Key Differences Between Psychiatrists and Psychologists

December 20, 2023

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Psychiatrists and Psychologists both play significant roles in the field of mental health. These two professions overlap in the same field. You must wonder, “What’s the difference between psychology and psychiatry?”

Many people get confused about these two professions. These two terms are very related to each other. There are differences in their qualifications, training, and approaches to treatment. We’re here to clear this up.

This blog will provide a proper and detailed discussion of the terms. You will also know what’s the difference between psychology and psychiatry.

Who are Psychologists and Psychiatrists?

Psychologists and psychiatrists are both involved in mental health. Let us look at both of these jobs in great detail.

  • Psychologists

A Psychologist is a mental health professional. They evaluate the mind, insights, and behavior of a person. It helps a person maintain a sound mind. They help people overcome mental complexity. These are depression, anxiety, or any other mental issues.

Psychologists may work in their offices. They can also work in an institution like a school, college, or university.

Psychologists also have the option to work in rehab, prisons, and hospitals. They treat mental health issues by talking to people. The treatment is also known as Psychotherapy. They can attend individual sessions but cannot prescribe medications.

  • Psychiatrists

Psychiatry is a vital part of medical science. It focuses on diagnosis and treatment to prevent mental disorders. A psychiatrist is a specialist in this field.

A psychiatrist must complete a medical school education. They have to get a medical degree. This degree is a Bachelor of Medicine or a Bachelor of Surgery.

Psychiatrists are medical doctors who are experts in medical health and care.

Psychologists and psychiatrists are both professions focused on mental health. It is a long road and requires a lot of patience to become a psychologist or psychiatrist.

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Psychologists vs. Psychiatrists: Educational Qualifications

Psychologists vs. psychiatrists have different educational pathways. Both professions are in the same field of mental health. Here is the clear difference between a Psychologist vs. Psychiatrist:

Way to be a Psychologist

Becoming a psychologist puts you in an important position. There, you can help individuals deal with any problem in life.

The first step is to enroll in an undergraduate program. It can be a bachelor’s degree in Psychology. In general, it takes almost four years to complete. To gain more knowledge in this field, one can choose a master’s program in Psychology. A master’s program typically takes two to three years.

To be a licensed psychologist, a doctoral degree is required in this field. There are two types of primary doctorates. There are Doctors of Philosophy in Psychology (Ph.D.) and Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.). The doctoral program takes 4-6 years to complete.

You have to complete your academic journey in psychology. Then, you will need to go through an internship. It can also be a supervised residency program.

It enables one to do hands-on tasks. This internship or residency takes one to two years. After all this, you have to take a licensing exam. You will get the license of a legal psychologist upon passing.

How to be a Psychiatrist

The first step is to earn a bachelor’s degree in pre-medical. The undergraduate program usually takes four years. If you are interested in Psychiatry, you must attend a medical school. Medical school takes four years. Then you will be an MBBS Doctor.

You have to attend a residency program after graduating. For psychologists, this program takes two years. But for psychiatrists, it takes at least four years to complete. You have to register with the state or medical council. It must be done after completing postgraduate studies.

The admission requirements and timeline may vary among different medical colleges in India. The procedure and steps are almost the same all over the world.

Psychologists vs. Psychiatrists: Treatment Methods

Psychologists and psychiatrists have different treatment methods. They follow a specific path to treat patients according to their scope. But their treatment methods are nearly the same in this part of the article. There is a complete overview and comparison of treatment methods.

Psychologists are trained in human behavior. They are registered health professionals. Psychiatrists have completed specialized training in psychiatry. They are medical doctors.

Psychologists study the human mind. They apply many sessions, assessments, meditations, and routines to their patients. Psychologists work in schools, hospitals, community health services, courts, prisons, businesses, and private practices. They may specialize in helping children, teenagers, or families.

Psychiatrists can diagnose behavioral disorders. They work in different ways. They can use a combination of treatments and medications, such as antidepressants. They can generally admit people to the hospital if needed. Here is the psychology and psychiatry difference in treatment listed:


  • Psychologists: Psychotherapy is the major therapeutic method employed by psychologists. They use techniques like cognitive-behavioral therapy, humanistic therapy, and family therapy. Psychologists provide talk therapy to help clients understand and alter their ideas, feelings, and actions. It improves a patient’s condition.
  • Psychiatrists: They also have training in psychiatry, but they focus primarily on medications. They use a combination of psychotherapy and medication.

Medication Process

  • Psychologists: Generally, psychologists cannot prescribe medication. They seek help from medical professionals or psychiatrists to coordinate the use of medicines. They mainly try to solve mental issues with therapy. And then, they suggest medication according to the patient’s problems.
  • Psychiatrists: Psychiatrists are from medical backgrounds, so they have proper knowledge about medicines. They are trained in psychopharmacology. That’s why they provide medication along with therapy to solve mental disorders.

Psychological Testing and Remedies

  • Psychologists: A psychologist at first tries to understand the condition of a person. They asked questions and let the person talk about themselves. It helps evaluate emotional functioning and cognitive abilities. These help a psychologist classify and provide valuable insights about patients.
  • Psychiatrists: They primarily focus on clinical tests and assessments. After reviewing the clinical test results and mental condition, they provide medications, which is different from psychologists.

Holistic Approaches

  • Psychologists: Sometimes, psychologists choose holistic approaches to treatment. It focuses mainly on the thoughts, relationships, emotions, and perspectives of a person. It helps to understand the patient’s condition more precisely.
  • Psychiatrists: They generally don’t choose holistic approaches. They acknowledge the necessity of therapy, lifestyle, surroundings, and proper medication.

When to Consult a Psychologist

Mental health is a very important part of maintaining sound physical health. If you are not aware of when you should see a doctor for mental illness, we’ll help.

This article can help you a lot in understanding what’s the difference between psychology and psychiatry. Most people in our society are not conscious of their mental health.

Mental and physical health are related to each other. Both are equally important to leading a healthy and sound life. Here is a list of mental illnesses for which you should consult a Psychologist:

  • Depression, stress, or anxiety
  • Alcohol and drug abuse
  • Eating disorders
  • Fears and phobias
  • Low self-esteem
  • Traumatic stress disorder

You can consult a psychologist to deal with problems in life. Some of them could be:

  • financial stress,
  • relationship breakups
  • domestic violence
  • aging
  • grief or loss
  • Life Transitions
  • Parenting and family issues

When to Consult a Psychiatrist

Psychiatrists work in different ways. They can use a combination of treatments, including psychotherapy, counseling, and medication such as antidepressants. A psychiatrist can usually admit people to the hospital if needed. A psychiatrist can help with many mental health conditions, such as:

  • Severe depression
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Complex conditions like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder
  • Eating disorders
  • hyperactivity disorder
  • compulsive disorder
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Self-harm
  • Persistent symptoms of mental disorders

Are Therapists, Psychologists, or Psychiatrists

Therapists are professionals. They help people work through their problems. Psychologists are professionals as well. They study the human mind. Psychiatrists are medical doctors. They specialize in mental health.

Differences among Therapists, Psychologists, and Psychiatrists

Therapists are counselors. They provide talk therapy to help patients deal with their issues. Psychologists are counselors, too. But they also conduct research. They may specialize in areas like child development. They also specialize in counseling people with eating disorders.

Psychiatrists are medical doctors. They can prescribe medication. They also order tests like MRIs or CT scans. Psychiatrists generally work in clinics and hospitals as well as private medical chambers.

Suppose you have been suffering from depression or anxiety. A therapist or psychologist may be a useful alternative in that case.

Also Read: How To Be Mentally Strong in Personal & Professional Life

Let us look at the differences between each of them in greater detail.

  • Therapists are trained. They provide psychological counseling and support. They can help us explore feelings, set goals, and work through challenges. Generally, therapists have less training than psychologists and psychiatrists. They often work with patients periodically. And they help deal with specific issues. Therapists are considered the “First Line of Defense” in mental health care. They provide people with counseling and therapy services. They help patients deal with a wide variety of issues. It can be mild depression or anxiety to more serious problems.
  • Psychologists have specialized training for treating mental illness. They may also research and teach at universities. Psychologists have more training than therapists. They often work with patients on a long-term basis. They help them manage chronic mental health conditions.
  • Psychiatrists are medical doctors. They specialize in mental health. They can prescribe medication and provide therapy. They can order laboratory tests. They also conduct physical examinations.

Psychologists vs. Psychiatrists: Understanding the Difference

The blog provides deep insights into psychiatrists vs. psychologists. You will understand the difference between psychiatrists and psychologists from several perspectives. They are different in qualification, medication process, and treatment process.

Psychiatrists are medical doctors. They have completed training in psychiatry. Psychiatrists know how to treat and prevent mental and behavioral disorders. They have a good sense of the biological aspects of mental disorders. They use a combination of medications. They also use therapy in their treatment process. Psychologists are health professionals. They study human behavior. Some psychologists get higher education. They become specialists. They do not prescribe any medication. But they provide different therapies.

Psychiatrists complete medical training. They also offer specialized programs. They have a good knowledge of the physiological and neurological aspects. They have a good sense of mental health conditions. Psychologists earn a doctoral degree in psychology. It is clinical training with a focus on treatment. The choice between a psychiatrist and a psychologist depends on the patient’s needs. Sometimes we need both a psychologist and a psychiatrist. Psychologists and Psychiatrists may need to work together in some cases.

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s)

What are the three main differences between a psychiatrist and a psychologist?

There are three main differences between psychiatrists and psychologists. Here are:
1. Psychiatrists are medical doctors, and psychologists are registered health professionals.
2. Psychiatrists can prescribe medication. But psychologists can’t.
3. Psychiatrists diagnose illnesses, manage treatment, and provide therapies. Psychologists focus on providing psychotherapy (talk therapy) to help patients.

Does a psychologist need an MBBS?

No, psychologists do not need an MBBS degree. A psychologist needs at least a Bachelor’s degree in psychology. Psychiatrists need to study MBBS instead. This degree is required as they have to prescribe medicines for mental illness. A psychologist needs to study psychology. Psychologists are not from medical backgrounds.

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