What is the difference between a psychiatrist and a therapist?
Psychiatrist and therapist: both are terms used when referring to a mental health professional. But are they one and the same? The short answer is they’re not, so let’s discuss how they differ. Psychiatrists diagnose, treat, and prevent mental illnesses and emotional disturbances. To do this they must recognize and treat the effects of emotional disturbances on the body.
They take a holistic approach to treating mental illnesses, recognizing that both thoughts and chemical pathways play a role in the state of a person’s mental health. With this in mind, their methodology for alleviating the symptoms of their patients is part medication and part psychotherapy.
Other mental health professionals like psychologists would just focus on the emotional aspect of mental illness. A psychiatrist must first earn a medical degree before they can prescribe medication. This requires 4-5 years of medical schooling, but before they can practice psychiatry they must also complete a residency specializing in one aspect of psychiatry.
They must also sit exams to obtain their medical license and certification. Psychiatrists regularly work alongside other mental health professionals such as community psychiatric nurses, social workers, psychologists, psychotherapists, and occupational therapists.
Therapist, on the other hand, is a term which refers to all manner of mental health professionals, which includes psychologists, psychiatrists, marriage counselors, life coaches, and social workers. They use a range of treatments to help patients recover from mental illnesses and emotional distress.
So while the term psychiatrist refers to a mental health professional who’s a medical doctor, the term therapist is used to refer to all types of mental health professionals.