What is the difference between a Psychologist and a Psychiatrist?

What is the difference between a Psychologist and a Psychiatrist?

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Psychiatrist vs Psychologist

Because Both psychologists and psychiatrists work with the common goal of restoring the mental and emotional health of their patients, often many do not know where the work of one begins and that of the other ends. However, there are several fundamental differences between a psychologist and a psychiatrist, which we will discuss below.


  • 1 How are a Psychologist and a Psychiatrist similar?
  • 2 Education as the main difference between psychologist and psychiatrist
  • 3 The prescription of medications
  • 4 Types of approach: biology vs behavior
  • 5 Is a psychologist better than a psychiatrist?

How are a Psychologist and a Psychiatrist similar?

To understand what distinguishes a psychologist from a psychiatrist, we will first talk about what unites them. Psychiatrists and psychologists are two different types of therapists trained to

treat mental health problems. Its objective is to provide the necessary means to manage the symptoms derived from mental disorders. And although both psychologists and psychiatrists conduct research and do treatment, there are significant differences between both professions.

Education as the main difference between psychologist and psychiatrist

The essential difference between the two is undoubtedly their academic training. To exercise of Psychiatrist is required to pursue a medical degree and subsequently specialize in psychiatry, while to exercise psychologist another type of university study must be carried out, which is the degree in psychology.

So that, psychiatrists are doctors They have specific training in evaluation, diagnosis, treatment and prevention of mental illness.

For someone to become a psychiatrist, you must first remove medical degree. After finishing his medical training, he completes his studies with another four years of residence in a mental health center. Some may also receive additional training in a specific area of ​​interest, such as geriatric psychiatry, child and adolescent psychiatry, addictions, etc.

The psychologist, after graduate in psychology, you can choose to specialize in clinical psychology, education, employment, forensics, sports, etc.


In addition, graduate schools of psychology offer all kinds of specific preparation to learn to diagnose and effectively treat mental and emotional disorders in different situations. After college, students can complete their education for one or two years to train in different currents and their ways of performing:

  • Treatment methods
  • Analytical tests
  • Troubleshooting Techniques
  • Behavioral therapy
  • Etc.

The prescription of medications

A second important difference between the two races is that Psychiatrists, since they are doctors, can prescribe medications, while psychologists do not. However, in some countries there may be differences and prescription powers may be granted to psychologists. In some states of North America such as New Mexico and Louisiana, for example, psychologists who carry out a post-doctorate or equivalent in clinical psychopharmacology, have the power to prescribe specific medications for their specialty.

Types of approach: biology vs behavior

Both psychiatrists and psychologists are usually trained to practice psychotherapy and talk with their patients about their problems. But the differences in their formation translates into different approaches to solve mental health problems.

Psychologists try to essentially modify thinking and behavior. For example, if someone is depressed and cannot get out of bed, this shows that there is activation of such behavior. The psychologist will track the patterns of negative thoughts that could be causing or maintaining the problem, to try to reverse it by restructuring it.

Psychiatrists instead have a more biological and neurochemical approach. You can try to make sure that there is no thyroid pathology or vitamin deficiency in the first place. Once they have made a diagnosis by ruling out other diseases, Psychiatrists are often prescribed medications.

Is a psychologist better than a psychiatrist?

If you are thinking what career As a therapist you are most interested, you will first have to determine what type of orientation best fits your profile. Are you more interested in conducting psychotherapy, administering diagnostic tests or tests and doing research on the area of ​​thought and consumption? So the psychologist's career It may be the best option for you.

On the other hand, do you think you have more interest in medicine and want to have the ability to prescribe medication to your patients? Lto a medical career with a specialty in psychiatry It could be the ideal option.

The psychiatric nursing It is another great study option for those interested in medicine, but who do not want or can be eight years of training. Psychiatric nurses have a higher degree in mental health nursing and are able to accompany patients in the recovery of their diseases.

Final comment

As we can see, there are important differences between psychologists and psychiatrists. Mental health consumers should be aware of these differences also to go to one or the other as they are most comfortable. However, it should be said that on numerous occasions it is recommended to carry out a joint treatment to obtain the greatest therapeutic success possible. Despite these differences, both psychologists and psychiatrists are equipped to provide mental health services to people who suffer mental diseases from the mildest to the most serious.

Both receive extensive training in mental health, so The type of professional we choose could depend on the type of pathology and if we need to take medication to treat our disease or not. Neither is "better" than the other, so it is best to discuss our options with our doctor and look for references to find a professional who can help us deal with the problems we are trying to overcome.


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