Psychiatrist vs. Psychologist

This article focuses on psychiatrist vs. psychologist. Both psychiatrists and psychologists offer psychotherapy treatment. Read on to learn more.


Many people mix up psychiatrists and psychologists. Both professions employ psychological approaches to treat mental illnesses. Psychologists and psychiatrists are familiar with how the brain processes emotions and thoughts. Although psychology and psychiatry have many things in common, there are significant distinctions in the training and procedures required for each career path.

A psychologist is a qualified mental health specialist who assists individuals in developing positive coping mechanisms. A psychiatrist specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of various mental diseases. Both psychiatrists and psychologists offer psychotherapy treatment options. While psychologists largely focus on providing talk and behavioral therapy, most psychiatrists treat individuals by prescription medication. 1

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What Is a Psychiatrist?

A psychiatrist is a medical professional who identifies, manages, and prevents mental illnesses, including substance abuse disorders. To better understand a patient’s physical and mental condition, psychiatrists combine the patient’s medical history with examinations.

Psychiatrists can request or administer various medical laboratory and psychological tests. A psychiatrist’s education, years of clinical experience, and training enable them to comprehend the connection between emotional disorders and various physiological conditions.

What Is a Psychologist?

A psychologist is a licensed healthcare practitioner with specialized training in human behavior. Psychologists understand people’s cognitive, emotional, and behavior by observing, interpreting, and documenting how they interact with others and their surroundings. Theories concerning the thoughts and emotions that affect people are developed by psychologists using methods including observation, evaluation, and experimentation.

Types of Psychologists

The following are types of psychologists: 2

  • School psychologists 
  • Clinical psychologists 
  • Rehabilitation psychologists 
  • Counseling psychologists 
  • Developmental psychologists
  • Forensic psychologists

Is Psychiatry a Type of Psychology?

Psychiatry is not a type of psychology. Both psychiatrists and psychologists have training in recognizing mental illnesses and diseases. Psychology is a distinct academic subject, whereas psychiatry is technically a branch of medicine. Psychology is the broad category of mind studies.

Common Types of Mental Health Professionals

There are many types of mental health professionals. These professionals in mental health care assist people in achieving their recovery goals. Mental health therapists work in inpatient and outpatient settings such as: 3

  • Hospitals and psychiatric facilities
  • Schools
  • Private practices

States may have different job names and specialties for healthcare professionals. Below is a detailed list of common types of mental health treatment professionals to help you understand the differences between psychiatrist and psychologist.


Psychiatrists primarily identify, treat, and aid in preventing emotional, behavioral, and mental disorders. Psychiatrists use medication, physical examinations, and laboratory tests to treat individuals who have mental health disorders. Some psychiatrists complete additional training in child and adolescent mental health, learning disabilities, or geriatric psychiatry.


The psychological issues and behavioral dysfunctions caused by, or linked to, physical and mental health are assessed, diagnosed, and treated by psychologists. Psychologists frequently focus on providing therapy and specialized diagnostic testing in many facilities. Generally, psychologists cannot prescribe drugs, although some states allow it.

Mental Health Counselor

Mental health counselors are trained in counseling and psychotherapy. Mental health counselors treat individuals with mental and emotional issues and other behavioral challenges. The goal of mental health counseling is to assist people in overcoming mental health disorders. Counselors usually treat individuals one-on-one or in small groups using talk therapy techniques.

Social Worker

Social workers strive to improve people’s lives by assisting with social and interpersonal issues and advocating human rights. Clinical social workers are qualified to assess a person’s mental condition and apply treatment methods.

Mental Health Nurse

Mental health nurses can assess, diagnose, and provide therapy for mental health illnesses or substance use disorders. In some states, mental health nurses are licensed to prescribe and oversee the administration of drugs. Mental health nurses can diagnose and conduct individual and group counseling. They frequently collaborate with other medical staff to give patients the best clinical results.

Psychiatrist vs. Psychologist: What's the Difference?

Clinical psychologists or psychiatrists both deal with mental and behavioral health issues. While psychiatrists have almost the same training as clinical psychologists in therapy, they frequently emphasize medication management. Clinical psychologists are unable to write prescriptions for drugs. Psychologists frequently focus on providing therapy in several settings and specialized diagnostic testing.

Psychiatrist vs. Psychologist: Training & Education

A bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degree in psychology are required for becoming a psychologist. Many states also require candidates to do a postdoctoral fellowship to get further supervised experience before obtaining a license and treating clients. Some states require psychologists to finish additional clinical psychopharmacology training and pass an exam to prescribe medicine.

Candidates must earn a bachelor’s degree before enrolling in medical school if they want to become psychiatrists. Prospective psychiatrists learn the skills to write medication prescriptions by studying pharmacology, illnesses, anatomy, and neurology. Before obtaining licensing, psychiatrist graduates must finish a residency program normally lasting four years.

Psychiatrist vs. Psychologist: Prescriptive Authority

The main distinction between a psychiatrist vs. psychologist is their capacity to prescribe medicine. A psychologist cannot administer drugs to treat mental disorders; only a mental health psychiatrist can do so. Since most psychologists lack the authority to write medication prescriptions, they frequently collaborate with psychiatrists or primary care doctors to help individuals get necessary care.

Psychiatrist vs. Psychologist: Treatments Provided

The difference between a psychologist and a psychiatrist is the variations in educational attainment. Each discipline is treated with a different focus. Psychiatrists treat people from a medical standpoint and psychologists from a behavioral perspective. 

Due to their specialization and training, psychiatrists frequently deal with individuals with more severe mental health conditions that therapy alone cannot treat. A mental health psychiatrist uses treatment options, including medication, psychotherapy, and inpatient care. Psychologists use behavioral tests and therapy to diagnose and treat individuals.

Psychiatrist vs. Psychologist: Conditions Treated

Psychologists typically handle ailments that don’t require prescription drugs. These conditions include behavioral disorders, learning challenges, anxiety, and mild depression. Psychiatrists typically treat individuals with complex disorders that necessitate both medical care and psychological assessments, such as:

  • Severe depression
  • Schizophrenia
  • Bipolar disorder

Psychiatrist vs. Psychologist: How Do I Choose Between Them?

The outcomes you aim to achieve from treatment will determine if you should be a psychiatrist vs. a psychologist. A psychiatrist or psychologist provides mental health assessment, diagnosis, and treatment. Consulting a psychologist may be helpful if you want to address relationship issues with your partner or a family member. If you show signs of a severe mental disorder, consult a psychiatrist.

Finding a suitable mental health therapist is not easy. You can request a referral from your physician to book an appointment with a psychiatrist or psychologist. You must get a referral from your primary care provider if you want to see a psychiatrist.

What Do Psychologists Do?

Psychologists are frequently involved in treating individuals suffering from medical disorders. Psychologists use tests and the patient’s medical records to help with diagnosing a condition. These tests may evaluate:

  • Intellectual skills
  • Cognitive strengths and weaknesses
  • Personality characteristics

Psychologists frequently employ the treatment option psychotherapy, also known as talk therapy. Psychotherapy involves building a talking relationship to establish and assess your feelings, thoughts, and behaviors. Psychologists look for behavioral patterns or cause-and-effect links between occurrences and use this information when testing theories in studying or treating individuals.

What Do Psychiatrists Do?

A psychiatrist evaluates, recognizes, and treats emotional, behavioral, and mental illnesses. Psychiatrists can order or carry out several physical and psychological tests. Psychiatrists identify mental health issues by combining these tests with the individual’s medical and family history.

To diagnose certain mental health problems, psychiatrists rely on criteria from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) published by the American Psychiatric Association. Psychiatrists also create specific treatment programs, including psychotherapy (talk therapy), medication, and other medical procedures. 4

Common Types of Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy, often known as talk therapy, is a treatment for various mental disorders and emotional difficulties. Psychotherapy can aid in reducing or managing bothersome symptoms, making a person more productive. Common types of psychotherapy will be detailed below. 5

Humanistic Therapy

The mental health treatment known as humanistic therapy strongly emphasizes the necessity of living a fulfilling life. Its foundation is that every person has a special perspective on the world. This perspective may influence your decisions and actions. It helps people heal and find personal fulfillment.

Behavioral Therapy

Behavioral therapy is a treatment approach therapy inspired by learning theory. This treatment aims to alter behavior and the environmental factors influencing behavior to treat symptoms and resolve mental problems. Behavioral therapy teaches individuals positive coping skills to reduce or eliminate the problem.

Cognitive Therapy

CBT is a psychological treatment that has been proven effective for various mental illnesses and disorders. Cognitive behavioral therapy is a short-term therapy that assists individuals in developing new thought patterns. CBT helps in dealing with overwhelming difficulties more positively by breaking them down.

Group Therapy

This therapy involves one or several therapists supervising a session of two to fifteen people. These group sessions concentrate on general emotional problems and address a particular issue many participants have in common. Group therapy offers support and provides the opportunity to learn strategies to manage problems from group members.

Psychodynamic Therapies

Psychodynamic therapy uses therapeutic relations to analyze and alter the patient’s dysfunctional ways of thinking, feeling, or acting. By studying the hidden meanings behind people’s acts, this therapy method aims to better understand them. Psychodynamic therapy focuses on how certain experiences from your history shape your emotions, connections, and decisions.

Holistic Therapy

Holistic therapy addresses the “whole” person. Holistic therapy combines all aspects of well-being, including the spiritual, physical, mental, and emotional. Its objective is to assist people in learning more about themselves on each level.

It employs an evidence-based approach and a comprehensive framework and is frequently customized to meet the requirements of the individual. Holistic therapy can take many different forms.

Other Therapies

Talking therapy takes many forms, but all require engaging with a professional therapist. A form of psychotherapy is Interpersonal therapy. Interpersonal therapy aims to assist a patient in improving their interactions with others. According to NAMI, therapists frequently use interpersonal therapy to address depression.

Psychiatrist vs Psychologist

Contact a Mental Health Professional at Essence Healthcare Clinic

If certain factors make you feel overwhelmed and affect your daily life, contact a mental health professional at Essence Healthcare Clinic. Essence Healthcare clinic specialists help people gain control of their life by teaching them healthy coping skills. Essence health uses effective forms of psychotherapy to assess, diagnose, and treat mental health conditions.

Our Therapeutic Services

At Essence Healthcare clinic, we provide quality mental health services. We provide talking and massage therapies. We use a client-centered approach to therapy, knowing that treatment will only be successful if there is trust and a strong working relationship between you and your practitioner.

Reach Out Today

In recovery, the initial step is the most crucial. Starting your recovery process can make a huge difference. Every patient in our care is given a specialized treatment plan that considers their specific needs. Contact Essence Healthcare clinic to learn more about our treatment methods. Our mental health professionals will respond to your inquiries and assist you in getting the treatment you require.

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Questions About Treatment?

We are a patient-first substance abuse and mental health treatment facility located in Los Angeles, California. At Essence Healthcare, we provide different levels of care from detoxification to drug rehab aftercare. Our team is standing by to address your questions. Your call is confidential and no obligation is required.