Psychiatrist vs. Psychologist

Judging by how often I’m asked this question, there is a lot of confusion out there about the differences between psychiatrists and psychologists. For a lot of people the two professions are synonymous.

There is overlap between the two roles, and both professions deal with a similar group of patients; we both work for the well being of patients who have problems concerning their mental health or behaviour (or both). There are however a large number of differences.

Firstly, psychologists and psychiatrists have different training. A psychiatrist goes to medical school and, in the UK , will have spent at least a year working in physical medicine. A psychologist starts their training with a psychology degree, going on to higher degrees and has no medical background.

This leads us to the really big difference: psychiatrists can prescribe medications for patients (as ever there are exceptions to this – nurses can take a prescribing course, but their remit would mostly be restricted to commonplace short term medication, for example night sedation) and psychologists do not. Psychiatrists therefore spend a lot of their time initiating and monitoring pharmaceutical treatments and assessing patients’ mental state in the light of this.

In contrast to the psychiatrists’ focus on medication as a treatment for mental illness, a psychologist’s approach focuses extensively on psychotherapy and treating emotional and mental suffering in patients with behavioral interventions. This might involve problem solving techniques or identifying and tackling dysfunctional behavioural patterns perhaps via psychological therapy such as CBT. Psychologists are also qualified to conduct psychological testing, which is important in assessing a person’s mental state and determining the most effective course of treatment.

One final difference is that psychiatrists are also involved in involuntarily detaining patients on psychiatric wards when it is felt that a patient is at risk to themselves and/or others and cannot be treated in the community; this is not part of psychologist’s remit.

So, as a simple example, let’s say that a person is referred to a mental health team because of severe anxiety. Their psychiatrist would consider prescribing them anti-anxiety medication. A psychologist will be more focused on behavioural intervention. This might involve CBT or, with a phobia, graded exposure.

People also mix up the role of psychiatrists and psychologists with that of psychotherapists/psychoanalysts. Again there is overlap between this profession and psychiatry – but it’s a story for another day.

Added 14 June 2008

Here’s what ‘Psychology: A Very Short Introduction’ has to say on the subject.

‘There are some fields with which psychology is frequently confused – and indeed there are good reasons for the confusion. First, psychology is not psychiatry. Psychiatry is a branch of medicine which specialises in helping people to overcome mental disorders. It therefore concentrates on what happens when things go wrong: on mental illness and mental distress. Psychologists also apply their skills in the clinic, but they are not medical doctors and combine with their focus on psychological problems and distress a wide knowledge of normal psychological processes and development. They are not usually able to prescribe drugs; rather they specialise in helping people to understand control or modify their thoughts or behaviour in order to reduce their suffering and distress’

Added 13 August 2008

And in 1980 under Mao psychology was condemned as being

’90% useless’ and ’10% distorted and bourgeois phoney science’

Source: Bond M.H. 1995 Beyond the Chinese Face: Insights from Psychology

Via Affluenza by Oliver James page 128

Added 25 December 2008 (that’s right – nothing on television)

From Madness Explained Richard Bentall pp. 3 quoting Medicine balls Too pp. 78-9

‘Rob Buckman, doctor and humourist has characterised the difference between psychologists and psychiatrists in the following way: ‘According to psychologists, a psychologist is a scientist how has trained in various aspects of experiment psychology, neuropsychology, operant conditioning and interpersonal dynamics, whereas a psychiatrist is a doctor who couldn’t keep up the payments on his stethoscope. Psychiatrists on the other hand tend to view the schism in a more allegorical style. Thus according to a very senior psychiatrist, ‘neurotics are people who build castles in the air, psychotics are people who live in them, while psychiatrists are people who charge the rent, and psychologists are like men from the council who come round once in a blue moon, talk incomprehensible crap and do damn all”

Added 19 August 2009

Another viewpoint from Guide to Psychology

38 Responses to “Psychiatrist vs. Psychologist”

  1. Paul says:

    As a trainee clin psy I was flinching a bit before reading this post, given the old tension between the professions. But I reckon it’s a good fair assessment of the difference between psychiatrists and clinical psychologists. As you say main difference is prescribing. I’d add salary to that as well as caseload and possibly working hours! Psychiatrists prob have greater levels of all three.

    I think the rest is fairly blurry now though – esp the idea of clinical responsibility. Even responsibility for sectioning is increasingly a multi-disciplinary task. I can think of several wards where, for example, a clin psy’s integrative formulation (CAT, attachment and/or CT) of the function or otherwise of serious self-harm would determine whether to admit to the IPCU under section – esp. with more ‘interpersonally challenging’ clients.

    On the other hand clin psy’s argue their key skill is ‘formulation’ as opposed to diagnosis – but psychiatrists and other professionals are quite rightly laying claim to this as part of their approach. Most psychotherapies including those that use formulation were devised by psychiatrists in the first place!

    Putting aside things like salary, respect and power which are always going to divide professions, I’m increasingly thinking that the important divide (the one that matters to me anyway) lies between those clinicians who are good and those who are not – regardless of professional background. By good I mean those who take a thoughtful, philosophical, intelligent, scientific and respectful / ethical approach to aiding people in distress, and by ‘not good’ I mean those psychologists, psychiatrists and others who just see ‘pathology’ and ‘disease’ and diagnose and ‘treat’ accordingly (ie neoKraepelinians) – be that with CBT or meds. Also ‘not good’ are those at the other extreme – those who are so seduced by social constructionism that they refuse to say (or do) anything lest they take an ‘expert position’. Heaven forbid.

  2. Frontier Psychiatrist says:

    From my experience people still seem to expect doctors to take more responsibility than other allied professions. In my last job I was often asked to do risk assessments for patients so that ‘a doctor had seen them’. Perhaps the new mental health act which allows people other than psychiatrists to be RMOs will change this.

  3. perhaps this is naive of me but would it not be better if psychiatrists studied more psychology & were therefore able to offer both therapy & drugs, a more comprehensive service for the patient?
    Clinical psychologists don’t want to be put out of a job… from my lowly perspective it does seem a bit duplicative to have these two roles. Do we really need them both?

  4. Frontier Psychiatrist says:

    A slightly controversial stance medically_brunette!

    There’s an interesting discussion going on at

    http://lakecocytus.blogspot.com/2008/04/what-do-doctors-do.html

    On similar.

    I’m currently working in child psychiatry and the psychologists there certainly do a lot of things (assessment of learning difficulties, diagnosis of autism) that I wouldn’t feel qualified to do. There is a lot of job overlap within (mental) healthcare provision, and I think that this is no bad thing, especially if it means I can stay in bed whilst on call.

    This is my current thinking: there are lots of parts of my job that people could be taught to do in about ten minutes. Which is fine, but when something slightly difficult comes up, then they’d have to ask someone (probably me). So, the reason I can justify my salary is that I’m able to use my knowledge and to apply it to situations I’ve not seen before.

    What I’m trying to say, is that if someone else’s job looks easy, it may well be, but they’re really there waiting for it to get difficult.

  5. M.D. says:

    I am currently in medical school and in our neuroscience and psychiatry module, we had a bunch of psychologists come speak to us about the most useless topics. Topics included sex, personality disorders, etc. Seemed as if most of the stuff was made up and a waste of my time, a person very interested in the study of medicine.

  6. In my local boozer, we’d describe that as ‘fighting talk’. You haven’t given us much to go on with regards to why you consider the entirety of psychology to be ‘made up’ and a ‘waste of my time’. Tell us more….

    Never mind though, if medicine in its narrowest sense, i.e. internal medicine, is your bag then the closest you’ll have to come to a psychiatrist or a psychologist is calling them on the phone to come and see one of your patients when you can’t be bothered to talk to them yourself!

  7. A.P.R.N says:

    Psychiatric and Mental Health Care work best through the collaborative efforts of an interdiciplinary team. As an APRN, I can provide therapy and presribe medication. However, my care would not be complete without psychologists, psychiatrists and social workers! We are all trained differently but we are treating the same population.

  8. Lookaway says:

    Are there not psychiatrists that do the same things as psychologists but also prescribe medication? I realize this is controversial, but I have spoken to some in the field who say if you’re interested in becoming a psychologist, you may as well become a psychiatrist.

    My point: I always thought of psychiatrists as having the same essential training as psychologists, with the addition of the ability to prescribe medication. Is it possible for a person to gain and implement both sets of skills? Is this common?

  9. Angela says:

    Dear Lookaway: A psychiatrist is an M.D. that is a huge difference from a psychologist that is a PHD. A psychiatrist has been through medical school, rotating in all departments and specializing in one area. They are board certified in psychiatry and neurology. I would never feel safe with a psychologist giving me a prescription. They do not have the expertise of the medical doctor (Psychiatrist). A psychiatrist is an M.D. specializing in psychiatry like an M.D. that specializes in Cardiology Etc. There is a big difference in an M.D. and a psychologist. Many years of medical school etc. A psychologist would have to go to medical school to gain any of the skills that a psychiatrist has. Its not as simple as you seem to think it is. A psychologist (a good one) is great for therapy however an M.D. is necessary for medications. Look at nursing these days. An LPN vs an RN. RN’s can go on to get BA, MA degrees etc an LPN is only an LPN and first needs to be an RN to get further in life. See the differences?

  10. Jahoda says:

    Although Angela is right about the necessity of having a medical degree to become a Psychiatrist, she clearly has no understanding of the differences between the two professions beyond that.

    She seems to paint the issue as black and white, which to me implies that if you have a major mental problem, go see a Psychiatrist, if you have a minor one, settle for a psychologist who is ‘great for therapy’.

    In fact, it is fast becoming common knowledge that prescribing drugs to treat mental disorders is rather like recommending pain killers for a broken leg. It might help the pain, but it’s never going to deal with the problem.

    Here’s how it is: Psychiatrists are medical doctors who can prescribe drugs for people with mental health problems. Psychologists cannot do this, although there is a consensus that thinks they should be able to. Psychologists are scientists and health practioners in one, and carry out their own research through observation and other forms aswell as see patients and treat them (i.e. through CBT).

  11. Johoda – who makes up the consensus that thinks that psychologists should be able to prescribe psychoactive medication? Psychologists have no medical training, which would mean that they’d have some catching up to do…

  12. x@N35 says:

    I think Jahoda makes a very good point. I am a Psychology student aiming for Clinical/Research Psychology and I have a history of mental illness. I would never feel comforted by a Psychiatrist as they know little about counselling/CBT etc. although they love to prescribe medicine. In my experience, Psychologists are much better qualified to treat mentally ill patients, mild or severe, Psychiatrists are underqualified.

  13. Dr. Cog N. Itive says:

    This site seems to underestimate the education of a psychologists. Psychologists must go through thorough evaluations and 5-7 years of training (here in Florida at least) in order to earn that title. We must have a thorough scientific understanding of not only scientific methodologies but of behavioral interactions, clinical therapies and treatments, nuerological and other cognitive assessments. It is a very vigorous coursework, just as psychiatry must be. Clinical and other Applied Pychologists are very much responsible just as much as psychiatrists for research into cognitive disorders, etc… The main differences are the course of background gives psychiatrists more opportunity for various types of medical positions and prescribing opportunities, which gives cause to the difference in salaries.

  14. Liam says:

    Perhaps a Psychiatrist would be more likely to reduce everything to biological factors, whereas a Psychologist would be more likely to explore other areas? In my opinion, surely a Psychologist knows more about the human mind and behaviour, if they’ve done a BSc in Psychology, worked for 2 years in the field, done research and then spent 3 years training for a DClinPsy!? After all this does make the individual a Doctor of Psychology, rather than a Doctor of Medicine, specialised in Psychiatry. And also a Psychologist would also be able to recognise if drug treatments would be better for the patient, Psychology students at A Level learn about different types of drugs and their effects. It seems to me that someone whom could do all the roles of a Psychologist and a Psychiatrist would be perfect, but I’m not entirely sure that means both are needed completely separately. I don’t know the ins and outs of how the NHS works but I do believe both need to work extremely closely on the care of each patient, and perhaps the pay differences aren’t entirely fair?

  15. Kimberly says:

    i still dont understand why aren’t psychologists and psychiatrists the same thing because they baisically focus on the same thing

  16. Sophie says:

    Although psychiatrists point out that they undergo many years of training to become a doctor and further specialise, which makes them feel they are more qualified to treat patients with mental health issues, it is important to remember that clinical psychologists have at least 6 years of BSc/Doctoral training, not including the experience required to get onto a doctoral course in clinical psychology in the first place.
    The fields are very different Kimberley; although they work with the same client groups, psychiatrists and clinical psychologists work from very different backgrounds (psychiatrists from medical, psycholigists from a pschology background) although these obviously do overlap.

    I may be utterly mistaken, but do clin psys not get more opportunity to spend time with patients/service users whereas psychiatrists spend very little time with patients and then are able to prescribe drugs based on very little contact. I have heard cases from an RMN I work with where psychiatrists have prescribed patients in psychiatric hospitals without ever actually meeting them. And not just sedatives, antipsychotics as well…

  17. almighty says:

    so is there any form of psychiatrists that do the same work as psycologists, but prescribe medications? what exactly is the difference in the studies?

  18. jac says:

    I think the difference is that psychiatrists are the gatekeepers to services in general and have their own car parking spaces adn live on planet zog- They know how to ask the 3 major questions
    Are you harming yourself
    Are you in danger of harming others
    are you still taking the medication ?
    In the five minutes they have to see you in they cant really disguise these three questions.
    I have been a service user for 52 years and in that time no psychiatrist has healed any part of me (Ihave a dx of DID) The first one I saw at age 8 said I was a liar without even asking me one question; thus iatrogenically prompting my first suicide attempt. So the difference for me has been visibility – I am visible to psychologists & GP’s- but not to psychiatrists. All those that I have met are unable to cope with the idea that children are sexually abused and that it has effects. At the moment there is a psychiatrist in Belfast who works with dissociative disorders but I am not allowed to see her because though I am the only dxed DID in my trust area and for all I know the whole of Northern Ireland I am in the wrong postcode – The difference is one of compassion and humanity psychologists dont order ECT or other invasive procedures.

  19. mamamia says:

    I have heard that some universities offer dual degrees so that those psychiatrists earning an MD can also earn a Phd in psychology. Is this accurate?

  20. Frontier Psychiatrist says:

    Not in the UK so far as I am aware…

  21. emma says:

    can a person be both a psychologist and a psychiatrist?

  22. Brandon says:

    I understand that BOTH professions require a substantial amount of schooling. But how can one even make a point to say that one is more qualified than another. The fact of the matter is theyre 2 distinctly different professions. I don’t think its fair to say that a psychiatrist is better suited and qualified to treat mental issues than a psychologist. Nor vice versa. Also it depends on the individual. There maybe some psychiatrists who try to counsel the patient first and revert to drugs when nothing else is deemed effective

  23. Hopeful Med Student says:

    I am a student currently hoping to apply for Medicine. Although I agree that psychology and psychiatry has its differences (BIG differences) I don’t see why either profession should undermine the other. I am interested in both professions, but am aiming to be psychiatrist. Also, from reading some of the comments, it seems some people have the general idea that psychiatrists just slap on some prescription for medicine to a patient and send him home thinking it’s over, without actually taking the patients needs and and problems much to heart. I definitely don’t intend to become a psychiatrist like that! For me one the main reasons I wanted to be a psychiatrist was that I’ve always wanted to be able to help people mentally and take great interest in their problems, and I intend to try to use medication as a last resort!

  24. Sure of course they are different and most don’t know the difference between s police officer and a sheriff either. So, it’s just public education and awareness

  25. Jane says:

    Clinical Psychologists have to do a three year degree in psychology or and equivilent 2 year conversion if their first degree is not in Psychology. then they have to do a masters in Psychology (to have any hope of getting into ClinPsych training). Then they have to do 1-5 years working as an Assistant Psychologist, followed by a three year professional doctorate in Clinical Psychology. Altogether they have 2-6 years more training in mental health than Psychiatrists. They know a wide range of reasons for mental illness – evolutionary adaptation and coping advantage, lack of physical maternal contact as a baby, exposure to toxins (e.g. mercury, lead, radiation), faulty thinking e.g. black and white thinking, locus of control theory, internalisation/externalisation, lack of resilience and coping strategies, hopelessness and helplessness (Milgram’s rat experiments), thinking their situation is permanent and pervasive, genetic abnormalities e.g. downs syndrome. They also know all the neuroscience behind things like autism and ADHD and all the MRI evidence (or lack of) for different mental disorders and learning difficulties. Psychiatrists I believe are taught a biological-medical model. That mental disorder are caused by a lack of certain brain chemicals (even though in most cases there is very little evidence to none at all for this) and that all patients have to do is ‘keep taking the medication.’ Even though there is little evidence for this working too. I have taken 6 types of antidepressants and NONE of them worked, and in-fact one made me very ill what I wasn’t already! Alot of the studies on mental health drugs involve research fraud (the misuse of statistics to show there is say a 2% difference for taking an anti depressant over a placebo, using the ‘power’ stats technique and then using this to justify licensing them. All the research on mental health drugs is sponsored by drug companies themselves, (not independent research)and adverse effects are often ‘buried.’ To quote the words of an Oasis (?) song ‘the drugs don’t work’ and although some patients get helpful effect e.g. lithium for bipolar, by and large mental health drugs are like the ‘emperors new clothes.’ My second criticism of psychiatry is that they are allowed to lock people up against their will (as if being ill wasn’t distressing enough). Often this is done in an unkind manner, when unkindness isn’t necessary. If someone needs to be detained this should be done as kindly as possible. Also they are allowed to force people to take medication and have EST (electric shock treatment). Personally I think forcing people to take drugs or have ECT should be made illegal.

  26. Jane says:

    If I was to generalise wildly, quite often psychiatrists have a brain without a heart (a bit like the Wizard of Oz story) and ClinPsychs have a heart without a brain (that is the don’t question what they are doing and why they are dong it, or whether it is working and how it could be improved). Any more kindly psychiatrists have either been too indoctrinated by their training or don’t have the skills to help people except prescribe drugs.

    Some Psychiatrists are trained in giving ‘old school’ psychotherapy, however most of them (the ones I have observed in the NHS) can’t be bothered. They just assess someone using the DSM criteria, a simple tick box exercise and then pack them off to someone else to do the hard work of therapy (a ClinPsych, counsellor, mental health nurse or IAPT practitioner). Psychotherapy does not have any evidence base, I am not saying it doesn’t work, I am just saying there isn’t any evidence for it. I am not aware of any psychiatrists who have any training in CBT (which is supposedly evidence based). I think ClinPsychs are more ‘useful’ as they have training in CBT, systemic therapy, family therapy and psycho dynamic therapy as well as ‘old school’ psychotherapy. They are trained to take into account the whole person i.e. the person in the context of their environment and a range of reasons for why individuals are ill and what could be maintaining their illness.

  27. Jane says:

    Personally I don’t have very much respect for either Psychiatrists or Clinical Psychologists. I have done over 6 years of training in Psychology myself!!! (Not intentionally btw, it was to move into another area!) I have the option of going on to to do the professional doctorate in Clinical Psychology, but to be honest I often wonder if there is any point.

    My personal opinion is that the evidence of CBT being effective, shows that 6/12 months down the line patients are less likely to have relapsed than through taking drugs, (but this is not difficult given how ineffective most mental health drugs are!) There is still a significant relapse rate. CBT is also being used for pain and a whole host of other psychological disorders. I think the NHS think CBT is a panacea for all ills. However if you have lost your job and been struck down by M.S., I don’t believe any amount of CBT or talking is going to make you better! Some peoples mental disorders are caused by the fact that line is genuinely rubbish. (Schizophrenia and BP are triggered and maintained by stress). Therefore the Human Givens Approach is more effective.

    Psychiatrists need to do less drugging and locking people up and Clinical Psychologists need to do less ‘talking’. They both need to do more DOING.

    In my experience all of these things are ALOT more effective: exercise therapy, therapeutic gardening, art therapy, hypnotherapy, Human Givens Approach, Buddhist meditation on loving kindness and impermanence, yoga, singing, EFT, acupuncture, massage involving acupressure points, tai chi, British herbal and Chinese herbal remedies, NLP techniques, solution focused therapy (Shazer & Berg), guided visualisation and breathing techniques, taking vitamins and sourcing organic food (where possible).

    (I write this as someone who has had major depressive disorder for over ten years as a result of getting M.E. and has extensive experience of receiving medication, counselling and a considerable amount of CBT).

    There needs to be more willingness for psychiatrists to prescribe or pack people off for these therapies and for Clinical Psychologists to learn some of these these skills (namely SFT, HGA, hypnotherapy, NLP, meditation).

    Unfortunately there is an unwillingness in the mental health system to INNOVATE and do what ACTUALLY WORKS. As a trained scientist also, I find this incredibly frustrating!

    So in answer to the question psychiatrist or clinical psychologist… I would say neither! People would be better off teaching/helping themselves in the above techniques.

  28. Aislinn - Student says:

    Personally I diferentiate between a psychologist and a psychiatrist, probably becasue I decided that if I had to learn how to spell it I should at least learn what they actually do.
    At the end of my schooling I would really like to be a psychiatrist but also with a degree in psychology (and law!) just to sort of see what the ‘ther view’ is. So I’m not only seeing one view point. I wouldn’t mind be a forensic psychiatrist and/or psychologist or a criminal justice psychologist but I would be just as happy being ‘general’ and working in a hospital, as a psychiatrist.
    On the difference. Psychologists and psychiatrist have differnet jobs. To my sleep deprived brain I would liken them to teachers. They both deal with the same ‘sort’ of people but have different specialsations not to mention different backgrounds and training.

  29. May says:

    I felt, I needed to add something to give everybody yet another perspective.
    Not everywhere are psychiatrist just medicals with extensive knowledge of psychopharmacology. For e.g. in Germany and Austria a psychiatrist needs to complete a training in psychotherapy, may it be CBT or psychoanalysis, before they can become fully-licencsed psychiatrists.

  30. May says:

    @ jane: at least in europe the majority of psychologists and psychiatrists are now training in CBT. But there is also evidence for other techniques, e.g. treating a conversion disorder with CBT might be frustrating, while systemic therapy shows a strong effect. Its difficult to generalize about psychotherapy as well as medication. It depends heavily on the person affected, problem and severity…

  31. Bj says:

    i love it – people saying psychiatry is the way to go, or vice versa.

    it’s just toppings on a pizza, guys. psychotherapy is perfect for some people, just as psychiatry is necessary for others.

    let me give an example – an 8 year old girl who pees her pants every day at school. parents don’t know why, etc. she doesn’t need anti-diuretics, because that would be the ‘greenhouse effect’ – a cheap plastic cover to your crops, until the everyday weather breaks it down again, and exposes even more destruction.

    in this case she needs psychotherapy – help with trauma, domestic voilence, all that tedious, hands-on intervention shit that psychiatrists are not too good at.

    now, in another case, a man walks in the therapy room, and complains that his room-mates have inserted a chip in his brain, and that they work for the MI5. and you guessed it folks, it’s psychiatric time, because severe, biological mental illness as such is so fragile it needs MEDICAL attention – not heart-and-soul intervention, because that just ain’t gunna cut it.

    toppings on a pizza, guys – stop discriminating each other. and for all those scientifically-correct folks – chemicals make the world go round, but heart and soul, and all those things you deem as insignificant – are the output product, whether you like it or not.
    for you see, those of us who actually work in the industry, know there is no better cure than an all-in-one facility that caters for every type of anything – referals are common, and communication a must.

    i mean even the referal thing – i have seen it so many times… big shot psychiatrist, thinks he can do everything, then realises he needs psychotherapeutic assistance. yeah guys – it all sounds so good on paper, doesn’t it? ;) gotta love the rookies…

  32. River Song says:

    I am a child and adolescent psychiatrist; the main focus of my work is psychotherapy, either individual or family. I also prescribe medication when it is indicated, but this is not the be all and end all of my work. I work with a multidisciplinary team, I liaise with schools, forensic facilities, workplaces etc. My medical background allows me to take an holistic approach to my patients, I see the role of a clinical psychologist being complementary to that of a psychiatrist, not the enemy or the competition.

    To narrow the difference down to prescribing is reductionist and insulting to both parties.

  33. Amy Pond says:

    Wow! Thanks for this great discussion. I am only a high school senior, but I have been very interested in becoming a psychiatrist. It’s a really delicate thing though because it takes tremendous amounts of discipline and training. And for someone like me, who is surrounded by hedonistic teenagers who only think about partying, that’s a slightly difficult thing to think about. River’s comment gives me hope.

  34. Amy Pond says:

    Also, the thing that has been worrying me about this the most is the idea that psychiatrists are heartless people only prescribe drugs. I am very much interested in psychology, but I think medicine could also be used effectively. But I don’t know anything about these fields, really, those are just my two cents. *sigh*

  35. John Kay says:

    I can understand the differences in training that leads to psychiatry vs clinical or even counselling psychology. Psychiatrists and psychologist will consider mental health from different perspectives (to a degree). Psychiatrists will tend to view a comparatively medical side of mental health… psychologists a comparatively psychological side. There are overlaps but ultimately, from a client / patient point of view, the differences are vast. If I feel depressed (as an example), then I have to choose who to see… a psychiatrist, a clinical psychologist, a counselling psychologist, etc. Ultimately, if training paths lead to different specialisations which attempt to help people with depression then here is the problem for me (as a client / patient): I don’t know who helps me best. I know that I am more likely to be helped with medication if I choose to see a psychiatrist… I know that I am more likely to be helped with short term psychotherapy if I see a clinical psychologist and I know I will be helped with short/medium/long term psychotherapy if see a counselling psychologist. I (as a client / patient) have to choose. I don’t think i should have to. I think that I should be able to receive the best combination of the specialites above in order to get the best help for my depression. Is that a combination of medication for the biological side of my depression coupled with CBT for the psychological side? Great, then I hope to know that is the best route for me. If medication alone then great, that may be the best route for me. The problem I see is that as a first step, I (client / patient) make a choice which takes energy, time, money and most importantly hope… the choice of which path to take (psychology vs. psychiatry). I think that a psychologist and a psychiatrist as a team woult be my best first call. A merging of the two training paths may or may not be a good idea… I am not in a position to judge… However, if a psychiatrist can train to offer psychotherapy (any modality) and a clinical psychologist can train in psychotherapy (any modality) then I see a huge overlap… not in terms of academic and clinical research but in terms of how I can be helped with my depression. Both will offer (potentially) to help me with psychotherapy (perhaps the exact same model)… the psychiatrist will additionaly be able to prescribe some medication. The burden of making sense out of all this, should not be left on the shoulders of someone who needs help. Help should help me with this decision (not make it for me though). Perhaps my first point of call should be a team that includes a psychiatrist and a psychologist. I am perhaps an idealist…

  36. Sofiah says:

    Really wonderful eye opening perspectives throughout all the comments, but I’d like to know is it possible to study both psychology AND psychiatry? Is it a possibility to cover the none over-lapsed part of both studies? What are the chances of that happening?

  37. mad says:

    When Psychologists need high passes (or any passes) in maths and/or science to qualify entry in to the Undergrad degree I might have a bit more faith and respect. They should not be considered science based and should not be able to prescribe until that happens.

  38. I’m asked this question quite often as well. Per Sofiah’s question about one person handling both roles, this was how the field(s) originated, with most psychiatrists also practicing psychotherapy. This is becoming increasingly rarer though. From my personal perspective it’s a bit like technology or any other field of medicine, as we learn more, the professions become ever more specialized. Case in point, as a practicing psychiatrist in Texas, I find that many patients get the best care when they combine the treatment I offer with that of a counselor or psychologist. I’ve noticed tremendous improvements in those who suffer from anxiety and depression as well as adults with ADHD when they combine both forms of treatment.

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