. They understand and treat complex mental health conditions that require medical help as well as counseling.
Because they’re medical doctors, they can also assess misdiagnosis. If something was diagnosed as a physical problem but it’s actually a mental issue, a psychiatrist is the perfect person to look toward for that.
What Can They Do?
A psychiatrist can do everything that a psychologist can do depending on their certifications. Some psychiatrists offer the same kinds of counseling as psychologists, though many prefer to work only within their field.
They can prescribe and troubleshoot medication for their patients. They know how the medication works with certain conditions and how it will affect other medications that the patient is already taking.
Because they’re also medical doctors, psychiatrists can help patients who have a dual diagnosis. If physical issues intersect with mental ones, a psychiatrist can provide counseling and medication to ease both issues.
Psychiatrists are also able to refer you to counselors or psychologists if you aren’t already seeing one, or if they think that the one you’re seeing isn’t suitable. Not all counselors are a good fit for all conditions, and a psychiatrist will help the patient make that determination for themselves.
What Can’t They Do?
As with psychologists, not all psychiatrists are going to be qualified for all kinds of counseling. Psychiatrists aren’t often counselors at all, so they don’t have the means to give more than the simplest kinds of advice.
They’re more likely to refer you to a trusted counselor.
Even if they do offer some form of counseling, they aren’t likely to have specialized training. This means that they won’t know how to do DBT, EMDR, or other more complex and focused kinds of therapy. They’re much better suited to offer you medical advice.
What Are Their Qualifications
Psychiatrists are medical doctors. This means that they’ve been through medical school. Like other doctors, they do 4 years in undergraduate programs, roughly 4 years in medical school, and then 3 extra years working on specific training for psychiatric practice.
During this time, they’ll be working on residencies and working alongside more experienced doctors, so that they have the experience required to serve their patients once they’re ready.
Psychologist vs. Psychiatrist: Which Is Right for You?
Whether you’re looking to get into the mental health field or trying to find a mental health professional for you, knowing the difference between a psychologist vs. psychiatrist is important.
The primary difference is the method of care. A psychologist is going to offer counseling and more verbal kinds of care, while a psychiatrist is going to be able to offer medication and medical advice.
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