Psychologists and psychiatrists, while they sound similar, have a different role to play in the treatment of mental illness, their job roles, and qualifications. Both professionals understand and study the brain, including feelings, thoughts and emotions, but their roles in helping individuals vary greatly. Here we look at the main differences between psychologists and psychiatrists.
Qualifications and Training
Psychologists usually train for around 6 years while psychiatrists are doctors, with around 11 years of experience and training, or more. To become a psychologist, you must hold a master’s or Ph.D. in psychology, such as this Marian University Bachelor of Science in Psychology. Some psychologists who hold a Ph.D. may call themselves Dr, but this is due to their Doctorate education, not because they are a licensed medical doctor. A clinical psychologist will have specialist training to be able to diagnose and treat mental illnesses.
Psychiatrists must first do a medical degree and spend several years training as a normal doctor before they can jump into mental health. Once they have the relevant experience, they must then complete a further 5 years of training to be able to diagnose, treat, and medicate mental illness.
As psychiatrists are licensed doctors, their treatment methods can vary greatly, meaning they can prescribe and manage medication, check physical health, offer brain stimulation therapy (ECT), and other forms of psychological treatments. Psychologists focus just on providing psychological treatments, such as CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy), family therapy and talking therapy.
Psychologists are limited in the conditions they can treat as they are only able to offer psychological treatments. Usually, people are referred to a psychologist when they are suffering from conditions that can be managed with only therapy, such as anxiety, mild to moderate depression, behavioral problems and learning difficulties.
Psychiatrists will see and manage patients with more complex treatments such as bipolar, split personality disorder, schizophrenia, and severe depression. Those with severe depression are likely to need more input than just therapy due to suicidal thoughts or attempted suicide. Those who are on medications need to be seen by a doctor who can look at their full health, not just their mental health. Many antipsychotic medications can have physical side effects that also need to be managed and treated.
Both of these professionals can help those with mental health issues, and patients may first see a psychologist before being referred to a psychiatrist. Similarly, you may also be discharged from a psychiatrist if your condition is improving and then be cared for by a psychologist. They often work together to provide the best treatments for each patient, and both have extensive knowledge in psychology. Regardless of their education and training, they are both there to support patients in managing their mental health and living a normal life despite their condition.
In conclusion: psychologists offer psychological treatments to those with common mental health issues such as anxiety, with around 6 years of training. Psychiatrists usually have around 11 years of training and have medical experience, meaning they treat those with more complex mental health issues, providing medication and further treatments.