Both psychology and psychiatry involve how the human brain works, but it is important to know the difference between a psychologist and a psychiatrist when it comes to choosing a career. Psychologists tend to focus on behaviors and behavioral interventions, while psychiatrists are more involved with the medical aspects of brain diseases and mental health disorders. Understanding these differences could help a person decide to pursue a medical degree in psychiatry or a Doctorate in Psychology.
A psychiatrist is a type of specialist physician. The person attends medical school and completes all of the routine training of a doctor. They go on to complete a residency in psychiatry, which involves the treatment of brain diseases and mental health disorders. Many psychiatrists hone their area of practice, such as addiction medicine, geriatric psychiatry or psychopharmacology. Their training includes understanding how medications and drugs cross the blood-brain barrier, how to diagnose brain disorders and how to treat brain diseases.
Doctoral or Master’s Degree
Psychologists earn a doctoral degree rather than a medical degree. There are two types of doctoral degrees that qualify a person to become a psychologist. The first type is a doctorate of philosophy or Ph.D. This degree is based on research. The other type is a doctor of psychology or Psy.D. The doctor of psychology degree is based on clinical practice and psycho-social therapy modalities. In some cases, a person can practice as a psychologist with a master of science degree in psychology. These people usually practice under the supervision of a person with a PhD or PsyD.
Functions of a Psychiatrist
According to Psychology Today, psychiatrists can write prescriptions, order imaging studies and diagnose a brain disorder or disease. They typically handle all of the healthcare-related to mental health and brain disorders. These professionals can order psychological testing, testify in court and manage a patient’s treatment for mental health. Primary care physicians and psychologists may refer patients to psychiatrists to make sure that the person is on the right type and dose of medication for their condition.
Functions of a Psychologist
Psychologists can also diagnose mental health disorders, but they cannot prescribe medications or order imaging studies except for in Louisiana and New Mexico. They can provide a wide range of therapies for mental health disorders. Some of the therapy types that they might offer include cognitive behavioral therapy, desensitizing behavioral therapy and integrative or holistic therapy. Psychologists typically provide therapy or counseling for their patients. These therapy sessions may be individual, family or group-based. A therapy session may take place weekly, monthly or on some other schedule. Psychologists can also perform cognitive and mental health or personality tests, such as the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory. They are also able to interpret the results of these tests and customize the therapy to suit the patient.
Related Resource: 25 Best Affordable Master’s in Psychology Online Degrees
Knowledge of the differences between psychology and psychiatry gives a person what they need to make an informed decision about a college major and applications to medical versus graduate school. While these professions do have some overlap, there are major differences in the degree, certification, experience, licensure and practice. Knowing the difference between a psychologist and a psychiatrist makes it easier to decide on a career path.