Seeking outside or professional help can be a difficult thing for most people. But once an individual decides to seek help, they have to further decide whether they want to see a psychiatrist, clinical psychologist or counseling psychologist. Going to the wrong specialist can result in a series of referrals which could be very frustrating for the patient. Most people tend to use the terms psychiatry and psychology interchangeably, and this is an easy mistake to make if one is not familiar with the mental health field. Both psychiatrists and psychologists occupy critical roles in the field of mental health, but they are not the same.
Some of the key differences between the two are discussed below.
The key difference between a psychiatrist and a psychologist is that the former has a medical degree whereas the latter does not. A psychologist requires at least five to ten years of university education in the form of a Bachelors and Masters in psychology. Some psychologists may have a Dr. prefix in their names which indicates that they have a doctorate or PhD or PsyD in their field and not a medical degree.
On the other hand, a psychiatrist is someone who has completed their MBBS and MD degree and training. This usually entails at least seven years of education and training.
During their education, psychologists study more about the human mind, different theories about the same, disorders affecting the mind and different forms of psychotherapy and treatment. A psychiatrist usually learns about the systems and functions of the human body in addition to the mind, its disorders and pharmacological treatments.
Psychologists help in treating disorders with the use of empirically tested psychotherapy plans. A psychologist can treat behavioural problems, substance abuse, learning disorders, anxiety, mood disorders, OCD, PTSD, personality disorders and the like. Whereas a psychiatrist tends to look at complex disorders like schizophrenia, severe cases of bipolar disorder and OCD with the help of medicinal interventions. But sometimes, an individual may require the services of both for a disorder. For example, an individual with severe depression may benefit from psychiatric attention and then later once the symptoms are more in control then a psychologist steps in with their expertise.
Authority to prescribe medicines:
Another key difference between a psychologist and psychiatrist is their authority to prescribe medicines. Even though both professions work in the same field, only psychiatrists have the authority to prescribe medicines. Psychologists can diagnose cases using psychodiagnostic tests and then choose the appropriate therapy for their client which could be a reason why psychologists are associated with the ‘talking cure’.
Like discussed above, one of the main focuses for a psychiatrist is in prescribing medicines for their patients. A psychiatrist, therefore, has a medication-first approach to their treatment. They usually diagnose a case and then build a treatment plan focusing on alleviating the symptoms using medications.
On the other hand, a psychologist employs a wide range of therapies in order to treat their clients. There are quite a number of different therapies which can be used which can also be tailored to fit the client and their disorder. Some of the common therapies are Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, Psycho-dynamic Therapy, Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT), Gestalt Therapy, and Humanistic Therapy. Each therapy is based on a different theory and has its own techniques to be used. A psychologist working in a clinical setting is usually qualified to perform psychodiagnostic tests and psychotherapies.
Who should you consult?
The most important question for an individual looking for professional help with their mental health concerns is who they should consult. The good news is that most mental health professionals have the training and knowledge required to help you make a decision regarding your treatment and to refer your case to somebody more suited to your needs, if you require it. But it does not hurt to be more equipped to make a decision by yourself regarding who you should consult first.
If your requirement is for a person who would take one-to-one sessions and listen to you, about your problems and concerns, and provide necessary interventions and provide insight into yourself and patterns then a psychologist may be a good place for you to start. But if you feel like you require medical attention for your condition, then it is better to consult a psychiatrist first.
Seeking help at the right time and in the right place is an important step towards getting better and living a more engaging and fulfilling life. Both psychiatrists and psychologists are equipped with the skills to alleviate symptoms and optimize mental well-being. If you are still not sure about whether you should consult a psychiatrist or a psychologist, then a good place for you to start would be to talk to a mental health practitioner on our platform and then make an informed decision. It is okay to feel confused and its okay if you have to consult a number of different mental health professionals before finding the best fit for you.
Kaizen Wellbeing is an online therapy platform in Dubai, UAE that caters to South Asian community. There is a dearth of good therapy establishments that accommodate the mental health needs of the brown community. We aim to bridge that gap by providing you quality and affordable care by qualified and warm therapists. Reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org or +971 50 961 8796 and book your first session towards understanding yourself and other’s better.
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