Psychologist vs. Psychiatrist: Time To Set The Record Straight

When people are struggling with one psychological issue or another, they are often advised to see a professional. While that is a perfectly great piece of advice, the truth is that you might find yourself not knowing who the actual “professional” that you should see is. In other words, you can be pretty confused and torn between going to a psychologist or a psychiatrist.

Here’s an in depth explanation about the differences between these two experts.

It’s not uncommon for people to be confused about these two professions. After all, they do share a lot of similarities. For starters, experts from both of these fields deal with mental issues and use their knowledge and expertise in order to help people overcome certain disorders and, of course, feel better. When you look at it this way, it’s perfectly clear why a lot of individuals are having a hard time understanding the difference.

Be that as it may, some people might benefit more from a psychiatrist and some from a psychologist. That’s why it is important to set the record straight right from the start, before you actually choose which of these two experts to visit. Regardless of their similarities, there are important differences that you should keep in mind, so let’s learn more about those. We’ll start by explaining each of the professions respectively.


The first thing that you should know about psychologists is that they don’t have to obtain a medical degree. Instead, they obtain a doctoral degree such as Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy) or perhaps Psy.D. (Doctor of Psychology). Unlike the first one, the second one is a clinical degree that usually focuses much more on the clinical aspects of psychosocial therapy. You can find more info here about why and how this is different from a psychiatric degree.

Psychologists mostly focus on person’s thoughts and emotions, in an effort to provide psychosocial therapy that can help people understand their own mind and thus improve their quality of life by altering some of the thinking patterns that might be preventing them from fulfilling their potentials to the fullest. Simply put, these experts offer behavioral interventions. They aren’t, however, allowed to prescribe medications.


Psychiatrists start off by getting medical education just like any other doctor would. In other words, they hold a doctor of medicine degree, i.e. and M.D. This means that they gain specific and vast knowledge about all the processes in the human body, before deciding to specialize in the field of psychiatry and thus focus on the specific processes in the human mind.

The specialization process consists of a four-year psychiatric residency, during which they learn about both the diagnosis and the treatment plans for all the different psychological conditions, both the milder and the more severe ones, such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorders. They go through extensive psychotherapy trainings which also include the cognitive behavioral therapy techniques. After completing all of that, psychiatrists can choose a sub-specialization, such as psychopharmacology, neuropsychiatry, forensics and similar.

As you can see, these two experts are educated in completely different ways, but both of their sets of skills are highly important for people’s mental health. This means that the psychologist vs. psychiatrist comparison is rather important, but it shouldn’t serve to determine which of these professions is actually “better” and more helpful for people. The truth is that both are equally important in their own ways.

What’s more, these two experts usually work together in order to help people improve their mental health and solve the problems that they might be having. For example, you can go to a psychologist who will evaluate, assess and diagnose your specific state and then refer you to a psychiatrist if they deem necessary. This expert will, then, prescribe you the necessary medications and keep on monitoring your particular state.

They Work Together

Keep in mind that the referral might not always be necessary and it is usually done if you need medications. However, this doesn’t mean that psychiatrists don’t engage in talk therapy or similar techniques. They definitely do that, so don’t make the mistake of thinking that they only serve to provide you with medications. That’s only a plus in their profession.

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