In general, many people use the terms psychologist and psychiatrist interchangeably and confuse them for each other. Yet, these terms aren’t the same. Although both of these mental health professionals work closely to improve a patient’s mental health still, they are distinct. 

This article is meant to clear all your ambiguities regarding a psychologist, and a psychiatrist. So, you can understand the role of each professional and can make an informed decision about which one is right for your needs. 

Psychologists are mental health professionals with clinical skills to help people struggling with life challenges/issues and mental health problems. They are trained in conducting psychological evaluations and psychotherapies. A psychologist observes, interprets, and records how people interact with one another and the environment to better understand mental processes and human behavior.

Psychologists can work independently as a researcher or only with patients or they can work as part of a healthcare team to treat psychological issues and promote overall wellness, collaborating with physicians, social workers, and others.

Psychology is a diverse field. When many people think of clinical psychology or a psychologist they tend to think about the psychologists in the private practice setting seeing patients on a day-to-day basis. But there is a lot more than a psychologist does. For example;

Neuropsychologists: who look at the EEG brain waves of the patients.

Experimental psychologists: find out the effects of drugs or causes and effects of mental illnesses. 

Industrial or organizational psychologist: study how can a person make an organization run more effectively or how can we help team building processes. 

School psychologist: that works with student problems, teachers problems. Counseling and student-teacher relationship. 

A psychiatrist is a medical doctor specializing in mental health. Psychiatrists are trained to evaluate both the mental and physical components of mental illnesses. Psychiatrists can request or administer a wide range of medical laboratory and psychological tests, which, when combined with patient talks, help to paint a picture of a patient’s physical and mental state. Their education and clinical training prepare them to comprehend the complex relationship between emotional and other medical illnesses, as well as the connections to genetics and family history, to evaluate medical and psychological data, to make a diagnosis, and to collaborate with patients to develop treatment plans.

Psychiatrists are authorized to provide medications and other medical treatment to treat mental illnesses. Their treatment approach can involve psychotherapy, medications, psychosocial interventions, and other treatments (such as electroconvulsive therapy or ECT), as per the need of the patient. 

The Workplace of a Psychologist

The workplace of a psychologist can vary according to their role. For instance, clinical or counseling psychologists either have their own offices/clinics and can set their schedules accordingly. Whereas other clinical psychologists can work in hospitals, rehabilitation centers, and community centers. Similarly, a school psychologist works in schools, universities, or independent practice. 

When a psychologist working in private practice they can set their hours. Most often when working in private practice they offer evening and weekend sessions. The majority of psychologists who work in clinics, government, industry, or schools work full-time during normal business hours.

In Which Settings, a Psychiatrist Work?

Just like a clinical psychologist a psychiatrist can work in hospitals and in independent settings or clinics. Some of the most common settings where a psychiatrist work include;

  • Private clinics
  • Psychiatric hospitals
  • University medical centers
  • Nursing homes
  • Prisons
  • Rehabilitation programs
  • Hospice programs

What Degree Does a Psychologist Have?

A psychologist should have a master’s degree at a minimum level to work. Most practicing psychologists have a doctorate in psychology. Your demand and efficiency can increase by pursuing a higher-level degree. Most common degrees in psychology include clinical and counseling psychology. Psychologists must undergo an internship or postdoctoral training period of at least one year after completing an undergraduate degree in any field and a master’s degree in psychology. It’s worth noting that anyone with a bachelor’s degree can apply for a master’s degree in psychology. Psychologists can give counseling and psychotherapy, as well as testing and treatment for mental problems, once they have received their license and met the state standards or further specialist certifications. They are not, however, medical professionals and are unable to prescribe drugs. Rather, psychologists collaborate with medical practitioners to deliver those treatments.

Psychiatric Training/Education

To become a psychiatrist, one must first graduate medical school, pass a written test for a state license to practice medicine, and then complete a four-year residency in psychiatry. The first year of residency is usually spent working in a hospital with patients suffering from a variety of medical conditions. After that, the psychiatrist-in-training spends at least three more years learning about mental health diagnosis and treatment, including different types of psychotherapy and the use of psychiatric medicines and other treatments. In-patient, out-patient, and emergency room settings are all used for training.

Read also: Panic Attack vs Anxiety Attack

Most psychiatrists take a voluntary written and oral test administered by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology(in the board varies according to countries) after finishing residency training to become “board-certified” psychiatrists. Every ten years, they must be re-certified.

Following their four years of general psychiatric school, some psychiatrists pursue extra specialized training. They may obtain certification in the following areas:

  • Psychiatry of children and adolescents
  • Geriatric psychiatry is a branch of psychiatry that focuses on the
  • Psychiatry for forensic (legal) purposes
  • Psychiatry of addiction
  • Psychosomatic (mind-body) medicine is a type of medicine that treats both the mind and the body.
  • Medications for sleep

The range of treatments provided by a psychiatrist is wide than a psychologist. Psychiatrists make use of medications, psychological treatments, general medical care, and brain stimulation therapies such as electroconvulsive therapy(ECT). Also, a psychiatrist keeps a check on your physical health and the effects of medications on you or your mental health. 

A psychologist, however, makes use of psychological techniques, therapies, and treatments to effectively treat people with behavioral problems, learning difficulties, and conditions like depression and anxiety. So, a psychologist is more concerned with the psychological cause and effects of a mental illness rather than the physiological aspect. Also, the psychologist does not prescribe medicines or do not perform any physical assessment.  

Psychiatry is a distinct branch or a field of study of medicine concerned with the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders. Whereas, therapy is just a treatment approach to guide people towards insight into their problems and providing the appropriate solutions. 

Psychiatrists are medical doctors but a therapist isn’t.  A therapist is a licensed counselor or psychologist who can use talk therapy to treat mental health symptoms and improve how you manage your symptoms and relationships.

Comparison Table Between Psychologist and Psychiatrist

PsychiatristPsychologist
A psychiatrist has a medical background or medical training.A psychologist does not necessarily have a medical background.
A psychiatrist can prescribe medications.A psychologist can not prescribe medications.
They are working from the medical model and looking for the physical causes. They are looking for the root cause that is psychological in nature.
A psychiatrist has a medical degree and further specialization in psychiatry.A psychologist has a degree in psychology and a further doctorate in the fields of psychology
Along with the medications psychiatrist also use several other medical techniques to treat patients.They treat mental disorders using talk therapies, behavior, or psychoanalytic therapies.
The duration of the sessions reduces in follow-up sessions. As in the follow-up session, they will discuss progress, any changes due to medications, etc.A psychologist will have regular/weekly sessions from 50 minutes to 1 hour for lasting changes in the patients.

Despite having distinct roles a psychologist, and a psychiatrist are connected through the aspect of mental health. The aim of these professionals is to provide with best mental health services in their own capacity. The role of each one of them holds great value and importance so that’s why they often work in collaboration with each other to give the best treatment to the patients.