Psychiatrist vs Psychologist: What is the Difference?

psychiatrist vs psychologist

Are you wondering what the difference is between a psychiatrist vs psychologist?

It can be confusing to know the differences between psychiatrists and psychologists.

However, some key differences separate the two mental health professions.

The differences can be separated based on educational training, treatments provided, and conditions treated.

If you want to learn the key differences between a psychiatrist and a psychologist, read below to learn more!

If you have been diagnosed with a mental health condition or believe you may have a mental health condition and wish to pursue treatment options in California, contact Dr. Alex Anastasiou’s office at 925-425-0191 to schedule a new patient appointment today. Dr. Anastasiou specializes in the treatment of teens and adults with anxiety, depression, ADHD, and more.

Disclaimer: Please note that this article is intended for informational purposes only.  Follow the discretion of your healthcare provider regarding any treatment decisions.  Prescriptions for medications discussed on this website may be obtained from your healthcare provider in addition to non-stimulant options.  Prescriptions are unique for each individual and their specific health conditions based on medical history, symptoms, and other factors.

psychiatrist vs psychologist vs therapist

What is the Difference Between a Psychiatrist and a Psychologist?

To understand the difference between a psychiatrist vs psychologist, it is important to briefly highlight each of these mental health professionals.

What is a Psychiatrist?

  • Psychiatrists are medical doctors who have a medical degree.
  • Psychiatrists prescribe medication to treat mental health disorders, such as bipolar disorder, anxiety disorders, or ADHD.
  • Psychiatrists diagnose mental illnesses via a psychological assessment and evaluation performed in-person or online telehealth.

What is a Psychologist?

  • Psychologists are anyone with a graduate degree in psychology.
  • There are clinical psychologists and nonclinical psychologists.
  • Clinical psychologists are psychologists who are experts in mental health and have a wide range of specialties.
  • Psychologists provide talk therapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy.  Therapy may be provided through group therapy or family therapy.

Key Difference in Training

Psychiatrists have a medical degree and they are medical doctors who can prescribe prescription medications, whereas a psychologist can have an undergraduate degree, master’s degree, or doctorate degree and cannot prescribe medication.

The key differences in educational training are listed below.

Psychiatrists have a Medical Degree

Psychiatrists have a medical degree as a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) or Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.). It takes approximately twelve (12) years to finish the educational requirements to become a psychiatrist.  This can be broken down into:

  • Four (4) years to complete a bachelor’s degree in a scientific major, such as pre-med, biology, or psychology
  • Four (4) years of medical school to earn
  • Four (4) years of residency

Psychologists Don’t Go to Medical School

To become a psychologist, you must go through eight (8) to twelve (12) years of schooling depending on your career path.  Additional training and schooling varies based on your career objectives and aspirations.

  • Four (4) years to complete a Bachelors degree
  • Two (2) to (3) years to earn a Master’s degree
  • Four (4) to seven (7) years of graduate school to earn a doctoral degree (Doctor of Psychology)

Treatments Provided

There are some distinct differences in the types of treatments provided by a psychiatrist vs psychologist.

The main difference is that a psychiatrist can prescribe medications to help treat mental disorders.  The mechanism of action of psychiatric medications involves changes in chemical signaling and communication within the brain.

Here are some treatments that psychiatrists use to help their patients:

  • Medications
  • Antidepressants
  • Mood stabilizers
  • Psychotherapy
  • Antipsychotics
  • Stimulants
  • Brain stimulation therapies

Although psychologists are not able to prescribe medications, they rely on other effective forms of psychological treatments to help people with mental illness.

According to the American Psychological Association, psychological treatments provided by psychologists include:

  • Cognitive therapy
  • Family therapy
  • Interpersonal psychotherapy
  • Psychodynamic psychotherapy
  • Acceptance and commitment therapy
  • Supportive therapy
  • Dialectical behavior therapy
  • Humanistic therapy
psychology vs psychiatry

Psychiatrist vs Psychologist Conditions Treated

Psychiatrists and psychologists specialize in treating many different mental health issues and medical conditions.  However, there are differences in the types of conditions that are primarily treated by each.

Because psychiatrists can prescribe medications, their patients often suffer from mental health issues that benefit from medications.  Psychiatrists treat patients with numerous mental health conditions that greatly benefit from medication and medical treatments.

  • Anxiety – Anxiety Disorder is a type of mental health condition that causes excessive anxiety and worry that interferes with your ability to function daily.   Medication can help ease symptoms of anxiety such as restlessness, fatigue, difficulty sleeping, irritability, impaired concentration, and shortness of breath.
  • Depression – Depression involves a depressed or low mood that causes loss of pleasure or interest in your usual activities for an extended amount of time.  People suffering from depression suffer from significant impairment in their daily life.
  • ADHD – Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a chronic condition that often begins in childhood and causes hyperactivity, impulsiveness, and attention difficulty.  Stimulant Medications, such as Adderall, can be highly effective at treating ADHD symptoms in many people who suffer from these symptoms.
  • Schizophrenia – Schizophrenia is a chronic mental health condition that can cause hallucinations, delusions, mania, and depression.
  • Bipolar Disorder – Bipolar Disorder causes unusual shifts in a person’s mood energy, activity levels, and concentration that impact an individual’s ability to function on a day-to-day basis.

Psychologists can deal with the same conditions that psychiatrists treat, including those conditions listed above.  However, because psychologists do not prescribe medication, they rely solely on psychotherapy (talk therapy).  Psychologists often deal with a wide variety of conditions, including people struggling with addictions, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), phobias, eating disorders, cancer, and many more conditions.

Getting an Appointment with a Psychiatrist

Telemedicine Provider in California

If you or someone you love is struggling with symptoms of mental illness, do not hesitate to give Dr. Alex Anastasiou a call at (925) 425-0191.

As a board-certified physician, Dr. Alex is licensed to perform mental evaluations and prescribe medication if needed. Dr. Alex is trained to treat the whole person using a comprehensive and individualized approach to your medical care. He may also coordinate treatment plans with your existing physician or refer you to a therapist in the community.

Dr. Alex Anastasiou can help you find the right treatment for your anxiety, ADHD, depression, and other mental health problems. Our California office offers virtual appointments via telehealth online. Call our office at (925) 425-0191 for a new patient appointment today.

psychiatry vs psychology

Working Together to Create a Treatment Plan

When you see both a psychiatrist and a psychologist, the two medical professionals can work together to create the best treatment plan tailored to your individual needs.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Psychiatrist vs Psychologist

Are psychologists better than psychiatrists?

Psychologists and psychiatrists are both excellent at their professions in dealing with mental illness.   Psychologists generally have strong communication skills because they engage in talk therapy with each patient.

Can psychologists diagnose?

Psychologists and psychiatrists can assess their patients and diagnose mental health issues, but they have different ways of treating patients.

Should I see a therapist or psychologist?

Therapists can treat mental health conditions that are less serious than psychologists, who have extensive training in mental illness.

Can a psychiatrist diagnose?

Yes. Psychiatrists diagnose mental health conditions, such as anxiety, depression, and ADHD.  They can prescribe medications that treat mental health conditions.

Are psychologists doctors?

Psychologists have doctorate degrees, however they are not medical physicians.  They are not typically licensed to prescribe medications.

Are therapists psychologists or psychiatrists?

Therapist is a generic term that refers to a mental health professional that provides psychotherapy.  For this reason, both psychiatrists and psychologists could be considered therapists.

psychologist vs psychiatrist

Final Thoughts about Psychiatrist vs Psychologist

You now know the difference between a psychiatrist and a psychologist.

Psychiatrists are medical doctors who have a medical degree. Psychiatrists prescribe medication to treat mental health conditions, such as bipolar disorder, anxiety disorders, or ADHD.   On the other hand, psychologists treat mental health conditions by using cognitive therapy, family therapy, and interpersonal psychotherapy.

Dr. Alex Anastasiou can help you find the right treatment for your anxiety, ADHD, depression, and more. Our California office provides private practice virtual appointments via telehealth online. Call our office at (925) 425-0191 for a new patient appointment today.

If you found this post helpful, you may be interested in the following articles:

How to Get Prescribed Adderall Online for ADHD

Online ADHD Treatment and Medication for Adults

How to Tell if Shortness of Breath Is From Anxiety

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Dr. Alex Anastasiou – Psychiatrist