What’s The Difference Between Psychologists And Psychiatrists

How To Distinguish The Two Terms Most People Confuse When new words and terms come into use, it’s easy sometimes to get them confused. Many people get misled by someone else’s explanation of a term that they haven’t heard before and hence spread the wrong information afterward.

This is no one’s fault, but it’s essential to correct your mistakes once you know the correct information. Psychology and psychiatry are both fast-developing sciences, and because of that, we constantly have new terms and definitions in these fields.

Some people, however, tend to confuse the two, and although they are in the same broad area of science, they positively do not mean the same thing. Here we explain where their differences and similarities lie so that you can make sure you’re using the correct words in your next conversation.

The Definition Of A ‘Psychologists’

Psychodynamic Psychology

Alright, now, to understand what the term “psychologist” really means, we have to delve deeper into a couple of things:

  1. What is psychology?
  2. What does it focus on?
  3. What sort of education is needed?
  4. How do they help people?
  5. What are the most common practices?

What Is Psychology?

According to the American Psychological Association, the definition of psychology is “The scientific study of the mind and behavior.”

It includes many sub-fields and connects with different sciences (for instance, biology, chemistry, and history).

What Does It Focus On?

Psychology’s main focus and purpose are to describe and explain human behavior with the help of research, statistics, and listening to the individual in question. Next, its idea is to predict what their behavior may be in certain situations and change or control it if that’s needed.

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Pretty… Cool, eh?

What Is The Education Required?


To become a clinical psychologist (the most common type one associates with the word), you need an undergraduate degree (four or five years in college). Then, you also need a doctorate/master’s degree in psychology (four to seven years in graduate school).

After that, you need to obtain a license to practice.  There are over one million practicing psychologists in the world.

How Do They Help People?

Psychologists help their patients through therapy and behavioral modification. There are many different sorts of therapy that psychologists may choose from as the correct one/ones for their patient, including but not limited to talk therapy, cognitive-behavioral and psychodynamic.

If the individual requires medication, they work with psychiatrists and physicians to provide them with the proper treatment.

What Are Some Common Practices?

A typical therapy session with a psychologist is around an hour or two, and it consists of an honest two-way conversation. In it, the therapist asks questions and assesses the patient’s answers. Then, the psychologist offers advice, points out some critical statements, and focuses the conversation on what’s actually important.

The patient is never judged on their behavior, thoughts, and emotions and is encouraged to say exactly how they feel and what they think in the safe space the psychologist provides.

What they say is also strictly confidential. Sometimes the therapist gives “homework” to the patient. This can take the form of anything – from watching a movie, writing down some thoughts, or taking a walk in a specific place.

What About Psychiatrists?

Okay, now, in short, psychologists strive to understand how people think, feel, and behave, to help them modify certain behaviors.

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But what about psychiatrists? Well, let’s do the same breakdown we did above!

What Is Psychiatry?

Psychiatry is the branch of medicine that focuses on diagnosing, treating, and preventing mental and behavioral disorders.

It includes physical and psychological evaluation and considers the patient’s biology, personal history, and neurological state.

What Does It Focus On?

Psychiatrists focus on the mental state of their patients and its relationship to their physical well-being.

They deal with long-term conditions, sudden changes, addiction, and all sorts of disorders.

What Sort Of Education Do You Need?

In order to become a psychiatrist, you need to finish medical school and take a test for a license to practice medicine. After that, you need to complete four years of psychiatry residency training. Most psychiatrists then take a voluntary test to become certified by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology.

A good note here is that every certificate needs to be re-issued every ten years. Here’s also an interesting fact: There are approximately 400 000 practicing psychiatrists today.

How Do They Help People?

Biological Psychology

They often perform complete physical and psychological tests, alongside discussions with the patient himself, to paint the whole picture of their mental state and offer treatment. They can also provide immediate medical help if needed and offer different types of therapy, such as electroconvulsive therapy.

Seeing as they are doctors they can determine if medications are necessary, and prescribe them, as well as appoint therapy with psychologists.

What Are Some Of Their Most Common Practices?

A typical visit to the psychiatrist takes between one and two hours and includes filling some paperwork and assessments followed by some questions. Again, the patient is never judged based on his feelings and thoughts and is encouraged to be as honest as possible. After the psychiatrist has all the information required, he shares his advice on getting the help required.

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This often involves working with a psychologist in the form of therapy and medication, if needed. It is common to order some lab tests before prescribing meds for the first time to make sure they will respond in the right way to the patient’s body.

A follow-up visit is also scheduled to ensure everything is going in the right direction.

The Differences

As you can see, though the names sound similar, the two professions are vastly different, mainly in the way they help people. Although they work together, psychologists and psychiatrists work towards bettering the patient’s mental state using different tools. One most commonly being therapy and the other, a full medical evaluation and advice.

It is also crucial to highlight that only psychiatrists are allowed to prescribe medication! Another vital difference is that one has a medical education while the other has a different doctorate degree. Both psychologists and psychiatrists are equally important but for different reasons, and although they often have the same patients, they are not interchangeable.

Realizing the differences between the two will ensure that people get the type of help they need. We hope you enjoyed this article and if so, stay tuned with our blog for more articles like this!