What is the difference between a psychiatrist and a psychologist?

What is the difference between a psychiatrist and a psychologist?

October 16, 2022 Treatments 1

This must be one of the most frequent questions I’m asked.

What is the difference between a psychiatrist and a psychologist? Many people oversimplify it and say that psychiatrists can prescribe medicines while psychologists cannot. The answer is actually a lot more complex and you probably want to know why. Let’s start.

Psychiatrists are trained and qualified in medicine first and go on to specialise in psychiatry – which is the study, diagnosis and treatment of mental health disorders, also known as mental illnesses. Because we are trained as doctors, we are able to view illnesses of the mind in the context of the rest of the body and can try to determine how medical and mental illnesses may interact with each other. Mental illnesses are diagnosed according to sets of symptom criteria as set out by the WHO (ICD-10/11) or the APA (DSM-5), and are often matched to evidence-based biological and/or psychosocial treatment strategies. Most psychiatrists are not trained to help individuals through so called problems of living, since these are not considered illnesses per se. As a result, many psychiatrists will not dabble in the areas that counsellors often tackle, such as making relationship or career decisions, marriage counselling, or adjustment difficulties related to changing life circumstances.

Psychologists on the other hand are highly qualified individuals who have usually obtained a Masters degree in psychology, which is the study of human behaviour, thinking and emotions. There are various types of psychologists depending on the type of training they received and their practice focus – clinical psychologists, counselling psychologists, educational psychologists, industrial psychologists, and neuropsychologists, to name a few. Psychologists offer various types of specialised therapies, which include not only individual talk therapy but also behaviourally-based therapies and systemically-based or family therapy. In addition, they are able to do specialised psychological assessments in personality, psychometry, and cognition, among others. Psychologists are not able to prescribe medications, but many have trained themselves to understand some of the biological processes that underlie specific patterns of emotional responses and behaviour.


One Response

  1. Anastasia says:

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