Psychologists and Psychiatrists It’s common for people to mistaken a psychologist and a psychiatrist as the same thing. After all, the names are similar and each practice in a similar field (mental health). However, both specialize in different aspects of mental health and receive different types of education, training, and dive into separate practices. It’s important that you know the difference between a psychologist and psychiatrist, so you will be capable of knowing which is right for you in your time of need. What is a psychologist? A psychologist, often referred to as a therapist or mental health counselor, is an individual with an advanced degree in psychology trained to speak with individuals or groups about their mental health. Psychologists are often employed in schools as counselors or professors. They conduct research and often teach and promote mental health and well-being in communities and in the workplace environment. What kind of training does a psychologist have? Psychologists are not medical doctors; they do not have any formal medical training. Rather, they have at least one doctoral degree in a specific area of psychology – either a PhD or PsyD – the study of human behavior and the mind. Psychologists also do one to two years of internship before they are qualified to independently evaluate people. Psychologists can also give psychological tests, such as IQ and personality tests. What role does a psychologist play in mental health treatment? Psychologists are trained to assess behavior and recognize that certain patterns, such as sleep problems or issues with food, may be a symptom of a mental disorder. However, they can’t give a formal diagnosis or prescribe medications because they do not have a medical background. You would want to consult with a psychologist for an issue you do not feel is severe enough to require medication or a medical assessment. For example, if you were going through a divorce and needed to talk to a professional about your feelings, you would generally see a psychologist. Even if you do not believe you have a serious problem, a psychologist can recommend you see a psychiatrist if they believe you are presenting symptoms of a more serious mental disorder. If you are unsure or uneasy about seeing a medical professional, a psychologist can help you work through that anxiety so you can get the right amount of help you need. Regardless of any uncertainty you might feel about choosing a mental health professional to talk to about your mental health, it’s important that you take the first step and talk to someone. Both psychologists and psychiatrists are trained and qualified to speak with individuals about their emotions, thoughts and behaviors, and will steer you in the right direction when it comes to treatment options and taking charge of your health. What is a psychiatrist? A psychiatrist is a doctor trained in mental health treatment. Psychiatrists are often part of a medical treatment team in both inpatient and outpatient mental health settings. If you have ever been prescribed medication for a mental disorder such as depression or anxiety, a psychiatrist is the medical professional responsible. They typically work in hospitals, treatment facilities or in their own private practices. What kind of training does a psychiatrist have? Psychiatrists are considered medical doctors because they attend four years of medical school, one year of internship and three years of residency, all practicing in the area of mental disorder assessment and treatment. This is why psychiatrists are qualified to prescribe medications to their patients. What role does a psychiatrist play in mental health treatment? Psychiatrists are trained to assess your mental health as a doctor would examine your physical health. They use your medical history to rule out any possible hidden conditions that could be causing mental or emotional problems. If they do find that you meet requirements for a mental disorder, they can formally diagnose you and prescribe medications or other treatments. You would consult with a psychiatrist if you were experiencing psychological problems that would be considered severe or that need medical treatment. For example, if you were so depressed that you could not go to work or socialize, a psychiatrist would be able to look at your symptoms and make sure you got the help you needed. Even if you do not believe you have a serious problem, a psychiatrist can look at the big picture and can refer you to a psychologist (therapist) if they think that is a more suitable treatment option for you. Keep in mind that a psychiatrist is also qualified to work closely with professionals like general practitioners, so if you feel more comfortable working with someone who can closely consult with your doctor, this is a good place to start. Regardless of any uncertainty you might feel about choosing a mental health professional to talk to about your mental health, it’s important that you take the first step and talk to someone. Both psychiatrists and psychologists are trained and qualified to speak with individuals about their emotions, thoughts and behaviors, and will steer you in the right direction when it comes to treatment options and taking charge of your health. Ready to speak to a psychiatrist or psychologist? If you’re ready to speak to someone about your mental health, click here.