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Psychiatrist Vs. Psychologist

If you’re looking for mental health help, figuring out whether to go see a psychiatrist vs. psychologist can be confusing.

What is Psychology?

This article on seeing a psychiatrist vs. psychologist highlights what these two professions practice and their main differences. Knowing these differences will enable you to understand when to seek medical advice or treatment. 

Psychology is a study involving the human body and mind and how it is influenced by social, biological, and environmental factors. Psychology also researches how these factors influence how you interact with others, your feelings and thoughts, and more. A person involved in this field is known as a psychologist.1

Psychiatrist vs psychologist

Subfields of Psychology

Psychology easily broadens into other subfields like:2

  • Abnormal psychology 
  • Biological psychology or biopsychology
  • Clinical psychology 
  • Cognitive psychology 
  • Comparative psychology 
  • Developmental psychology 
  • Personality psychology 
  • Social psychology focuses 

Psychology in Practice

Psychology helps treat mental health disorders in everyday life. Most psychologists draw clinical research findings to develop treatment plans for psychological illness and mental distress. Other uses include:

  • Developing educational programs
  • Self-help
  • Ergonomics
  • Performance enhancement
  • Informing public policy
  • Social program design
  • Personal well-being /health

What is Psychiatry?

A clinical psychiatrist is a medical doctor specializing in mental health. Psychiatry is a medical field that targets diagnosing, preventing, and treating behavior and mental and emotional conditions.

The issues that psychiatry treats include mental illnesses such as:

  • Psychotic disorders, like those on the schizophrenia spectrum
  • Bipolar and other mood disorders
  • Trauma- and stress-related disorders
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorders
  • Depressive and anxiety disorders
  • Personality disorders
  • Sleep disorders

Psychology and Mental Health Treatment

Psychiatry works to treat and provide help for many of the same mental health illnesses that psychology does, but often goes about treating them in a different way. Also, psychiatrists are able to prescribe medication for their patients, while psychologists cannot do this. Many of those who are seeing a psychologist will have to be referred to a psychiatrist to get medication prescribed if needed.

Figuring out whether to see a psychologist vs psychiatrist can be difficult, but if you ask your doctor on where to start, they can often provide advice.

Psychiatrist vs. Psychologist Key Differences

A clinical psychiatrist versus a psychologist differs in many ways; these differences will be detailed below.2


Psychiatrists employ various treatment methods depending on your physical and mental condition. These may include brain stimulation therapy, psychological treatments, prescribing medications, etc. At the same time, psychologists employ one treatment technique through therapeutic psychological methods.


A psychiatrist must earn an undergraduate degree, attend medical school, and get an MD. They complete another four years of residency training in a hospital's psychiatric unit. The residency training ensures they get exercise and practice in diagnosing and treating various psychiatric disorders.

Psychologists first get a psychology graduate training and then generally pursue a PsyD (Doctor of Psychology) or Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy) in counseling or clinical psychology.


Training is another significant difference between a psychiatrist and a psychologist. Psychologists undergo university experience and training in psychology from the start. However, psychiatrists attend medical school and receive medical degrees and training before treating and diagnosing mental health conditions.


Psychiatrists can prescribe medications because they are medical doctors. Psychiatric physicians use psychotherapy, though their primary focus is on pharmacological and medical interventions.

In contrast, psychologists can't prescribe medicines though they hold doctorate degrees. Instead, they essentially offer psychotherapy like behavioral and cognitive interventions.

Conditions Treated 

Psychologists treat developmental and behavioral problems while psychiatrists tackle complex psychological disorders. There is some overlap between these, however.

How to Choose Between Psychology and Psychiatry

You have to pick what sort of help you need or want if you are looking to make a choice between psychology vs. psychiatry. There are many things to consider, including whether you want to choose between psychology vs. psychiatry as a patient or as a career option.

As a Client

If you don't know who to see as a patient, seek advice from your doctor. Your doctor advises who is best to see in terms of a psychologist vs. psychiatrist. This is because your situation is unique and requires a specific type of treatment, and some people may even see both.

As a Career

Apart from the educational requirements of a psychiatrist and psychologist, you should also consider the time and salary invested in psychiatry. According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, psychiatrists earn an average of $217,100 while psychologists earn $82,180 yearly. The handbook estimates a 12% increase between 2019 and 2029 for psychiatry vs. psychology at a reduced rate of 3%.3

If you consider becoming a therapist, you have options like pursuing a career as a psychiatrist, psychologist, psychiatric nurse, and counselor or social worker.

Should I See a Psychologist or Psychiatrist For Anxiety?

The primary difference between psychologists and psychiatric doctors is that psychologists practice psychotherapy to ensure holistic recovery, meaning recovery of the mind, body, and soul. A psychologist will treat anxiety using various psychotherapy techniques. 

At the same time, a psychiatrist will focus on biological aspects and prescribe medicines to ease symptoms. Knowing the psychological vs. psychiatric treatment methods will guide you so you can find what method and treatment plan works for you. 

Finding the Proper Treatment Professional

Both psychologists and psychiatrists identify mental health issues. However, psychiatry is a medicine branch, while psychology has its own discipline. Knowing which one to go to in order to treat anxiety is just a difference in preference regarding treatment methods and if you want to start taking medication as well. 

Sometimes, anxiety issues can be greatly helped by only engaging in psychotherapy, and for others medication can help mitigate symptoms for the patient. Make sure you ask your doctor which one you think will be best for you if you need help. 

Psychiatrist vs psychologist

Psychiatrist vs psychologist

Are Psychiatrists Real Doctors?

According to a study published by Cambridge University in January 2018, psychiatrists provided significant physical and psychiatric healthcare for patients under them.4

Almost all psychiatric doctors reported performing physical examinations for any patient admitted to the psychiatric hospital. From these results, psychiatric trainees seem to help with many patients’ healthcare conditions, meaning that psychiatrists are real doctors with medical degrees too.

Can a Person Be Both a Psychologist and Psychiatrist?

The difference between a psychiatrist and a psychologist is the ability to prescribe medications. In comparison, psychologists use therapeutic psychological methods to treat patients. Sometimes, a psychiatrist may use psychotherapy and medications together.

This means that often, psychiatrists can be psychologists, but it cannot happen the other way around due to a few more services that psychiatrists offer vs. psychologists. 

Find Out More At Anew Treatment Center

Both psychiatrists and psychologists have different roles to play in mental health counseling, and they are both critical. Find out more about clinical psychologists, psychiatrists, diagnostic psychologists, and more at Anew Treatment Center. 

Contact us today if you or a loved one need to start seeing either one, and we will be there to help every step of the way.

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