In this day and age, when everything is being digitalized, and life is moving at breakneck speed, there are times when things get rough. In such instances, we frequently seek out someone to discuss our concerns and work out a solution. Generally, we would reach out to our friends and family members to share our problems. But when things are not manageable, beyond our control, it is imperative to seek professional help.
While surfing for such professionals, we often come across various titles like Psychotherapist, Psychiatrist, Psychologist, etc. Often these titles hover on our minds when we are discussing mental health. But not just me; I am sure most of us get confused between Psychologists and Psychiatrists. These terms or titles rather seem to be synonymous with each other.
The fact is although they may sound similar and synonymous, they support patients with mental health issues, but their roles are different. The distinction is in their educational backgrounds, clinical training, approaches, and areas of work.
To begin with, let us first understand each title.
Psychiatrists are medical professionals with an MBBS degree and an advanced qualification of specializing in psychiatry. They can prescribe medications, provide talk therapy, and other treatment services to cure patients with mental health issues.
Psychologists use an eclectic approach for counselling. They use talk therapy with their clients. They cannot prescribe medications. They work hand in hand with psychiatrists.
Let us delve more into the details and differences between the two.
Differences in practice
The most significant distinction between psychologists and psychiatrists is in their approach to treating mental illnesses.
A Psychiatrist uses a medication-first approach to treatment. Once they diagnose the patient, they create a treatment plan that focuses on managing the symptoms using psychotherapy and medications. Though Psychiatrists are trained for psychotherapies like cognitive behavioral therapy, psychoanalysis, and other therapies, most Psychologists focus on all these psychotherapies.
Some mental health conditions that psychiatrists treat are ADHD – Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Anxiety Disorders, Bipolar Disorders, schizophrenia, PTSD – Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Depression, etc. Psychiatrists closely work with rehabilitation centers, psychiatric hospitals, etc.
Generally, psychiatrists do their diagnosis using one-on-one evaluations, psychological tests, or lab tests. They may prescribe medications like sedatives, stimulants, anti-depressants, mood stabilizers, etc.
Working with Children
While working with children having mental health issues, the psychiatrists would begin the treatment with an inclusive mental health examination. The examination results will help the doctor to evaluate different components underlying the child’s mental status. It includes genetic, cognitive, emotional, familial, and educational. Generally, a psychiatrist would treat the child using play therapy, family talk therapy, medications, etc.
Moving on – psychologists generally use different types of therapies to manage the patient’s symptoms and help them cope with their mental health issues. They primarily use therapies like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy, Play therapy, Family Therapy, etc. They may conduct psychometric tests to evaluate the patient’s attributes and mental state.
While working with children, the psychologists focus on assessing their present mental health status. It includes their academic capabilities and cognitive functioning skills. They perform a few therapies that even psychiatrists generally do not, such as play therapy. In this therapy, children are allowed to explore therapy space freely without any limitations. Psychologists analyze the children by watching them play. They can gain insight into the child’s behavior. Based on their observation and analysis, they can work on the child’s problem-solving skills, communication skills, etc.
At this juncture, note that psychologists do not prescribe medications, whereas psychiatrists do. It is the crucial difference between these two mental health professionals.
Let me use an example to demonstrate this. Consider a patient who attempted suicide and is suffering from depression. In this case, a psychiatrist would initially prescribe anti-depressant medications to the patient to help them manage their suicidal tendencies. It may enable the patient to speak up and share. Once the patient is stable, the psychologist’s work begins. To address the underlying cause of the patient’s mental health problem, the psychologist would initiate therapy and assist them in managing their negative emotions and thoughts.
As a consequence, psychiatrists and psychologists both work together in most mental healthcare cases to treat patients.
Disparity in education
In addition to their differing practices, these mental health practitioners have different training requirements and educational backgrounds.
Discussing further their educational backgrounds and degrees, psychiatrists need to have a medical degree in Psychiatry. Psychiatrists have to complete their MBBS and MD degree in Psychiatry. They have the medical degree of Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine or the Doctor of Medicine. They learn to diagnose and treat mental health condition patients utilizing counseling, medicines, and other treatments during their training. Some psychiatrists specialize in geriatric psychiatry, addiction medicine, forensic psychiatry, pain medicine, child and adolescent psychiatry, etc.
Psychologists must get both a Bachelor’s and a Master’s degree in psychology. Their study course includes the study of human behavior, with a focus on medicine and biology. Once they start practicing it is important that psychologists are under supervision.
How to choose between the Two
Before deciding which one to choose, you must first assess the situation – the patient’s condition. It is indeed a tricky question. If the person is experiencing depressive symptoms, emotional stress due to a death of a close family or friend, or loss of a job, etc., then connect with your family doctor first. Since the family doctor has diagnosed and seen the person most often, they can determine the type of mental healthcare professional required for the patient based on their medical history.
People usually consult psychiatrists if they are suffering from severe depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or other mental illness. They would need treatment that requires medications along with therapies to cure mental health disorders.
They would opt for a psychologist if they are undergoing substance abuse, have difficulty in focusing on work or understanding one’s behaviors or thoughts, etc. Psychologists are the best option, especially for children. They treat kids with various types of therapy sessions as play therapy, etc. For any complex mental health cases, a psychiatrist may be a better choice.
By and large, most mental health conditions like anxiety and depression are generally treated with a combination of talk therapy and medications. The psychiatrists manage the medication part of treatment, whereas the psychologists work on the therapy sessions. These two professionals work in tandem in most cases to diagnose and treat a mental health disorder patient.
Ensure that whichever doctor you opt for should have the expertise and experience to treat the mental health condition. They approach the patient that makes the patient more comfortable to talk and share with them.
The bottom line
After reading the above article, our concepts are now clear that both psychologists and psychiatrists work closely with each other. The primary distinguishing factor amongst the two types of doctors; narrows down to the medications. A psychologist cannot prescribe it, while a psychiatrist can.
Psychologists and psychiatrists signify distinctive professional designations. However, they both play a different and crucial role in the field of mental healthcare. A psychologist focuses on treatment with therapies while a psychiatrist treats with a combination of medications and therapy.
The primary distinction between the two is their prescriptive authority and educational background. Neither one is superior to the other. Depending on the patient’s specific symptoms and needs, they should decide about the type of professional that is apt for them. Still skeptical about it, get in touch with the empathetic experts in this field – TruHap. We are renowned as the leading child development center having the best psychologist in Hyderabad. Contact us at 91-9491208645 or write to us at email@example.com