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What’s the Difference Between a Psychologist and a Psychiatrist?


When you need mental health treatment, it can be challenging to figure out which providers to see. An excellent place to start is talk therapy, and that involves working with a counselor or therapist. But there are also other options that include mental health professionals who can diagnose mental illness. To get a proper diagnosis, you need to see these providers. Do you know who to see if you want to find out if you have a mental illness? Would it be a psychologist or a psychiatrist? What is the difference between a psychologist and a psychiatrist? If you’re unfamiliar with the world of mental health, you might not know how these two mental health professionals differ.  You may wonder if there is an advantage of seeing a psychologist vs. psychiatrist? Let’s talk about how to distinguish between the two providers. It comes down to who can and cannot prescribe psychiatric medication. 

Psychologist vs. Psychiatrist

A psychologist is someone who meets with clients or patients and works through mental health or general life issues using talk therapy. A psychologist can diagnose mental health disorders, but they can’t prescribe medication, whereas a psychiatrist can both diagnose and prescribe medication for these issues. A psychiatrist can also provide medication management for different diagnoses. For example, if someone has bipolar disorder and they’re taking antipsychotics, a psychologist couldn’t help them with medication management; they’d have to see a psychiatrist regularly. Many people see both types of providers. 

What psychologists do

People see psychologists for a variety of reasons. Psychologists treat many clients, and an individual may speak to a psychologist if they feel incredibly anxious, have anger issues, or are overwhelmed by life. Psychologists can give psychological assessments and testing to determine how an individual behaves and what their challenges are. They help people using cognitive behavioral skills, interpersonal techniques, or psychodynamic techniques. They have a graduate level education, and they typically work either in private practice, schools, community mental health centers, or hospitals.  

What is a psychiatrist?

The most important thing to remember about a psychiatrist is that they’re a mental health professional who has been to medical school. A psychiatrist is a medical doctor that specializes in the field of mental health. They have either an MD or a DO, and they diagnose patients using the APA’s diagnostic and statistical manual of mental health disorders. Psychiatrists have many capabilities. They sometimes provide talk therapy in addition to medication management so that you might see a psychiatrist for both therapy and medication management

Seeing one or both providers

Sometimes it’s necessary for a person to see both a psychiatrist and a psychologist. You might be seeing a psychologist for therapy, and a psychiatrist for Psychiatrists and psychologists practice separately, but you might see one provider or both depending on what you’re looking to do. If you’re having trouble managing your mental health issues without medication, you might consider seeing a psychiatrist. 

Online therapy

Online therapy is an excellent form of treatment for those who want to see a psychologist, and you can choose to see an online psychiatrist as well. There are many options to choose from depending on what your mental health needs are, but it’s worth a shot to consult with an online psychologist to see if that modality works for you. Online therapy is fantastic for people who are busy or who live in remote areas. Try it if it’s something that you feel might work for you, your schedule, and your lifestyle.