When it comes to seeking help for a mental illness or any kind of mental problems, two names come to mind: Psychologists and Psychiatrists. But who do we approach? Psychologists and psychiatrists are both trained in the same practice of mental health care, yet the treatments they offer vary on the type of mental condition. If you are seeking someone to counsel for mental illnesses, whom do you approach?
Read on to understand what is the difference between a psychologist and a psychiatrist.
Psychologist and Psychiatrist – Educational Background
While both psychologists and psychiatrists essentially study the same subject of mental health, their approach to the subject is very different.
A psychiatrist studies to get a medical degree in the field of mental health either to attain an MD (doctor of medicine) or DO (doctor of osteopathic medicine). After they graduate with either of the degrees, they write an exam to gain a license to practice their field in a chosen state.
They are then required to continue the practice for a minimum of four years in a hospital under supervision from senior doctors. Psychiatrists must also renew their practice certifications every 10 years.
A psychologist studies a graduate program in medicine for a period of four or six years to attain a PhD (doctor of philosophy) or PsyD (doctor of psychology) degree. They will also be required to complete an exam to gain license in a chosen state to practice professionally.
Approach to Treatments
Being certified medical professionals, psychiatrists are authorised to diagnose and treat documented cases of mental illness. You would usually find a psychiatrist employed at a major hospital, a rehabilitation centre, a medical university, nursing homes or practicing in a private institution.
Psychologists are not authorised to prescribe medications. Instead, they recommend talk therapies and exercises that are best suited for mild mental conditions, and this is all done through careful observation and counselling with their patients. They are also found in similar places as psychiatrists but prefer setting up a private practice.
Whom to Consult - a Pyschiatrist or a Psychologist?
Before you approach a psychiatrist or a psychologist, you must first consider the kind of mental health issues you are facing. If someone you care about is undergoing lots of stress and shows signs of anxiety and depression, it is best to consult a psychologist. Psychologists will take them through mental therapy sessions to ease their troubled mind.
Psychiatrists are best consulted when a person is undergoing severe cases of mental illness. This is evident through extreme fluctuations in mood, behaviour and an unusual pattern of disruptions in daily living due to mental health issues. The psychiatrist will be able to diagnose the issue and provide the best medications to help control their mental state.
There are many cases where consulting both a psychologist and psychiatrist can prove beneficial. The two normally work in tandem, when it comes to diagnosing and treating a mental illness.
On the financial front, make sure you have medical insurance to cover for the medications and if needed, medical therapies that a psychiatrist would recommend. Psychologists normally split their fees on a monthly or per-visit basis.
Important Questions to Ask
When you have decided whom to consult, it’s best to be well prepared before your first visit. One good way to get comfortable with both a psychiatrist and a psychologist is to have a list of questions you should ask to break the ice and get familiar with them.
Some questions to ask your psychiatrist:
1. What are the treatment options available?
2. How long is the medication process?
3. Are there any side effects of the treatment?
4. Will I develop a dependency of the medication?
5. What happens if I skip treatment?
Some questions to ask your psychologist:
1. How long have you been in practice?
2. Describe your ideal patient?
3. How long will the sessions be?
4. Do you work independently?
5. How much do you charge?
Both psychologists and psychiatrists are equally capable in their field to work with mental illness. No one is better than the other, they are experts in their own areas of specialization and effective results are seen when both of them work together to improve an individual’s mental wellbeing.
At Cadabam’s, we believe in a multi-approach for the best outcome. Meet the best of the psychiatrist and the psychologist who work hand in hand to give you the best treatment.
1.Is it better to see a psychiatrist or psychologist?
Ans. A question that everyone faces when they seek help for mental health , psychiatrist vs psychologist, whom to choose? Well, the answer depends, If you feel you need medication for your condition, you can approach a psychiatrist. However, if you feel you do not want to take the medication route, you can consult a psychologist. Further, if you feel undecided, a psychologist would be a good starting point.
2.How is a psychologist different from a psychiatrist?
Ans. What is the difference between psychologist and psychiatrist? A question we have been asked innumerable times. Psychiatrists and Psychologists come from different educational backgrounds. They differ in their expertise as well. Psychiatrists are certified medical professionals with a background of studying medicine. Psychologists approach mental health from a different perspective and have to attain a degree of PhD ( Doctor of Philosophy). Psychiatrists can prescribe medication while psychologists have
3.Is a psychologist a Doctor?
Ans. A psychologist is a trained mental health professional who has completed a PhD. This is where the difference between psychiatrist and psychologist lies. A psychiatrist can prescribe medication while a psychologist focuses on the therapeutic approach to recovery. A psychologist uses approaches like REBT, CBT, Counselling and many other approaches to ensure you complete full recovery.
There are times when things get rough and tough for us and we look up to someone with whom we can discuss our problems and reach solutions. The first people we look to are our near and dear ones, however, when things become unmanageable, many seek professional help.
When looking for such professionals, we may com e across many different names with different job titles, Psychologist, Psychiatrist, Counsellor, Psychotherapist and so on.
These are names you may have come across often, but may not be entirely clear about their meaning. The biggest confusion remains between Psychiatrists and Psychologists, who are often used synonymously but do very different work.
Both are key professions in the field of mental health and behaviour, but are not the same. So if you are someone looking to build a career in this arena, or just someone curious to learn more about the world around you, you should know who they really are and how they both differ.
I’ll take you through all the key differences. So, let’s take a look.
Psychologists and Psychiatrists – Who are They?
To define precisely, Psychology is the scientific study of human mind and behaviour. Individuals who practice Psychology are known as Psychologists and study how human beings think, behave and feel in different social settings. They are experts in human behaviour.
On the other hand, Psychiatry is a branch of medicine that deals with the treatment of mental illness, emotional disturbances, and abnormal behaviour. Psychiatrists look at biological, neurological and biochemical abnormalities to diagnose mental illnesses and prescribe medications to treat them.
The fields of Psychology and Psychiatry are both essential in researching about and developing treatments for improving the mental and emotional well being of people. Both share a common goal: helping people lead well-functional and healthy lives.
Differences Between Psychiatrists and Psychologists
The major differences between the two lie in many different areas, including their approaches, areas of work and educational path. Contrary to what most people believe, they are not one and the same thing. Psychiatrists, as I mentioned are medical doctors. Psychologists, while they treat mental disorders, are not restricted to it.
Here are the ways in which they differ:
1. Psychiatrists treat mental issues through medications; Psychologists treat them with therapies
The biggest difference between the two is in the approach they take towards treating mental disorders.
A Psychiatrist takes a medication-first approach in their treatment. Once the diagnosis is done, they build a treatment course plan for the patient, focusing on managing symptoms through the use of medications and psychotherapy. While they may also be trained in psychotherapies like psychoanalysis, cognitive behavioural therapy and more, in a typical mental health care setting, the work of therapies is generally taken care of by Psychologists.
Psychologists primarily utilise different types of therapies to manage symptoms and help their patients cope with their life problems. They may use different forms of therapies, such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, Psycho-dynamic Therapy, Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT), Gestalt Therapy, Humanistic Therapy, etc. They are also qualified in conducting psychometric tests, which evaluate a person’s mental state and personal attributes to determine the right course of action for the patient.
For example, if a person is suffering from depression and recently attempted suicide, a Psychiatrist will first prescribe anti-depressant medications to the person to manage the suicidal tendencies and make the person more open to talking and treatment. After stabilisation, the psychologist would start the therapy to get to the root cause of the person’s difficulties and help them manage their negative thoughts and emotions.
Thus, psychologists and psychiatrists work together in many mental health-care settings to help patients.
Recommended Read: 5 Popular Myths About A Career in Psychology
2. Psychiatrists primarily deal with mental disorders. For Psychologists, it is just one branch
Psychiatrists are medical doctors and thus they mainly work in healthcare settings such as hospitals, mental health clinics or private practice. Within the domain of medicine, their specialisation is mental health and their work only concerns that. Psychiatrists can specialise further in the field of mental health, including areas such as Forensic Psychiatry, Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Geriatric Psychiatry, Addiction Psychiatry, Clinical Neurophysiology, Pain Management, Sleep Medicine, Brain Injury Medicine, etc.
On the other hand, since Psychology is the study of human mind and behaviour, it can be applied to virtually all fields, mental health being one. The word “Psychologist” is an umbrella term for many different sub-fields of Psychology such as Clinical Psychology, Counselling Psychology, Child Psychology, Sports Psychology, Cognitive Psychology, Industrial/Organizational Psychology, Forensic Psychology, Educational Psychology, and more. Psychology graduates can choose to specialize in any of them, depending on their interest. Thus, Psychologists don’t always work with mental disorders.
Recommended Read: Exhaustive Guide to Becoming a Psychologist and its Scope In India
3. Psychiatrists can prescribe medicine, Psychologists can not
Psychiatrists are doctors of medicine and are legally equipped to prescribe medications to patients. Many disorders such as Schizophrenia, Bipolar Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), etc. respond well to medications and are primarily treated through them, even though therapy can help.
Psychologists, however, cannot prescribe such medications. They conduct psychological tests to diagnose patients and treat them through therapy. In severe cases where medication may prove effective, Psychologists refer such cases to Psychiatrists.
4. Psychiatry requires a degree in Medicine. Psychology requires a UG & PG degree in Psychology
A Psychiatrist is a physician with a medical degree in Psychiatry. To be a Psychiatrist you will first have to complete your MBBS, followed by an M.D. in Psychiatry. Thus, a total of 7.5 years of study (5.5 years of MBBS + 2 years of M.D.) are required.
Read More: Doctor as a Career in India
To build a career as a Psychologist, you need to have a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology followed by a Master’s degree in Psychology. To practice as a Clinical Psychologist (treating mental disorders), you require an additional 2 years of study to obtain an M.Phil. in Clinical Psychology. A total of 5 to 7 years of study (3 years of B.A. + 2 years of M.A. + 2 years if you go for an M.Phil.) are required.
Read More: Psychology as a Career in India
5. Psychiatrists deal with complex psychological conditions; Psychologists deal more with behavioural and developmental issues
Psychiatrists tend to treat people who need help in complex medical and psychological conditions such as severe depression, psychotic behaviour, severe anxiety, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, autism, etc.
Psychologists are more likely to see people with conditions that can be treated/managed effectively with psychological treatments, such as behavioural problems, adjustment issues, learning difficulties, mild depression and anxiety.
So here are all the major differences between Psychiatrists and Psychologists! I hope this will help you choose the right profession for yourself. Mental health is a great and rewarding field, but it also requires you to be resilient, empathetic and emotionally stable. If you are looking to build a career in this domain, you should surely evaluate yourself in these areas and take an career assessment to make the right decision.
Psychology or Psychiatry?
Let’s help you choose the right one you!