Psychiatrist Versus Psychologist: What’s the Difference?
There’s more than one type of mental health care. When you’re exploring your options, though, it can be difficult to know what kind of professional you need to work with. It may help to understand what a doctor of psychiatry is vs. other mental health professionals.
Telling the difference between psychiatrists and psychologists is difficult if you’ve never worked with a mental health professional before. When you start hearing terms like “therapist,” “life coaches,” and “social worker,” even without diving into the different types of mental health care professionals, you can find yourself quickly too overwhelmed to get the help you need.
Once you have a few basic touchstones, though, you’ll have a better chance of determining which (if any) of the available healthcare professionals you want to work with. Let’s explore your options.
Psychologists Versus Therapists
In the world of mental health, there are a plethora of terms that overlap. For example, many mental health professionals use the terms “psychology” and “therapist” interchangeably.
While these two parties of professionals do have some overlap in their workloads, they do not offer you the same services. Let’s dive into why:
What Can a Psychologist Do?
A professional psychologist will have the skills and experience to work with:
- Bipolar disorder
- Anxiety disorder
- Personality disorder
- Eating disorder
- Other or unclassified mental disorders
Addressing each of these issues takes consideration as well as an individual treatment plan. When you first reach out to speak with a psychologist, you can better understand what conditions led to the issues that you’ve had in the past.
It may turn out that some manner of chemical imbalance is contributing to your trouble with mental health. In this case, a psychologist can connect you with someone in the medical field that can prescribe you the treatment that you need.
On the other hand, if it seems that social cues and tools may help you better get control of the problems that are plaguing you, then a psychologist can still help. These parties, like therapists, can talk you through the moments that have bothered you most. From there, they can help you shape your thought processes, so that you can better address those concerns. These tools can include:
- Regular affirmations
- New perspectives on older experiences
- Other kinds of talk therapy
Of course, you can attend group therapy sessions when meeting with a therapist. However, it’s rare for a psychologist to share information that you’ve discussed with anyone outside of the medical field. In almost every case, this will only happen with your explicit and written permission.
If you wish to discuss your mental health with other people in your life, you can work with your psychologist to determine whether or not it may be appropriate to bring that party or parties into your session.
What Can a Therapist Do?
Therapists can be well-educated in psychology and similar fields as their peers. However, they often do not have the same certifications as psychologists, who have specialized degrees and experience. Therapists specialize in providing parties concerned with their mental health with a social and personal perspective on their mental health.
With that in mind, different therapists have different approaches to the process of addressing your concerns. These different types of therapy include, but are not limited to:
- Talking therapy
- Combination therapy
- Medication therapy
- Electroconvulsive therapy
You can even attend online therapy if you’re not able to leave the house or if you have a disability that limits your mobility. Group therapy sessions, too, are available to parties who want to discuss their mental health concerns with folks who are going through equally-challenging situations.
Psychiatrist Versus Psychologist: What’s the Difference?
Psychologists and therapists may do similar work. However, it’s psychologists that work more closely with psychiatrists over the course of their careers.
The services that each of these professionals offer will overlap. Even still, psychiatrists have different capabilities and reach in the medical field than psychologists.
What Can a Psychiatrist Do?
Psychiatrists are medical doctors, much like a primary care doctor. Primary care doctors may take care of your regular health needs. Psychiatrists, comparatively, are specialists who can help you address any concerns you may have about your mental health and your mental health treatment.
For example, if you feel you have an anxiety disorder that you’ve tried to address with help from a therapist, you can reach out to a psychiatrist for anxiety medication.
Let’s put another way: therapists cannot prescribe medication to parties who need them for mental health concerns. On the other hand, psychiatrists can help you establish a mental health treatment plan designed to get you back in control of your life.
Treatment of mental illness needs to be highly individualized. A psychiatrist, instead of a psychologist versus a therapist, will make sure that you have what you need to conquer any chemical concerns.
With that in mind, make sure that the psychiatrist you reach out to (should you choose to do so) is a licensed professional. They will need certification from the American Psychiatric Association. While psychiatrists don’t absolutely need a doctoral degree, they often have to get a master’s degree and spend up to four years in residency under a medical doctor.
What Mental Healthcare Professional Should You Visit?
Are you overwhelmed by depression and anxiety? Do you want help treating mental health conditions that you don’t entirely understand? You don’t have to do this kind of work on your own.
Deciding whether you want to visit a therapist, psychologist, or a psychiatrist can be a challenge. However, you can get recommendations for each party from your primary care doctor.
- Therapists specialize in discussing your mental health concerns with you. They also provide you with the social tools you need to overcome or cope with those concerns.
- Psychologists, armed with advanced degrees, can address specialized concerns and collaborate with area psychiatrists to treat your concerns.
- Psychiatrists, finally, are not meant to discuss your mental health concerns with you from a social perspective. Instead, these parties can better understand what health-based limitations you may be contending with and how best to address said concerns.
Don’t let any confusion surrounding mental health disorders and mental health treatment keep you from seeking treatment. If you want to reach out for guidance, you can explore what health care professionals may have practices operational in your area. If you're in the Orange County area, then get in touch!