When it comes to mental health, we often hear about two types of doctors - psychologistsand psychiatrists. Both deal with treating the mental health and have overlapping areas of expertise. Both of them deal with the mind and how it functions to affect our behaviour and overall well-being. They also work together when it is required to diagnose, treat and prevent mental ailments.
But despite these commonalities in their expertise, a psychiatrist is different from a psychologist in a number of ways as well. Let's learn about the differences so that the next time we don't get confused and can address them more aptly.
And remember, only these two professionals do not deal with mental health problems. There are also counsellors, social workers, nurse practitioners, psychotherapistsand a whole lot of other people who do the same.
Here is a guide to understand the difference between a psychiatrist and a psychologist:
A psychiatrist is a doctor who has expertise in diagnosing, treating and preventing mental illness. A psychiatrist gets trained at the medical school and does a year of internship followed by specialized training as a psychiatric resident.
He/she is trained to differentiate mental problems from other medical conditions that could come with psychiatric symptoms. A psychiatrist also keeps a check on the effect of mental illness on other physical stateslike heart or blood pressure and the effect of the medications on our body in terms of weight, blood pressure and sugar, sleep, functioning of the kidney or liver, etc.
Apsychiatrist can prescribe medicines. Sometimes, a combination of medication and psychotherapy is required and in that case, a psychiatrist can refer the patient to a counsellor.
A psychologist, on the other hand, has a doctoral degree in psychology - a discipline which studies the mind and behaviours. A psychologist is trained in evaluating and treating mental and emotional problems. A psychologist completes internship of two-three years and provides training in treatment, theory and therapy related to psychology.
Psychologists can counsel and give psychotherapy treatments but they are not doctors like the psychiatrists. It means they cannot write prescriptions or carry out medical procedures. A psychologist can assist a psychiatrist who provides medical treatment to the mentally ill.
Besides these two, a licensed mental health counsellor is one who holds a Master's degree in psychology or counselling or any related discipline; a clinical social worker is one who has a master's degree in social work and can treat mental illnesses. There are also nurses who are specialised in mental health services and are known as mental health nurse.