Psychiatrist Vs Psychologist

Image of compassionate psychiatrist comforting her crying patient

What is the difference between and psychiatrist and psychologist?

Psychiatry and psychology both revolve around treating mental disorders, but they are separate, distinct professions. Most people used the terms psychiatrist and psychologist interchangeably without a second thought as to what they really mean, and that’s understandable to a degree. But hopefully after reading this article, you’ll understand why the two terms designate two not one profession.

They Have Different Qualifications

Aspiring psychiatrists must complete a degree in science. After finishing a degree program in science they must undergo 4-5 years of training in medical school. Then they must complete supervised training under a residency program at a clinic or hospital that can take anywhere between 3-8 years to finish. During their residency, they’ll specialize in one field of psychiatry.

After completing their residency, they must then take and pass an exam for their medical license followed by an exam to become a certified psychiatrist. Aspiring psychologists on the other hand must first complete a Bachelor of Science or a Bachelor of Art degree program majoring in psychology.

After completing a undergraduate degree program in psychology they must gain further qualifications by obtaining a masters degree followed by a PhD or PsyD doctoral degree in psychology. This can take an additional 4-6 years to acquire.

After obtaining a doctoral degree they must complete an internship that can last up to two years. Some states even require two years of supervised practical work experience before graduates can become a licensed psychologist.


Psychiatrists and psychologists may come from different professions but they often work together to treat a patient’s mental disorder. After preliminary examination by a physician a patient with a mental disorder may be referred to a psychologist.

The psychologist will then perform psychological testing to determine the mental state of a patient then a diagnosis will be given. Based on the diagnosis the psychologist will decide the best method of treatment utilizing behavioral intervention treatments like cognitive exposure. But because psychologists aren’t medical doctors they can prescribe medication to a patient in the event that he needs it. That’s the job of a psychiatrist.

Besides prescribing and monitoring medication psychiatrists also perform psychotherapy treatment along with other treatments to ease the symptoms of a patient. Psychiatrists are also equipped to perform both lab and psychological tests to determine the mental state of a patient.