May 29, 2024

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Difference between a Psychologist and a Psychiatrist? Read Now..

12 min read

Have you always needed clarification on a Psychiatrist and a Psychologist? Well, you are not the only one, Let’s get into the details and understand how different these two are. 
Sometimes things get rough and tough for us and we look up to someone with whom we can discuss our problems and find solutions. The first people we look up to are our near and dear ones, however, when things become unmanageable, many seek professional help.
When looking for such professionals, we may come across many different names with different job titles, Psychologist, Psychiatrist, Counsellor, Psychotherapist and so on. These are names you may have come across often, but may not be entirely clear about their meaning. The biggest confusion remains between Psychiatrists and Psychologists, who are often used synonymously but do very different work.
Both are key professions in the field of mental health and behavior, but are not the same. So if you are someone looking to build a career in this arena, or just someone curious to learn more about the world around you, you should know who they are and how they both differ.
Let us go through all the key differences between a psychologist and a psychiatrist. 
 
List of Content

Who is a Psychologist and what do they do?
Types of Psychologists
Who is a Psychiatrist and what do they do?
Types of Psychiatrist
5 Differences Between Psychiatrists and Psychologists
Career Opportunities as a Psychologist
Career Opportunities as a Psychiatrist
How to Choose a Career between Psychologist & Psychiatrist?
Summing Up!
FAQs

Who Is a Psychologist and What Do They Do?
Whenever we hear the word “Psychologist” we often create an image of a ‘talk session’ in our mind. Indeed, psychologists are keenly involved in a series of talk sessions with one person, however, their work goes far beyond that. 
Before moving further, let’s understand who psychologists are. Psychologists are specialized professionals with years of experience in exploring the mind and behavior of human beings and animals as well.
They are individuals who:

Help solve problems, like treating mental illnesses, using their knowledge and research in psychology. 
Act as social scientists, investigating human behavior through research and uncovering fascinating insights into how our minds work and how we interact with others. 
Also, psychologists teach at colleges or universities.

 

Recommended Read: 5 Popular Myths About A Career in Psychology

 
Types of Psychologists
There are various branches of Psychology one can explore. Similarly, there can be various types of Psychologists. 

Applied Psychologists: These professionals apply psychological principles and research to tackle real-world issues. Examples include aviation psychologists, engineering psychologists, industrial-organizational psychologists, and human factors psychologists. They specialize in aiding individuals facing mental disorders or psychological distress, they work in hospitals, mental health clinics, schools, government offices, or private practices. Notable examples include clinical psychologists, counselling psychologists, and school psychologists.

 

Research Psychologists: They conduct studies and experiments involving human or animal participants. Working for universities, private businesses, or government entities, their research spans diverse specialities like cognition, neuroscience, personality, development, and social behaviour.

While psychology encompasses diverse career paths in research and practice, many students typically earn a degree in one of the specialized areas of psychology for example school psychology, counselling psychology, clinical psychology, etc.
 

School Psychology: School psychologists primarily work with children in educational settings. They support students’ academic, social, emotional, and behavioural well-being, collaborating with teachers to implement effective behaviour management strategies in the classroom. They offer individual and group counselling to children, consult with teachers, parents, and administrators, and conduct assessments to identify students who may require special education. 

 

Counselling Psychology: Counselling psychologists conduct individual, family, or group counselling sessions, primarily focusing on adolescents and adults. Many work in outpatient counselling centres, while some run their private practices, giving them more control over their schedule and the clients they serve.

 

Clinical Psychology: They often practice in inpatient and outpatient hospital settings, counselling centres, or private practices.

Psychology is a big umbrella that covers many branches of psychology study. Interested candidates can take up any field of psychology according to their interests and eligibility criteria.
 
Recommended Read: Exhaustive Guide to Becoming a Psychologist and its Scope In India
 
Who Is a Psychiatrist and What Do They Do?
Psychiatry is an important part of medicine that helps with mental and emotional problems. Psychiatrists are like special doctors for mental health. If someone has issues like feeling scared, seeing or hearing things that aren’t there, feeling very worried all the time, or feeling sad and hopeless, they can see a psychiatrist for help.
The psychiatrist talks with the person to understand what’s going on and may give them medicine or therapy to feel better, especially if the problems are severe.
Psychiatrists have the expertise to diagnose and provide medication for different challenging mental illnesses, including:

Schizophrenia: A disorder affecting thoughts, emotions, and behaviours, sometimes causing a disconnect from reality.
Depression: Persistent feelings of sadness and loss of interest, which can severely impact daily life.
Borderline Personality Disorder: A condition characterized by unstable emotions, self-image, and relationships.
Bipolar Disorder: Involves mood swings between depressive and manic episodes, leading to high energy and impulsive behaviour.

 
Types of Psychiatrist
There are different types of psychiatrists, each specializing in specific areas. Some of these subcategories include:

Child and Adolescent Psychiatry: These psychiatrists focus on helping kids and teenagers with their mental health.
Young Adult Psychiatry: They specialize in working with young adults, who are usually in their late teens and early twenties.
Perinatal Psychiatry: This area focuses on supporting pregnant individuals and new mothers during the pregnancy and first year after giving birth.
Geriatric Psychiatry: These psychiatrists work exclusively with older adults, addressing their mental health needs.
Addiction Psychiatry: This speciality deals with helping people who struggle with addiction to drugs, alcohol, or other substances.
Forensic Psychiatry: Forensic psychiatrists work within the legal system, providing insights on mental health issues for people involved in trials or with criminal records.

 
5 Differences Between Psychiatrists and Psychologists
To define precisely, Psychology is the scientific study of the human mind and behaviour. Individuals who practice Psychology are known as Psychologists and study how human beings think, behave and feel in different social settings. They are experts in human behaviour.
On the other hand, Psychiatry is a branch of medicine that deals with the treatment of mental illness, emotional disturbances, and abnormal behaviour. Psychiatrists look at biological, neurological and biochemical abnormalities to diagnose mental illnesses and prescribe medications to treat them.
The major differences between the two lie in many different areas, including their approaches, areas of work and educational paths. Contrary to what most people believe, they are not the same thing. Psychiatrists, as I mentioned, are medical doctors. Psychologists, while they treat mental disorders, are not restricted to them.
Here is how they differ:
Treatments
The biggest difference between the two is in the approach they take towards treating mental disorders.
Psychiatrists are doctors of medicine and are legally equipped to prescribe medications to patients. Many disorders such as Schizophrenia, Bipolar Disorder, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), etc. respond well to medications and are primarily treated through them, even though therapy can help.
A Psychiatrist takes a medication-first approach in their treatment. Once the diagnosis is done, they build a treatment course plan for the patient, focusing on managing symptoms through the use of medications and psychotherapy. While they may also be trained in psychotherapies like psychoanalysis, cognitive behavioural therapy and more, in a typical mental health care setting, the work of therapies is generally taken care of by Psychologists. 
 On the other hand, Psychologists cannot prescribe such medications. They conduct psychological tests to diagnose patients and treat them through therapy. They primarily utilize different types of therapies to manage symptoms and help their patients cope with their life problems. 
Also, use different forms of therapies, such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, Psychodynamic Therapy, Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT), Gestalt Therapy, Humanistic Therapy, etc. Moreover, they are qualified to conduct psychometric tests, which evaluate a person’s mental state and personal attributes to determine the right course of action for the patient.
Psychologists and Psychiatrists work together in many mental healthcare settings to help patients.
So, if a person is suffering from depression and recently attempted suicide, a Psychiatrist will first prescribe anti-depressant medications to the person to manage the suicidal tendencies and make the person more open to talking and treatment. 
 
Read More: Doctor as a Career in India
 
Practice Area
Psychiatrists are medical doctors and thus they mainly work in healthcare settings such as hospitals, mental health clinics or private practice. 
Within the domain of medicine, their specialization is mental health and their work only concerns that. Psychiatrists can further specialize in the field of mental health, including areas such as Forensic Psychiatry, Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Geriatric Psychiatry, Addiction Psychiatry, Clinical Neurophysiology, Pain Management, Sleep Medicine, Brain Injury Medicine, etc.
On the other hand, since Psychology is the study of the human mind and behaviour, it can be applied to various other fields, mental health being one. 
The word “Psychologist” is an umbrella term for many different subfields of Psychology such as Clinical Psychology, counselling Psychology, Child Psychology, Sports Psychology, Cognitive Psychology, Industrial/Organizational Psychology, Forensic Psychology, Educational Psychology, and more. 
Psychology graduates can choose to specialize in any of them, depending on their interests. Thus, Psychologists don’t always work with mental disorders.
 
Read More: Psychology as a Career in India

Training & Education Differences
Education qualification is the major difference between a psychologist and a psychiatrist. A Psychiatrist is a physician with a medical degree in Psychiatry. To be a Psychiatrist you will first have to complete your MBBS, followed by an M.D. in Psychiatry. 
Thus, a total of 7.5 years of study (5.5 years of MBBS + 2 years of M.D.) are required.
For a career as a Psychologist , you need to have a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology followed by a Master’s degree in Psychology. To practice as a Clinical Psychologist , you require an additional 2 years of study to obtain an M.Phil. in Clinical Psychology. A total of 5 to 7 years of study (3 years of B.A. + 2 years of M.A. + 2 years if you go for an M.Phil.) are required.
 
Job Requirements
Both psychologists and psychiatrists help people improve their mental health and well-being, but they have different focuses. Psychologists look at how thoughts and the environment affect well-being. They teach coping skills and use interventions to manage stress, behavior, and other challenges.
In contrast, psychiatrists are medical doctors and take a biological approach to treating mental health disorders. While psychologists use therapies like psychotheraphy, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, mindfulness techniques etc. Psychiatrists can also prescribe medication if needed to further aid in treatment.
 
Skills Required
Both psychiatrists and psychologists require extensive training and qualifications, along with a broad spectrum of knowledge and skills relevant to their careers. In job postings, psychologists commonly seek expertise in areas such as psychology, student services, special education, mental health, behavioural health, treatment planning, clinical psychology, psychotherapy, and psychiatry.
On the other hand, job postings for psychiatrists emphasize knowledge and skills that align more with the medical aspect of mental health treatment. These often include psychiatry, geriatrics, mental health, behavioural health, psychology, treatment planning, medication administration, mental diseases, primary care, and mental status examination.
 
Psychologist Career Opportunities
After completing the degree in psychology you can start making a flourishing career by working in multiple sectors or opening your own private counselling practice. 

Community services
Hospitals/Clinics
Businesses
Human resources
Education/Schools
Law enforcement
Intelligence and Homeland Security
Public health
Sales and marketing
Research 
Market Analysis
Sports
Defence
Social Work

This is not a limit, you can divert your career anywhere you want to lead by gaining adequate skills and knowledge. 
 
Career Opportunities in Psychiatry
Psychiatrists usually work in hospitals, especially mental hospitals to treat patients with mental health issues or disorders. You can see yourself working in a medical clinic, or a government body or having your clinic.
 
How to Choose a Career between Psychologist & Psychiatrist?
If you’re deciding between becoming a psychologist or a psychiatrist, it’s crucial to understand the differences between the two professions. Here are three tips to help you choose the right path:

Identify Your Interests: Ask yourself what aspects of each profession attract you. Do you prefer understanding psychological reasons or medical impacts on the brain? Do you want to offer talk therapy or prescribe medication? Understanding your interests will guide your decision.
Explore Your Career Goals: Consider your career goals, such as income, the pace of entry, and working with specific age groups or settings. Determine which path aligns better with achieving these goals.
Shadow Professionals: Shadow psychologists and psychiatrists to experience their work firsthand. Connect with professionals, friends or someone in your family who belongs to the same profession to ask questions and get valuable advice. Exploring both fields will give you valuable insights to make an informed decision.

 
Summing Up!
In conclusion, both psychologists and psychiatrists play essential roles in the field of mental health and well-being; and often work together. While they share the common goal of helping people overcome challenges, they approach it differently. Psychologists focus on understanding psychological and environmental factors and providing therapies and interventions to improve mental health. On the other hand, psychiatrists bring a medical perspective, diagnosing and prescribing medication alongside therapy.
Choosing between these professions requires self-reflection and understanding your interests and career goals. Exploring both fields through shadowing and conversations with professionals can provide valuable insights. Ultimately, whether you choose to be a psychologist or psychiatrist, you can make a meaningful impact on people’s lives and contribute to the betterment of mental health care.
So, here are all the major differences between Psychologists and Psychiatrists. I hope this will help you choose the right profession for yourself. Mental health is a great and rewarding field, but it also requires you to be resilient, empathetic and emotionally stable. If you are looking to build a career in this domain, you should surely evaluate yourself in these areas and take a career assessment to make the right decision.
 
Frequently Asked Questions:
 
What does a psychiatrist do?
A psychiatrist is a special doctor who helps people with their mental health. They talk to patients, ask questions, and conduct tests to understand their mental problems. Then, they create a plan to treat the issues. This plan can include giving medicines or doing talk therapy to help the patients feel better. Psychiatrists keep an eye on the progress and adjust the treatment if needed. Their goal is to improve the mental well-being of their patients and help them have happier and healthier lives.
 
How much do psychologists earn in India?
The salary of psychologists in India can vary depending on various factors such as experience, qualifications, location, and the type of organization they work for. 
With more experience and specialization, psychologists can earn more. Those working in private practice or high-profile organizations may earn even higher salaries. However, it’s essential to note that salaries can differ significantly based on individual circumstances and regional differences in India.
 
Are psychologists doctors?
In general terms, psychologists are not medical doctors. While both psychologists and medical doctors are trained professionals in their respective fields, they have different educational backgrounds and areas of expertise. Psychologists hold advanced degrees in psychology and focus on understanding human behavior, thoughts, and emotions. They offer therapeutic interventions, counselling, and assessments to address mental health issues.
 
How to become a psychologist?
To become a psychologist, you should start by earning a Bachelor’s degree in psychology or a related field. Some universities also offer specialized programs in areas like clinical psychology, counselling psychology, or educational psychology. After completing your Bachelor’s degree, consider enrolling in a Master’s program in psychology to gain specialized knowledge and skills. 
During your studies, seek opportunities for internships, research projects, or volunteer work in psychology-related settings to gain practical experience. Depending on your career goals, you may need to pursue a doctoral degree (PhD or Psy.D.) in psychology for certain positions, particularly in clinical or counselling psychology. Once you have the required education, you’ll need to obtain a license to practice independently as a psychologist. 
Additionally, staying updated with the latest research and developments in psychology through continuous learning is crucial for a successful career in this field.
 
Which one is better: clinical psychologist vs psychiatrist?
The choice between a clinical psychologist and a psychiatrist depends on individual interests and career goals. Clinical psychologists primarily focus on providing psychotherapy and counselling to help individuals with mental health challenges. They use psychotherapy and various therapeutic techniques to address psychological issues. 
On the other hand, psychiatrists are medical doctors who can diagnose and treat mental health disorders through medication and psychotherapy. If one prefers a non-medical approach and enjoys working closely with clients in therapy, a clinical psychologist may be a better fit. However, for those interested in a medical perspective and prescribing medication, psychiatry might be a better choice.

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