What Is The Difference Between Psychologists and Psychiatrists?
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Overview

There are times when things get difficult and unpleasant for us and we look up to someone to vent out and alleviate our tension and stress. Some people prefer to talk to their loved ones, while some require professional help.

When looking for a professional, there are usually different titles such as Psychologists, Psychiatrists, Counsellors, Psychotherapists and so on. The biggest confusion remains between Psychiatrists and Psychologists if you are seeking the help of a mental health professional for the first time. While both types of mental health professionals aim to help patients optimize their mental wellness, there are distinct differences in their approaches to treatment. 

Who is a Psychologist and a Psychiatrist?

1.    Psychologist

A psychologist also known as a psychotherapist treats people with various mental health issues. Psychologists work with individuals, couples and families to cope with life issues and diagnose mental, behavioural and emotional challenges. They find patterns that help them understand and predictbehaviour. They may use different forms of therapies, such ascognitive-behavioural therapy, psychoanalysis and psycho-dynamic therapy, humanistic therapy, gestalt therapy, etc. They are also qualified in conducting psychometric tests, which evaluate a person’s mental state and personal attributes to determine the right course of action for the patient.

Psychologists provide therapy and counselling to people who are suffering from the following conditions:

  • Stress
  • Depression and Anxiety
  • Workplace stress
  • Behavioural issues
  • Postpartum Depression
  • Trauma And PTSD
  • All kinds of phobias
  • Personality disorders
  • Eating Disorders
  • Addictions
  • Sexual Issues
  • Learning disability
  • Grief And Loss
  • Life Changes
  • Relationship And Marriage Issues
  • Child And Adolescent Issues
  • Parenting Issues
  • Women’s Issues

However, Psychologists cannot prescribe medications. They conduct psychological tests to diagnose patients and treat them through therapy. In severe cases where medication may prove effective, psychologists refer such cases to psychiatrists.

 2.    Psychiatrist

A psychiatrist is a medical doctor who evaluates, diagnoses and treats people living with complex medical and psychological conditions. Psychiatrists are mainly dependent on the medication process. Once the diagnosis is done, they build a treatment course plan for the patient, focusing on managing symptoms through the use of medications and psychotherapy.  Below are the main medical conditions that are treated by a psychiatrist:

  • Schizophrenia
  • Personality disorders
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

Psychiatrists can help manage long-term mental health conditions and provide urgent care for sudden mental illness. For example, if a person is suffering from depression and recently have attempted suicide, a psychiatrist will first prescribe anti-depressant medications to the person to manage the suicidal tendencies and make the person more open to talking and treatment. After stabilization of the patient, the psychologist would start therapy to get to the root cause of the person’s difficulties and help them manage their negative thoughts and emotions.

Let us go through some key differences between a psychologist and a psychiatrist:

1.    Education & Training

Psychologists and psychiatrists are both highly educated and skilled but both professions require a doctoral degree to practice professionally. However, the doctoral programs for each profession take very different approaches.

Psychologists have at least 6 years of university training and supervised experience. Most psychologists have a doctor of philosophy(Ph.D.) in psychology or a doctor of psychology (PsyD) degree. They cannot call themselves “Dr.,” as they do not have degrees in medicine. Once they have earned their degree, psychologists complete another one to two years of clinical training which entails working with people. Psychologists are required to take an exam to become trained in a specialty, such as:

  • neuropsychology
  • child and adolescent psychology
  • forensic psychology
  • clinical psychology
  • psychoanalysis
  • CBT therapy and other forms of psychotherapy

Psychiatrists are medical doctors with a doctor of medicine degree (MD).They spend at least 11 years in training and after that, they spend 1 or 2years of training as a general doctor before completing at least 5 years of training in the diagnosis and treatment of mental illness.

After they obtain their degree, psychiatrists must complete a four-year residency program followed by a written exam to get licensed to practice medicine. Additionally, some psychiatrists receive extra training in a specialty, such as:

  • child and adolescent psychiatry
  • addiction medicine
  • forensic psychiatry
  • pain medicine
  • sleep medicine
  • anxiety and depression medication and more 

2.    Treatment

Psychologists tend to focus on behavioural approaches and commonly treat patients with psychological tests and therapy. Through the course of several sessions, a psychologist will work with the patient to help them better understand their symptoms and how to manage them. For example, if you are experiencing anxiety, a psychologist will track your sleeping pattern, the frequency and severity of panic attacks, and the negative thoughts that might be contributing to your high levels of anxiety. They will talk to you and teach you how to change some of those patterns, and help you develop new habits to help relieve and manage anxiety. Their primary way of helping you cope is through psychological treatments and different types of talk therapy.

Psychiatrists focus on disorders like a chemical imbalance in the brain. They diagnose mental health conditions using a variety of tools, including one-on-one evaluations, psychological tests, and lab tests to rule out physical causes of symptoms. Like other doctors, they are able to treat their patients with prescription medications. A Psychiatrist’s focus and training often enable them to handle patients with serious mental health issues for which therapy alone cannot help.

This allows them to provide a wider range of treatments that can include:

  • Psychological treatment
  • Brain stimulation therapies
  • Medication
  • General medical care, including physical examinations

Psychiatrists also perform medical examinations before providing a diagnosis. For example, a psychiatrist may check for thyroid problems or vitamin deficiencies before diagnosing a patient with depression.

3.    Prescribing Medication

The ability to prescribe medication has often been the distinguishing element between a psychiatrist and a psychologist. A psychiatrist can prescribe medication for the treatment of mental disorders, while a psychologist cannot.

Sometimes, a combination of therapy and medication is the best treatment option. Most psychologists do not have the authority to prescribe medication, they often work in conjunction with psychiatrists or general physicians for prescriptions that gives their patients access to this necessary care.

4.    Conditions Treated

Psychologists usually treat conditions that don’t require medication. These types of conditions can include behavioural problems, learning difficulties, anxiety, and mild cases of depression.

On the other hand, Psychiatrists diagnose illnesses, manage treatment and provide a range of therapies for complex and serious mental disorders that require medical treatment and psychological evaluations. They treat conditions like:

  • Severe depression
  • Schizophrenia
  • Bipolar disorder

Takeaway

Psychiatrists and psychologists are both mental health professionals and have different approaches to diagnosing and treating mental health conditions.

A psychologist might help you address symptoms through therapy and by teaching coping skills, while a psychiatrist can prescribe medications and other treatments to ease your symptoms.

It is better to ask your doctor if you are unsure whether you should see a psychiatrist or a psychologist. However, some conditions, like depression and anxiety require both talk therapy and medication. In these types of cases, you may have regular therapy sessions with a psychologist, while a psychiatrist manages your medical treatment.

Shifaam has over 500 mental health practitioners on board. To book an online or physical therapy session with one of the best psychologists or psychiatrists in Karachi visit https://www.shifaam.com/therapist/karachi. You can also download the Shifaam Health App on your phone from Google PlayStore (bit.ly/2JqZo3C) or the iOS App Store (apple.co/2QUVxQz)to connect to your therapist whenever in need. For further assistance, you can call us on 021-37132273 or Whatsapp at 0347 7222273. 

Mental Health problems are real. If you or someone you know is behaving strangely and needs to see a psychologist or a psychiatrist in Karachi or online, you can reach out to us immediately. For more information on psychologists or psychiatrists in Karachi or for an appointment with experienced doctors’ click on the links below:

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