It is a common experience for individuals to mistake a psychologist with a psychiatrist or vice versa. Most people do not know the difference between the two nor know which professional to seek out when they are looking for help for whatever challenges they are experiencing. This is often because the two professionals usually work together for their patients or clients. At times their professional roles overlap.

Psychologists and psychiatrists also receive very different educational trainings as well as in practice. While both are typically trained to practice psychotherapy, their differences in training and background renders different approaches in solving mental health problems. Both psychiatrists and psychologists study the mind and how it affects an individual’s overall wellness.

Psychologists (PsyD vs PhD) :

Unlike psychiatrists, psychologists do not attend medical school. Instead psychologist attend graduate school, where they receive a doctoral degree (either a doctorate of psychology (PsyD.), or a doctorate of philosophy (PhD.). An individual with a PsyD implies their training and education was more clinically focused, in regard to psychosocial therapy. On the other hand, an individual with a PhD, implies their training and education is more research based.

Psychology students are required to complete an internship that can last one to two years before graduating. After the internship, to become licensed, most states also require one or two years of practical work experience supervised by an authorized mental health professional, also known as a post-doctoral residency.

Psychologists can specialize in psychological testing and evaluation (like personality tests or IQ tests). They use information from the tests and clinical interviews to write up an overall evaluation, determine a diagnosis and develop a treatment plan or provide referrals necessary for individuals.

Psychologist can work in a myriad of places. Some psychologists work in private practices where the patients and clients come to the psychologist’s office. Some psychologist work in health care teams such as; medical schools, military or government settings, outpatient clinics, hospitals, community health and mental health centers, nursing homes, pain clinics, and rehabilitation facilities. Psychologist can also be involved in the educational field, teaching at universities or professional schools.

Overall, psychologist assess, diagnose, and treat psychological problems that can result from, or relate to mental and physical health.


Psychiatrists have medical degrees which is the greatest difference between psychologist and psychiatrist. Psychiatrist receive the same medical school education that medical doctors do, like a pediatrician. They have a doctor of medicine degree, also known as (M.D.). After receiving their M.D., psychiatrist are required to complete four years of psychiatry residency. Training takes place in in-patient, out-patient, and emergency room settings.

Psychiatrist learn specific treatment plans for medical conditions, the functions and systems of the human body, as well as the history and physical examination skills. Psychiatrists use a variety of treatments – including various forms of psychotherapy, medications, psychosocial interventions and other treatments (such as electroconvulsive therapy or ECT), depending on the needs of each patient. Psychiatrist may see an individual once a week for psychotherapy or once a month for medication management, depending on the needs of the individual.

Psychiatrists can work in a variety of settings such as; nursing homes, private practices, clinics, general and psychiatric hospitals, military settings, university medical centers, community agencies, emergency rooms, courts and prisons, industry, government, rehabilitation programs, and hospice programs. Psychiatrists, being medical doctors, rely more on pharmacological approaches in combination with the most common therapy for given disorders.

Overall, like psychologist, psychiatrist evaluate, diagnose, and treat individuals with mental disorders, on top of prescribing medication.

How Psychologists and Psychiatrists work together

Neither professional is more important than the other, however they work together as a team to treat mental health problems. Together, psychiatrist and psychologist determine the best treatment plans for individuals, depending on what they need.

If an individual needs medication, they are often referred to psychiatrist by psychologist to ensure their medication needs are met. An individual may need a psychological evaluation or intensive psychotherapy services, so a psychiatrist may refer the individual to a psychologist.

Psychiatrists and psychologists also work together in hospitals as part of mental health teams. It is important to determine the type of services an individual needs when determining if a psychologist, psychiatrist or both are needed to improve ones mental health. If there is uncertainty about whether to see a psychiatrist or a psychologist, talk to a general practitioner. They can provide advice about whether a psychiatrist or a psychologist is needed.


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