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Difference Between a Psychologist and a Psychiatrist

 Psychologists and psychiatrists are both related to the field of mental health. However, they differ in their training and treatment approaches. 

Psychologists mostly have doctoral degrees in psychology and specialize in psychotherapy, using talk therapy and various therapeutic techniques to help patients who come with emotional and behavioral issues. They are expert in psychological testing and assessment for diagnostic purposes. But, psychologists cannot prescribe medication. On the other hand, psychiatrists are medical doctors who undergo specialized training in mental health. They can prescribe medication and often use a combination of medication management and psychotherapy. Due to their medical expertise, psychiatrists assess the physical aspects of mental health conditions such as genetics and neurobiology. But psychologists focus on counseling, psychiatrists may handle complex cases that require medications or a medical and psychological approach is needed. The choice between a psychologist and a psychiatrist depends on the nature of the mental health.

What is a psychologist?


A psychologist is a person who is trained in studying the mind and is a professional who can help a person with mental health problems.


To become a psychologist requires a university degree. To practice as a psychologist a person needs at a minimum, a master’s degree in clinical psychology. Many psychologists also study further and get a doctorate in psychology.

Treatments they offer:

Psychologists are mental health professionals that can help people by counseling or psychotherapy. They are not legally able to prescribe medications though.

Employment of psychologists:

Psychologists work in a variety of different settings. Some work at universities where their focus is on research and teaching. Others offer counseling and therapy to the public and may have their own private practice. Forensic psychologists work with law enforcement to understand the criminal mind.

What is a Psychiatrist?


A psychiatrist is a mental health professional who is a medical doctor.


To become a psychiatrist a person has to be accepted to medical school, and after successfully completing this, enter a residency program that is four years long. The doctor may then also choose to do a fellowship in psychiatry.

Treatments they offer:

Psychiatrists offer a range of treatments including psychotherapy and group therapy. However, unlike a psychologist, a psychiatrist can and does prescribe psychiatric medication. 

Employment of psychiatrists:

Psychiatrists are medical doctors who work in the healthcare environment. They may be based at hospitals, clinics, or have their own private practice. Forensic psychiatrists will work with individuals who are incarcerated and have committed crimes.

Difference between a Psychologist and a Psychiatrist


A psychologist is a professional who studies the human mind and offers therapy. A psychiatrist is a medical doctor who helps people with mental illness through therapy and prescribing medication.


The qualifications that a psychologist has includes a Master’s degree in psychology; many have a PhD. The qualifications that a psychiatrist has include an MD, residency, and sometimes a fellowship.

Employment in a medical setting

Psychologists are only sometimes found working in a medical setting. Psychiatrists always work with ill patients in a medical setting.


Psychologists may offer counseling, CBT, or psychotherapy. Psychiatrists offer psychotherapy or CBT.


A psychologist can never prescribe medication. A psychologist can, and often does prescribe medication.

Examples of subspecialties

Subspecialties for psychology include: clinical psychologist, industrial psychologist, child psychologist, and forensic psychologist. Subspecialties for psychiatry include: child psychiatrist, criminal psychiatrist, forensic psychiatrist, and general psychiatrist.

Table comparing Psychologist and a Psychiatrist

Summary of Psychologist Vs. Psychiatrist

  • A psychologist and psychiatrist are both people who help individuals with mental health issues.
  • A psychologist does not have a medical degree and cannot prescribe medicine.
  • A psychiatrist has a medical degree and can prescribe medication.
  • There are various subspecialties within both psychiatry and psychology.


Is it best to see a psychologist or psychiatrist?

It depends what problem you are experiencing as to which professional to consult. People who are suicidal or severely mentally ill need medication, which can only be prescribed by a psychiatrist. A psychologist is helpful for more general problems in coping with depression or everyday struggles.

What is the difference between a psychiatrist and a psychologist in Canada?

A psychiatrist is a medical doctor who can prescribe medicine. In Canada, psychologists can give assessments to help diagnose mental health issues.

Can psychologists diagnose in Canada?

Yes, psychologists in Canada can diagnose patients with mental health disorders.

Is a psychologist or psychiatrist better for anxiety?

It is typically better to see a psychologist if you have anxiety. They can advise further and can always suggest referral to a doctor once they have assessed you.

What are the benefits of seeing a psychologist?

A psychologist can help you discover why you may feel depressed or anxious. They can also help identify your bad habits and suggest ways to improve your overall life. 

How many years does it take to become a psychologist in Canada?

After receiving a bachelor’s degree, it takes somewhere between five to eight years to qualify as a psychologist in Canada.

What types of psychologists can diagnose?

Clinical psychologists are the type of professionals that can diagnose mental problems.

What are the two most diagnosed psychological disorders?

Anxiety and mood disorders are the most commonly diagnosed psychological disorders.

What disorders do psychologists deal with?

Psychologists deal with a range of mental health disorders and problems.

How do psychologists identify mental illness?

Psychologists have assessment tests and consultations with the patient; this helps in identifying mental illness.

Do I need counseling or therapy?

Therapy is done more often for mental health conditions. Counseling is more of a short-term solution in helping people cope with everyday problems.

What do psychiatrists do for severe anxiety?

Psychiatrists often prescribe medication, often SSRIs to help patients with anxiety.

What is the best psychological therapy for anxiety?

It is thought that cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is the best option for people with anxiety.

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  1. “Although the terms ‘psychologist’ and ‘psychiatrist’ are used interchangeably to describe qualified individuals who provide the therapy services, the meanings varies on whether you are a student of psychology or a buyer looking for a mental healthcare provider.”

    The second part of this sentence is incorrect. A psychologist has a Bachelor of Arts (in Australia, at least), and has no medical training. A psychiatrist is a doctor who has specialised in Psychiatry after obtaining his/her degree. The meaning *does not* differ depending on who you are. What you mean is that, if you are seeking professional mental health help, you may go to either one. And this is true. Generally, however, if you are seeking treatment for something that needs to be treated with medication, such as severe depression or schizophrenia, you will need to see a psychiatrist first, who *may* also counsel you. If you are seeking help but are unsure who to speak to, you would first see a psychologist, who would talk to you about your problems, and either continue seeing you, or refer you onto a psychiatrist for medication, or both.

    Often, psychiatrists will medicate a patient and monitor him/her, but the patient will regularly see a psychologist who counsels the patient and deal with the cognitive, behavioural and emotional side (as opposed to the chemical) of their problems.

    • A psychologist is a client agent who sever client for his/her good and healthy life.

      A psychiatrist is a government social control agent who punish patient under the name of care and help, using the side effect of drug to poison, torture, rape, electric shock for the porpuse to bring undetectable brain damage to the victim.

      Psychiatrist responsable for school shooting world wide tragedy. All the gunman are the psychiatrist torture victim. The purpose to create mass murder tragedy is to build a association of mental illness people and mass murder in public mind. In other word, the truth, fact, realty of public were munipulated by psychiatrist.

      Assertive community treadment done by psychiatrist directly responsible for anti-social mass murder world wide. Assertive community treadment, under the name of care and help, abuse, torture, poison, and create psychiatrist mind controled slave carrying out murder and other tasks for political porpuses.

      Psychiatry is the world most dark evil power build on this plant by the government and Religan power.

      The enemy of Psychiatrist is CCHR, who expose their real crimes, while psycholorist has no enemy.

    • “A psychiatrist is a medical doctor and a psychologist is not a doctor”

      Incorrect statement, even though you know what you are talking about and I know what you mean. The statement should read “A psychiatrist is a medical doctor and a psychologist is not a MEDICAL doctor”.

      Unfortunately the public automatically thinks of a “doctor” as interchangeable with “medical doctor”. A person with a “doctorate” in pharmacology usually can provide a quicker answer about a particular agent than a “medical doctor”. A person with a doctorate in Physiology can usually give a more detailed account on what would make a better flight suit to combat the typical forces encountered in high-G flight, as opposed to your family “doctor” general practitioner.

      A psychologist *might* be a “doctor”- meaning he or she holds a doctoral degree.

      1. A psychologist is a person who has at least obtained an undergraduate degree, and more often denotes a person who holds a graduate (masters) or doctorate degree in the field of psychology.

      2. A psychiatrist is a person who has completed medical school (like all the other medical doctors looking for a specific field to go into) *and* has simply selected to undertake and finish, the required training for the field of psychiatry (instead of specific training in say, dermatology, general surgery, ENT, ortho, radiology, etc.)

      It is unfortunate that most people are oblivious to how med school works. Getting through the initial 4 years of med school basically means nothing- because getting “somewhere” in medicine is predicated on getting into, and completing training in a specialty (highly competitive for radiology, ortho, and some others). This is one reason why so many physicians leave the military as soon as their student loans are paid off… because the military often keeps them in limbo without giving them specialty training which equates to (I’m not afraid to say it) being “poor” and basically chained to a chincy job tending to scrapes, bruises, broken arms and the common cold- which translates to working in the arm pit of the medical field.

      Medical School (like Law School) just gives a student the bare basics of the field… The real world training comes after that.

      Skip paying big bucks for the Psychiatrist- see the psycologist (for the often worthless pep talk), and drive across the state line to the Nurse Practitioner to get a prescription for your meds (to minimize the amount of times that you hear voices that aren’t really there) 😉
      ** tongue-in-cheek **


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References :

[0]Guthrie, Lisa. “What is a psychiatrist?” WebMD, 2023,  https://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/what-is-psychiatrist”

[1]Roe, Robert A. "What makes a competent psychologist?" European psychologist 7.3 (2002): 192.

[2]WebMD. “What is a psychologist.” WebMD, 2023, https://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/what-is-psychologist

[3]Image credit: https://www.canva.com/photos/MADer51OF-c-supportive-female-psychologist/

[4]Image credit: https://www.canva.com/photos/MAFiDM2_zYM-woman-with-mental-health-problems-is-consulting-psychiatrist-is/

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