Differences in Psychologist and Psychiatrist?

Updated on September 15, 2011
S.R. asks from Clinton, MO
14 answers

If you wanted someone just talk to and help you work through your problems and issues, NOT someone to give you meds, which would you see? I am only specifically looking for someone to sit down and talk to. A counselor is not really the right fit in this situation, there are a lot of issues that need to be worked through. The internet isn't really answering my question as to which is the right choice. Thank you all!

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answers from Tampa on

I am a psychologist (PhD) and agree that many of the responses below are correct in that a psychologist is trained to focus on diagnosis and talk-therapy while psychiatrist has a medical degree and by training focused on medication. Psychiatrists tend to treat people with more severe mental illness which requires medication (psychosis, bipolar, severe depression) and while they too will talk to you, that is not the focus of their training. The one advantage to seeing a psychiatrist is that if you do need medication, they can prescribe it. However, given that you would prefer to work through issues in therapy, I would start with a psychologist and they can always refer you to an MD for medication if that is what's called for at some point.

The other key issue is finding someone you click with. Just like any other relationship, it is not always easy to find a therapist you click with and often takes trial and error. The first few sessions are often about "test-driving" the therapist. Most of the time you will know from the first session whether it is someone you feel comfortable with.

Good luck!

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answers from Chicago on

Psychologist. A psychiatrist also can talk you through problems too, but the difference is they have a medical degree and can prescribe medication. A psychologist is not an M.D.

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answers from Boston on

Sounds like a Master's level social worker, Master's level counselor or Psychologist is what you are looking for. Counselors are trained in therapy but not as much assessment and testing as Phd or Psyd's. Psychiatrist went to med school and is for meds. If your therapist feels you could benefit from meds, they will refer you. Consider group therapy as well, it can be very beneficial.

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answers from New York on

You do not need a psychiatrist right away. A psychologist will do talk therapy. A psychiatrist is a medical doctor who prescribes meds. Start with just a psychologist, or An msw or a licensed social worker or LPC (licensed professional counselor)


answers from Columbia on

Both will talk to you. Psychiatrists can prescribe drugs. But you don't have to accept them.

The thing is, regardless of who you see, you need to tell them what you need. What you are expecting. A psychiatrist will not just throw drugs at you if you say "hey, I really don't want to use medications to take care of this....I need counseling."



answers from Anchorage on

A psychologist definitely.....

A psychiatrist is a doctor who can and will most likely offer you drugs for your 'mental disturbance' -- from what I have heard they are really pro drug -- don't ever take your child to one of these dr.'s.

Look for a therapist or psychologist, maybe even look in the phone book under marriage and family therapist.



answers from St. Louis on

I would look for a counseling psychologist (PhD) if an MA counselor isn't a good fit, for whatever reason. Both are trained and licensed to provide therapeutic counseling.


answers from Chicago on

Same functionality, only a psychiatrist can prescribe meds.



answers from St. Louis on

You've gotten the jest of it psycholoist is what you are looking for. I just wanted to add that the people I know that see a psychiatrist only spend about 20 minw them and they write a script and send them out the door.



answers from Cincinnati on

ok I think you need to broaden your definition of counselor. A Phycologist can be a counselor. So can a social worker, so can certain nurses. A phycologist studies has a PHD, And Psychiatist has a MD and a PHD. Generally people who go regularly see both, or see a physcologist and another MD. They see the physcologist for general counsceling, and an MD to prescribe meds if nesscery. A phsycitrist will see you for a general evulation (to get a history and see if you need meds.) then you go to a physcologist, who depending on your situation, will continue to see you or refer you to someone who is more use to dealing with your situation.



answers from Honolulu on

Psychiatrist: has medical training background and can prescribe meds.
Psychologist: does not have this training or background and cannot prescribe meds.

A Counselor, can be a social worker/psychologist



answers from Seattle on

A psychologist or social worker is almost always a counselor, a psychiatrist (MD) is sometimes, but rarely a counselor.

Usually psychologists or MSWs work as a team WITH a psychiatrist. The psychologist or MSW does the therapy, and if any meds are decided upon, the psychiatrist does the med management



answers from Pittsburgh on

psychology.about.com/od/psychotherapy/f/psychvspsych.htm states this:

The simplest answer lies in the educational background required for each profession. A psychiatrist has a degree in medicine and a psychologist has a doctoral-level degree in psychology. However, there are a number of other distinctions that make each profession quite unique.

Psychologists receive graduate training in psychology and pursue either a Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy) or Psy.D. (Doctor of Psychology) in clinical or counseling psychology. Doctorate programs typically take five to seven years to complete and most states require an additional O. or two year long internship in order to gain licensure. Other states require an additional year or two of supervised practice before granting full licensure.

The title of "psychologist" can only be used by an individual who has completed the above education, training, and state licensure. Informal titles such as "counselor" or "therapist" are often used as well, but other mental health care professionals such as licensed social workers can also claim these titles.

Psychiatrists are physicians that have specific training in the assessment, diagnosis, treatment and prevention of mental illnesses. Psychiatrists attend medical school and receive an M.D. After finishing their medical training, they also complete an additional four years of residency training in mental health. In addition to this, some receive additional training in a specific area of interest such as geriatric psychiatry, child and adolescent psychiatry, addictions and other areas.

Prescribing Medications
A second important distinction between the two careers is that psychiatrists can prescribe medications, while in most states psychologists cannot. However, there has been a recent push to grant prescribing powers to psychologists. Some states such as New Mexico and Louisiana now grant prescribing privileges to medical psychologists holding a post-doctoral masters degree or equivalent in clinical psychopharmacology.


answers from Redding on

The psychiatrist is a legalized drug dealer where the psychologist is not.

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