Differences Between Psychologists and Psychiatrists

September 21, 2016 at 12:10 AM

While both psychologists and psychiatrists are mental health professionals, they handle different aspects of mental health and are accredited differently. In short, psychologists handle psychotherapeutic techniques while psychiatrists handle medical mental wellness.

Properly-licensed psychologists are accredited through their state licensing board which is part of the American Psychological Association. To be licensed, one typically has to have a doctoral degree in psychology from a regionally accredited or government-chartered institution. Some states require applicants to have a doctoral degree in psychology from an APA-accredited program. Psychologists must pass a specific 225-question test for accreditation.

Psychologists are experts in psychotherapy and psychology. This means they can offer treatment like psychodynamic therapy (so-called “talk” therapy), cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and others. Psychotherapists may choose to get additional training and specialize in a specific therapeutic technique.

Psychiatrists, on the other hand, are medical doctors. This means they can prescribe medications whereas psychologists cannot. Psychiatrists are doctors who have taken extra schooling to specialize in psychiatry. While psychiatrists are trained in psychotherapy and some may offer it, more commonly, psychiatrists primarily offer psychiatric medication management.

Whether you need to see a psychologist or psychiatrist depends on your situation and the severity of your symptoms. Once you tell your family doctor about your symptoms, he or she will likely be able to point you in the right direction.


American Psychological Association, What You Need to Know to Get Licensed. Retrieved September 1, 2016.


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