Do I Need a Psychologist or a Psychiatrist?


Do you have a mental illness? Is this something that you’ve lived with for a good portion of your life, or did you recently notice the symptoms? If you have a mental illness and you’ve been coping with it for a long time, you’ve probably investigated different treatment options. Some people find therapy to be effective, while other people manage their symptoms with diet and exercise. For some people living with mental illness, they’ve found that taking medication for their condition helps with their symptoms. In this article, we’ll talk about which mental health professional may work best for you depending on your needs. What are the benefits of choosing a psychologist versus choosing a psychiatrist? Perhaps you might want to work with both.

A psychologist practices therapy. This mental health professional specializes in helping their clients through talking problems out. They can practice many different forms of treatment depending on the needs of their patients. Psychologists have graduate degrees such as a Ph.D. or a PsyD. Some psychologists can prescribe medication, depending on the state in which they practice – however, they are required to complete an additional degree in psychopharmacology. Psychologists specialize mostly in treatment through therapy rather than using medicine to help their clients.

A competent psychologist can help people who have mental illness or are coping with everyday life challenges. Maybe you experienced a loss in your family or a close friend passed away. You might want to work with a psychologist to process your grief. Psychologists can help clients on a long-term basis, or they could be a professional you see to work through a transitional period such as divorce, having a baby, adjusting to being a new parent, or coping with postpartum depression.

To become a psychiatrist, you must complete an undergraduate degree related to medicine and then move on to become a medical doctor – psychiatrists are MDs and must receive this degree because they are prescribing medication to their clients. Psychiatrists can diagnose mental illnesses and use prescription medications to treat their symptoms. There are many conditions where people see psychiatrists on a life-long basis such as paranoid schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. When you want to manage mental illness, you might consider consulting with a psychiatrist to see if medication is right for you.

While psychologists mainly focus on talk therapy, psychiatrists manage medications their clients take for mental health issues. They can also provide talk therapy, but their primary focus is medication maintenance and adherence. The medications they prescribe can help reduce symptoms like physical anxiety reactions, racing thoughts, and insomnia. Medication can also be preventative against relapses of psychiatric disorders. Medicine isn’t for everyone, but it can help people who have mental health issues.

Ultimately, the right professional for you depends on your specific needs. You might need to talk out your problems and have someone help you develop some techniques to manage your emotions. In this case, a psychologist might work best. If you’re looking for a medical professional to control symptoms of mental illness a psychiatrist may be your best bet. There are instances where seeing both a psychologist and a psychiatrist is the most effective form of treatment. Remember – if you don’t like your mental health treatment team, you can always change providers. It’s essential to feel comfortable, and you have the right to decide how best to treat your mental health.

Getty image by ajr_images.


Find this story helpful? Share it with someone you care about.


Related to Mental Health

Hand holding a telephone with a cord

President Trump Signs Bill That Could Brings Us a Step Closer to a 3-Digit Suicide Prevention Lifeline

Update: The National Suicide Hotline Improvement Act was signed by President Trump on Aug. 14. This law does not create a 3-digit code, but will instead allow the Federal Communications Commission and Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to study the efficacy of a 3-digit code and provide recommendations for the hotline. A bill [...]
12 ‘Code Words’ People Said That Actually Meant ‘I’m Lonely’

12 ‘Code Words’ People Said That Actually Meant ‘I’m Lonely’

Everyone experiences loneliness sometimes. But the thing about loneliness is that it often makes you believe you’re the only one going through it. That because you are feeling lonely, you must have no friends, you must be unlovable, you must be someone no one would want to hang out with. But this couldn’t be further from [...]
A note written by Insatiable creator next toe the Insatiable promo

Creator of Netflix's 'Insatiable' Responds to Backlash

From the moment its trailer was released, the new Netflix show “Insatiable” started a heated discussion. For many, the storyline itself was problematic: a “former fatty” gets an opportunity to seek revenge after a summer with her mouth wired shut leaves her skinny. In the trailer, actor Debby Ryan wears a fat suit, and although [...]
25 Things People Don't Realize You're Doing Because of Childhood Trauma

25 Things People Don't Realize You're Doing Because of Childhood Trauma

Experiencing trauma in childhood can be both debilitating and far-reaching, often extending out of childhood and into adolescence and adulthood. For many, experiencing trauma at a young age can affect their self-worth and relationships. For some, childhood trauma may even have contributed to a current mental health struggle. We wanted to know what kinds of effects [...]