A lot of us think psychologists and psychiatrists are fancy names given to people who do the same job. Yes, their titles do sound similar and both of them help people with mental health problems. But despite what you might think, psychologists are psychiatrists aren’t synonymous. Their credentials, education, and training are different. Hence the support and treatment they provide are not the same. Let’s explore how psychologists differ from psychiatrists.
Who Are Psychologists And Psychiatrists?
Psychology is the study of mind, thought, behavior, and emotions, and psychologists are trained, mental health professionals. The education and licensing requirements for psychologists vary by country and specialty but generally, they have 8-10 years of university education and supervised training.
Psychologists have completed a minimum of four years undergraduate degree in psychology or related social science fields. Some psychologists earn their master’s degrees to delve deeper into specific fields. Licensed clinical psychologists have a Phy.D (Doctor of Psychology) degree; however, they are not medical doctors.
The American Psychiatric Association (APA) describes psychiatry as a branch of medicine focusing on the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders. Psychiatrists are doctors with many years of schooling and training. They have attended 4 years of undergraduate school and an additional 4 years of medical school. They then complete their 4 years of hands-on specialty training in mental health (psychiatry).
Some psychiatrists also follow this up with additional years of fellowship programs that include in-depth training in fields like geriatrics, addiction, pediatrics, emergency, or neuropsychiatry. Overall, it takes at least 12 years to become a practicing psychiatrist.
How Do Psychologists And Psychiatrists Help In Mental Health Conditions?
Psychiatrists and psychologists have different approaches to treating mental health illnesses. While psychologists mainly focus on providing treatment through psychological treatments, psychiatrists prescribe medications.
Psychologists treat cultural, environmental, and social factors, instead of biological factors, that affect mental health. They identify thought patterns that affect emotions and behavior and use talk therapy to treat mental health symptoms.
Over a series of sessions, psychologists will offer guidance and support when you are experiencing emotional distress. They provide a space to share your problems and teach you skills to cope up with life issues.
Psychologists can work with individuals, couples, families, and groups to identify mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders. They can also collaborate with a physician or other social workers to carry out treatment plans. The following are the different forms of therapies used by a psychologist:
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
- Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT)
- Psycho-Dynamic Therapy
- Humanistic Therapy etc.
Psychiatrists; on the other hand, focus on and treat biological factors that may impact mental wellbeing. They can link diseases of the body with the mind and can identify the problems. They evaluate their patients and their medical histories.
With their medical degree, they are also able to order medical tests to identify the cause of symptoms. They can also provide urgent medical care and hospital admissions for mental illnesses that develop suddenly. They are also authorized to give opinions and advice to other medical doctors. Although they are also trained in psychotherapies, it is generally done by a psychologist.
Psychiatrists take a medication-first approach in their treatment. They are licensed to prescribe the following medications and therapies:
- Mood stabilizers
- Light therapy
- Electroconvulsive therapy
- Brain stimulation (Trans-cranial magnetic stimulation, Vagus nerve stimulation)
What Are The Conditions Treated By A Psychologist And A Psychiatrist?
Psychologists treat mild mental health conditions that do not require medications. They see people that can be effectively treated with psychological treatment. Mild cases of depression, anxiety, learning difficulties, adjustment issues, and behavioral problems are managed by a psychologist.
Psychiatrists treat mental health conditions that range from temporary and mild to chronic, complex, and severe. They work with patients that benefit from medications which include:
- Bipolar disorders
- Anxiety disorders
- Substance abuse
- Major depressive disorder
- Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) etc.
Expected Salaries are Different, Too
Though money isn’t everything, it’s still an important consideration to make when thinking about your future. If you want to become a psychologist or psychiatrist, the salary you might earn will vary greatly.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, psychologists earned a median yearly wage of $102,900 in 2021. While this is an excellent income by any measure, it pales in comparison to the median yearly wage that psychiatrists earn - $249,760.
The primary reason for this disparity in earnings is the simple fact that psychiatrists are medical doctors. With all that medical training comes a higher median salary.
It’s important to note that these salary figures are the median. That means that 50 percent of psychologists and psychiatrists earn more than the median, and the other 50 percent earn less.
The Job Outlook is Different
There is no doubt that demand for psychological and psychiatric services has increased in recent years. Part of the reason for this is that the stigma of mental illness is much less than it used to be, so people that need treatment are more likely to seek it.
As a result, the BLS predicts that the field of psychology will grow by six percent over the course of the rest of the decade. This represents higher-than-average job growth.
The BLS predicts slower-than-average growth for psychiatry jobs, though, at just three percent growth through 2031. While the field of psychology is expected to grow faster, psychiatry is still a very stable career with plenty of job prospects should you choose that path.