Psychiatrist or psychologist? What's the difference?

3 min read
Sofia veil

The quest for necessary support to tackle mental health issues often raises questions about choosing the right professional to consult: a psychiatrist or a psychologist? Understanding the distinctions between these two specialists will help you make an informed decision based on your specific needs.

Understanding the difference

A psychiatrist is a mental health professional who is also a medical doctor. After completing medical studies, they specialize in psychiatry. Authorized to make diagnoses, prescribe medications, and provide medical interventions, psychiatrists often adopt a medical approach to address mental health issues.

On the other hand, a psychologist is trained in psychology. Their expertise lies in evaluating, diagnosing, and treating mental health disorders through therapeutic approaches. Psychologists are not authorized to prescribe medications, but they work closely with physicians. If medication is deemed necessary, the psychologist will refer you to a psychiatrist or another qualified healthcare professional.

When to consult a psychiatrist?

In cases where symptoms require thorough medical evaluation or if the possibility of using medication to treat a mental health disorder is being considered, consulting a psychiatrist might be relevant. Situations involving severe symptoms such as hallucinations, suicidal thoughts, or manic episodes demand psychiatric evaluation.

When to consult a psychologist?

If you need an approach focused on therapy and understanding the psychological aspects of your problems, a psychologist might be the appropriate choice. Psychologists work with techniques such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, psychodynamic therapy, or other therapeutic modalities to help individuals understand and overcome their mental and emotional challenges.

The role of the general practitioner

The care journey often begins with the general practitioner. If you experience mental health symptoms, consult your doctor. They can guide you to the appropriate professional based on your specific needs.

The choice between a psychiatrist and a psychologist depends on the nature of your symptoms. Start with a consultation with your general practitioner; they can direct you to the appropriate psychotherapist.