In this day and age, when everything is being digitised and life is moving at lightning speed, there are times when things get rough. In such instances, we might need a mental health professional to discuss our concerns with and work out a solution.
However, while surfing for professionals, we often come across various titles like psychotherapist, psychiatrist, psychologist etc. Often all these terms get confusing. Many places seem to use these titles interchangeably with each other.
The fact is that though psychiatrists and psychologists seem similar and both aim to help people with mental wellbeing, their roles are different. They both specialise in different areas of mental healthcare. The distinction is in their educational backgrounds, clinical training, approaches, and areas of work. With that said, let’s dive right into it.
Difference in Practice
Psychiatrists are medical doctors who can prescribe medication and lab tests, conduct psychometric assessments, diagnose, and provide other treatment services to help with mental health issues. After diagnosis, they create a treatment plan that focuses on managing the symptoms using psychotherapy and medication. Most psychiatrists handle the medication side of treatment since that is their main area of expertise, though they are allowed to provide therapy should they wish to.
Psychologists generally use talk therapy to help one cope and get better. Most psychologists are trained in modalities like CBT, play therapy, family therapy, humanistic and psychodynamic approaches etc. They might use one or an eclectic combination of approaches for counselling depending on their affinity, and the client’s needs and preferences.
Apart from talk therapy, there is an increasing number of psychologists adopting approaches where talking is not the primary medium for achieving therapeutic goals. These approaches can include EMDR, somatic experiencing, dance movement therapy, expressive arts therapy etc. Depending on their specialisation, psychologists may conduct psychometric tests to evaluate the client’s attributes and mental state.
Difference in Education
In addition to their differing practices, psychiatrists and psychologists also have different training requirements and educational backgrounds.
Psychiatrists have to complete their MBBS and an advanced postgraduate qualification in psychiatry. Some then choose to further specialise in geriatric psychiatry, addiction medicine, forensic psychiatry, pain medicine, child and adolescent psychiatry etc. Their training has more emphasis on the biomedical approach – on understanding the human body-mind in relation to pathology.
Psychologists’ coursework focuses on the study of the human mind and behaviour. The counselling part of their training includes honing their communication, listening, relationship skills as well as developing a strong sense of empathy and boundaries. The minimum qualification for psychologists in India is a Master’s degree in psychology but many go on to get an MPhil. and/or PhD/PsyD. It is important to note here that to be able to diagnose a specific disorder, clinical psychologists need a licence from the Rehabilitation Council of India (RCI).
A crucial difference between these two mental health professionals is that psychologists cannot prescribe medication, whereas psychiatrists can. However, each of them plays a complementary and crucial role in the field of mental healthcare, often working together. Neither one is superior to the other.
Which one to choose depends on your specific needs. Connecting with one’s family doctor first might help in taking a decision or getting a referral. Since the family doctor will be familiar with your medical history and overall context, they might be able to help determine the type of mental healthcare professional required.
By and large, most mental health conditions like anxiety and depression are generally addressed with a combination of talk therapy and medication. The psychiatrists manage the medication part of treatment, whereas the psychologists work on the therapy sessions. The two professionals work in tandem in most cases.
If you are interested in consulting a TruHap mental health professional, please get in touch. We are renowned as the leading child development center having the best psychologists in Hyderabad. Contact us at 91-9491208645 or write to us at email@example.com