What’s the Difference between a Psychologist and a Psychiatrist?
Many people are confused by the difference between a psychiatrist and a psychologist. Both these health professionals understand how the brain works, as well as our emotions, thoughts and feelings. And both have years of education and training and can treat mental illness with talking therapies. As a result, the similarities in both job roles can sometimes make it hard to know the difference between the two.
Psychiatrist vs Psychologist – what’s the difference?
There are three main differences between psychologists and psychiatrists. These are:
1. Psychiatrists are medical doctors; psychologists are not
2. Psychiatrists can prescribe medication; psychologists cannot
3. Psychologists focus on providing talk therapy to help patients whereas Psychiatrists diagnose illness, manage treatment and provide medication for complex mental illnesses
What does a psychiatrist do?
Psychiatrists are fully qualified doctors, who have undergone additional training in the field of mental health. They may work in clinics, hospitals, with community mental health services, in private practice or provide online help with tele-psychiatry services.
Psychiatrists often treat people with more severe mental health problems, such as schizophrenia, severe depression and bipolar disorder, using a combination of treatments. Assessments and treatment plans may include:
• psychiatric evaluation
• prescribing medication
• general medical care, including checking the effects of medication and your physical health
They also provide practical advice about sleep, diet and other ways you can help yourself to feel better. They’ll give you information about your condition, which can help you to understand your symptoms and possible treatment options.
What do psychologists do?
A Psychologist is a trained professional in the science of how people think, feel and behave. They focus on using behavioural intervention to help treat challenging mental and emotional problems. While Psychologists don’t attend medical school, they have a minimum of six years of training at university along with at least 2 years of supervised practice as a psychologist. They may hold a doctorate (or PhD) in Psychology or a Masters qualification.
While a psychologist can’t prescribe medications, they are experts in offering psychosocial therapy and concentrating on the patient’s emotions and mind. Psychologists can also carry out psychological testing, which plays an essential role in assessing the patient’s state of mind to provide the correct course of treatment.
Psychologists help with problems such as:
• anxiety, depression or stress
• alcohol and drug abuse
• eating disorders
• low self-esteem
• post-traumatic stress disorder
• fears and phobias
A psychologist can help you to deal with any stressful situations you may face in life, such as relationship breakups, domestic violence, financial worries and grief and loss.
How they work together
It’s common for Psychologists and Psychiatrists to work together as a team to help heal the mind. Sometimes a Psychiatrist will make the initial diagnosis based on their assessment and then refer the patient on to see a Psychologist for ongoing talk therapy. And sometimes a patient will see a psychologist first and then be referred to a psychiatrist for further help.
Psychiatrists may see patients less frequently for medication reviews or psychotherapy, depending on the person’s needs. Whereas Psychologists typically see client’s on a weekly, fortnightly or monthly basis for counselling sessions.
Just like any other medical specialist, you’ll need a referral from your GP in order to see a psychiatrist. However, you don’t need a referral to see a Psychologist. That said, your GP can refer you to see a psychologist as part of a Mental Health Treatment Plan.
Do I need to see a Psychologist or Psychiatrist?
If you’re not sure whether you need to see a psychologist or a psychiatrist, then you could self-refer to a psychologist on our team for further advice, or alternatively speak to your GP for his/her opinion and referral. Your doctor will be able to determine the correct mental health professional for your individual condition and make a referral to us if appropriate.
We know that getting help for a mental health issue can feel like an insurmountable obstacle, making it difficult to reach out and seek help. At Positive Mind Works, you can get help from a reliable, qualified Psychologist or Psychiatrist from the comfort of your own home with our online counselling service.