What’s the difference between a Psychiatrist and a Psychologist?

May 20th, 2019

What’s the difference between a Psychiatrist and a Psychologist?

By Elina Broholm

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What’s the difference between a Psychiatrist and a Psychologist?

You may have come across the terms ‘psychiatrist’ and ‘psychologist’ - if you have, chances are that you have also used these two terms interchangeably. Not only do they sound very similar, but the role of a psychiatrist and a psychologist can often overlaps in terms of job description. However, there are some fundamental differences between the two, which are outlined below.

Psychiatrist

A psychiatrist is a trained medical doctor. They will have completed medical school and are trained in general medicine. Once they have gained their Doctor of Medicine title (MD) they undergo four years of residency training in psychiatry. This training involves, amongst other things, working with patients across the life span, from children to older adults, in a number of different mental health settings. They also undergo rigorous examination.

Psychiatrists are able to prescribe medication, due to their medical training. They are also able to diagnose and prescribe psychotropic medication and treatment for mental illness. They collaborate and work closely with their patients and other allied health professionals, such as nurses, psychologists, and support workers, to develop the best treatment and care. There training ensures they gain significant experience working with all age groups and a range of mental health disorders of varying complexity.

Psychologist

A clinical or counselling psychologist will usually hold a bachelor’s degree in Psychology or equivalent, as well as a Doctorate in Clinical or Counselling Psychology. This training is normally completed over three years and involves working with patients across the life span, from children to older adults, in a number of different mental health settings. Training also involves an academic component and university attendance to supplement clinical experience. There is a focus on research and psychologists are often described as ‘scientific practitioners’ due to the format of their training. A psychologist cannot prescribe medication but will assess and identify the most suitable psychological treatment for a client in distress. They provide psychological interventions often in the form of talking therapies in collaboration with patients and members of the MDT. A psychologist can work with individuals, families, groups and couples and can work with all age groups. They can also hold additional responsibilities, such as evaluating the efficacy of services, acting as psychological consultants to other professions, providing teaching and training, and carrying out research.

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