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Psychiatrist vs. Psychologist: Know the Difference

Shumaila Saeed
By Shumaila Saeed || Updated on December 25, 2023
A psychiatrist is a medical doctor who can prescribe medication and treats mental illnesses, while a psychologist typically has a doctoral degree in psychology and focuses on therapy and counseling.
Psychiatrist vs. Psychologist

Key Differences

A psychiatrist is a medical doctor specialized in psychiatry, the study and treatment of mental illness, emotional disturbance, and abnormal behavior. A psychologist, on the other hand, is an expert in psychology, the science of the mind and behavior, and often provides counseling and therapy.
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Psychiatrists can prescribe medication as they have a medical degree. Psychologists generally cannot prescribe medication (except in a few U.S. states where they have additional training and certification).
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Psychiatrists often treat serious mental disorders like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and major depression. Psychologists handle a wide range of issues, including emotional and behavioral problems, but often refer patients with serious mental illnesses to psychiatrists.
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Training for psychiatrists includes medical school and a residency in psychiatry. Psychologists typically hold a doctoral degree (Ph.D. or Psy.D.) and have extensive training in psychological research and therapy methods.
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Psychiatrists might use a combination of medication and therapy to treat patients. Psychologists often use various forms of therapy, like cognitive-behavioral or psychoanalytic therapy, without medication.
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Comparison Chart

Qualification

Medical doctor (MD or DO).
Doctoral degree in psychology (Ph.D. or Psy.D.).
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Prescribing Power

Can prescribe medication.
Cannot prescribe medication (generally).
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Focus Areas

Treats serious mental illnesses.
Handles a range of emotional, behavioral issues.
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Training

Medical school plus residency in psychiatry.
Doctoral-level training in psychology.
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Treatment Methods

Medication and therapy.
Various forms of therapy.
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Psychiatrist and Psychologist Definitions

Psychiatrist

A professional who can prescribe psychiatric medication.
The psychiatrist adjusted his medication to better manage the symptoms.
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Psychologist

A professional trained in psychological theories and techniques.
The psychologist employed different techniques to help her cope with grief.
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Psychiatrist

A medical doctor specialized in diagnosing and treating mental illnesses.
The psychiatrist prescribed medication to help with her anxiety.
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Psychologist

A professional specializing in the study of the mind and behavior.
The psychologist helped him understand the root of his stress.
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Psychiatrist

A physician focusing on mental health, including substance use disorders.
The psychiatrist provided treatment for her depression and substance abuse.
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Psychologist

An expert trained in administering psychological tests and assessments.
The psychologist conducted several tests to assess her learning disabilities.
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Psychiatrist

A clinician trained to perform psychiatric evaluations.
The psychiatrist offered a new perspective on her condition after evaluation.
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Psychologist

A therapist providing counseling and psychotherapy.
The psychologist used cognitive-behavioral therapy to treat his phobias.
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Psychiatrist

A medical expert in the field of mental health.
The psychiatrist conducted a thorough assessment of his mental state.
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Psychologist

A researcher studying various aspects of human behavior.
The psychologist published a study on the effects of social media on teenagers.
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Psychiatrist

A physician who specializes in psychiatry.
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Oct 19, 2023

Psychologist

A specialist in psychology.
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Psychiatrist

(medicine) A medical doctor specializing in psychiatry.
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Psychologist

See clinical psychologist.
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Psychiatrist

A physician who specializes in psychiatry
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Psychologist

An expert in the field of psychology.
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Psychologist

One who is versed in, devoted to, psychology.
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Psychologist

A scientist trained in psychology
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Repeatedly Asked Queries

Can a psychologist diagnose mental health disorders?

Yes, psychologists can diagnose mental health disorders.
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Are psychiatrists trained in psychotherapy?

Yes, many psychiatrists are trained in various forms of psychotherapy.
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What is the main difference between a psychiatrist and a psychologist?

A psychiatrist is a medical doctor who can prescribe medication; a psychologist is not a medical doctor and focuses on therapy.
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Can psychiatrists perform psychological testing?

Yes, but it is more commonly done by psychologists.
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Do psychologists conduct research?

Yes, many psychologists are involved in psychological research.
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Are the services of a psychologist covered by insurance?

It depends on the insurance plan, but many do cover psychological services.
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Can psychologists work in hospitals?

Yes, psychologists often work in hospitals, clinics, and private practice.
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What is a clinical psychologist?

A clinical psychologist specializes in diagnosing and treating mental health issues.
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Is a psychiatrist's education longer than a psychologist's?

Yes, due to medical school and residency requirements.
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Do psychiatrists treat children and adolescents?

Yes, some psychiatrists specialize in child and adolescent psychiatry.
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Can a psychologist have a PhD?

Yes, many psychologists hold a Ph.D. or Psy.D.
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Can a psychologist prescribe medication?

Generally, no, except in a few U.S. states where they have special certification.
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Is it common for psychiatrists and psychologists to work together?

Yes, they often collaborate for comprehensive patient care.
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Do psychiatrists treat addiction?

Yes, psychiatrists often treat substance use disorders and addiction.
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Do psychologists need a license to practice?

Yes, psychologists must be licensed to practice in their state.
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Are psychiatrists more expensive than psychologists?

This can vary, but psychiatrists' rates are often higher due to their medical training.
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Can psychiatrists perform surgery?

No, psychiatrists do not perform surgery.
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Do psychologists treat serious mental illnesses?

They can, but often collaborate with psychiatrists in such cases.
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Can a psychologist help with relationship issues?

Yes, psychologists often provide therapy for relationship issues.
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Do psychiatrists only prescribe medication?

No, they also provide psychotherapy and other treatments.
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About Author
Shumaila Saeed
Written by
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed, an expert content creator with 6 years of experience, specializes in distilling complex topics into easily digestible comparisons, shining a light on the nuances that both inform and educate readers with clarity and accuracy.

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