Many people think that psychology and psychiatry are the same things. There are considerable differences between the two. While psychology and psychiatry can overlap in their practices, it’s essential to understand the difference. Depending on your situation, you might benefit more from one than the other. Before reaching out to a psychiatrist or a psychologist, it’s wise to understand the difference.
What are the Differences Between Psychology and Psychiatry?
Psychology studies the mind, emotions, and behavior of a person. Initially, psychology was considered another branch of philosophy before it became a separate field of study. Psychologists study the cognitive and social situations surrounding a person’s actions and reactions. They use therapeutic techniques to heal patients from trauma and treat mental health conditions.
Psychiatry focuses on the diagnoses and medical treatment of mental health conditions. When breaking the word “psychiatry” down, it means to treat the soul medically. Much like psychologists, psychiatrists use therapeutic techniques to help their clients. However, psychiatrists have medical training to understand the biological factors of a person’s mental health.
Psychology and psychiatry are both medical fields that treat mental health conditions. However, even though the two fields share similarities, there are numerous differences:
- Education and Training – Psychologists need a bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degree in psychology. In most states, candidates also need a postdoctoral fellowship to earn supervised experience before obtaining their license and treating patients. You’ll need about ten years of education to become a licensed psychologist. Psychiatrists need a bachelor’s degree before continuing to medical school. Psychiatric students study pharmacology, anatomy, biology, neurology, and diseases before acquiring the knowledge to prescribe medication. After medical school, psychiatric students move on and complete a medical residency that lasts four years before they can be licensed. This process takes about twelve years.
- Different Practical Methods – Psychologists and psychiatrists can provide their patients with psychotherapy. While psychiatrists can prescribe medication, psychologists rely on counseling and behavioral therapy. Some states allow psychologists to prescribe medication after completing the required education and training.
However, there are still members of the mental health field who are neither psychologists nor psychiatrists. Your therapist is a licensed counselor. A therapist relies solely on counseling and behavioral therapy to treat patients.
Determining if you Need a Psychologist or a Psychiatrist
Deciding between a psychologist, psychiatrist, or both depends on your situation. Sometimes, your insurance plan only covers one but not the other. Looking at your health plan can help you decide which professional you need to see. Deciding between the two can be challenging. If your symptoms point to a more severe condition, such as bipolar disorder or schizophrenia, a psychiatrist might be the professional you need. If your condition is mild and easier to manage, you might need a psychologist instead. Start with your counselor. Counseling offers a way to process trauma and cope with stress, depression, and anxiety without prescribed medication. If your counselor realizes that therapy alone isn’t helping you cope, they might refer you to a psychiatrist. It can be a bit more challenging to find a psychiatrist. Psychiatrists are in high demand, and many are unwilling to take new patients. If this is the case, your therapist and physician can work together to provide the counseling and medication you need.