What Is The Difference Between A Psychologist And A Psychiatrist?

For many years, a cloud of shame surrounded mental health and wellness. Fearing they would be derided as “crazy,” people often resisted seeking help for their issues. Over time, their untreated problems gradually got worse, sometimes resulting in tragedy. In light of many recent events, the stigma surrounding mental health issues has lightened significantly. More people seek assistance both online and in-person, hoping to resolve their issues.

For those seeking help for the first time, the options are overwhelming. Should you visit a psychiatrist or a psychologist? What is the difference between the two? In this article, we will compare these two disciplines to better inform your decision.

Differences Between Psychiatry and Psychology

Mental health assistance comes in many forms from many different people. Social workers, counselors, and therapists can all be helpful on the road to mental wellness. However, psychiatrists and psychologists need a higher level of education and specialized training before earning their titles. Although similar in that regard, the requirements and methodology of psychiatrists and psychologists vary.


Psychologists require a Ph.D. or PsyD degree, which takes up to six years to receive. Psychologists who have received a Ph.D., or a doctorate in philosophy, focus on research. Those who pursue a PsyD or doctor of psychology degree focus on clinical and hands-on practices. Usually, receipt of a license to practice requires an additional two years of training.

Psychiatrists are required to receive a medical degree and complete a psychiatric residency, the process taking approximately 12 years to complete. There, they study the diagnosis and treatment of more severe mental disorders such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. As medical doctors, psychiatrists train to recognize the physical and mental effects of these issues and address them accordingly.


Psychologists’ primary tool is talk therapy. During these sessions, a psychologist will administer tests and talk with a patient to determine the causes of their issues and possible solutions.

These solutions range from behavioral to cognitive to psycho-dynamic therapies. These therapies address different aspects of the patient’s psyche, hoping to parse out reasons and intents behind their feelings.

Psychiatrists offer similar assistance to patients, focusing on recognizing certain behaviors and treating them as necessary. As medically trained doctors, though, they can also prescribe medication to help physically. Psychiatrists are often involved in overseeing prescriptions and managing their use with the patient.

The main difference between psychologists and psychiatrists is in their approach. A psychologist will attempt to explain and treat a patient by analyzing their behaviors. These include habits, daily routines, patterns, and even specific thought processes. On the other hand, a psychiatrist will primarily look for physical or neurological reasons for their patient’s issues. Based on their medical background, psychiatrists are better suited to administer treatment when these issues are the causes of mental instabilities.

Despite the differences, psychologists and psychiatrists often collaborate for the well-being of their patients. A psychologist will often diagnose an issue and then refer a psychiatrist to prescribe and oversee medication to assist in treatment. The patient will then return to the psychologist for further therapy. This more well-rounded approach yields more beneficial results.


Psychiatrists and psychologists require different training to address issues in people seeking help. Although they employ different tactics, they often work together in the pursuit of mental wellness. If you or a loved one is seeking out a mental health professional, check out BetterHelp, a site packed with useful resources that also offers affordable, private online counseling.