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What is the difference between a psychologist and a psychiatrist?

What is the difference between a psychologist and a psychiatrist?

June 6, 2023

The clinical psychology and the psychiatry they are two disciplines applied in the field of mental health that are frequently confused. The type of problems they address and their working methods may have a certain similarity, but there are clear differences between them.

If you want to avoid confusion of this type, this article may be useful when viewing the differences between the psychologist and the psychiatrist and distinguish both types of professional profiles.

If you doubt the role of mental health professionals, check this post: "The difference between psychologist, psychoanalyst and psychotherapist"

Differences between the psychologist and the psychiatrist

1. The academic course of each discipline

Clinical psychologists and psychiatrists have a very different education. The first ones come from undergraduate and university degrees in Psychology and then specialize in clinical psychology , while psychiatrists go through the medical university career to then specialize in the branch of psychiatry .

Therefore, the skills and knowledge of both professionals are very different: the psychiatrist has more knowledge about the human body as an organism and its neurological functioning, while the psychologist is more trained in social sciences and cultural dynamics.

2. Approaches tend to be different

As a consequence of the previous point, another of the differences between the psychologist and the psychiatrist is found in the focus used. The psychiatrist has a biologist approach of human behavior and affective states, and therefore focuses on the physiological and chemical aspects of the human body (especially those related to the nervous system and hormones).

For its part, the psychologist can adopt more heterogeneous postures that place more emphasis on the social context, personal relationships and culture (although it can also adopt a focus centered on the patient's organism as something isolated, depending on the type of psychological current to which it is assigned.

3. The type of problems they treat

Psychiatrists tend to take care of most problematic mental problems , whereas the phenomena treated by psychologists are more heterogeneous. This is so because psychiatrists tend to focus their activity focusing on those improvements that can occur through the pharmacological treatments , and these are discouraged in most people who do not have a mental disorder diagnosed by the multiple side effects they may have.

Psychologists, although they can also intervene as support and in almost all cases treated by psychiatrists or directly complement the psychiatric approach, also can offer their services to virtually anyone without serious alterations, although he has not been diagnosed with any particular psychopathology.

4. The intervention method

Another difference between the psychologist and the psychiatrist is in their way of approaching the patient's problems. A psychiatrist almost always uses more or less invasive methods , since the problems it deals with are more severe. Also, since the psychiatrist is a doctor, is legally qualified to prescribe drugs , something that does not happen in the case of psychologists, responsible for providing psychological guidance and propose techniques based on habits and behavior.

Know more: "Types of psychological therapy"


In short, both disciplines are different enough to have their own areas of application, but that does not mean they are not complementary: they often are.

To speak of differences between the psychologist and the psychiatrist is also to recognize their own lines of training and work as relatively independent trajectories, but what is clear is that both approaches are useful when intervening in mental health .

The Difference between a Psychiatrist and Psychologist (June 2023).

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