A Beginner’s Guide to Psychiatry vs Psychology

Published On: October 5, 2023|Categories: Mental Health Treatment|
Close-up photo of a teenage girl's hands with fingers crossed nervously. She is in a therapy session with her psychotherapist.

So you’ve begun looking into mental health care and have discovered there are more than just a couple of ways to start taking your mental health more seriously.

Psychiatry and psychology are two words that greatly float around the medical and mental health communities. Maybe you already know how these two fields are different, or perhaps you thought they were the same thing — you wouldn’t be the only one.

Psychiatry and psychology are both essential and practical areas of mental health treatment. Though they sound similar, a psychologist differs from a psychiatrist in a few ways, and one is better suited to your needs than the other.

In this article, we will define psychiatry and psychology, compare the two against each other and help you determine which path is the best for you and your mental health.

What is psychology?

A psychologist is a licensed mental health expert who’s typically completed a master’s degree in psychology and, in many cases, a doctoral degree.

Psychologists work to identify and diagnose various mental health conditions in their patients and provide psychotherapy to men and women from all walks of life. While some psychologists remain “general” counselors, many specialize in serving specific age groups or people suffering from particular illnesses or life experiences.

Since psychologists cannot prescribe medication, they often work closely with psychiatrists (who can) to provide their clients with full-spectrum care.

What is psychiatry?

A psychiatrist is also mental health expert, but they are a medical doctor, as they have completed medical school in addition to their standard education and additional training. 

Psychiatrists have a comprehensive understanding of the mind and the body and how the two interact. Their extended qualifications enable them to diagnose various mental and behavioral disorders and treat them with psychotherapy and prescription medication, if necessary.

Psychiatrists usually work with people struggling with complex conditions, such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, military post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or those who are actively suicidal. 

Psychiatry vs. psychology: an overview

Both psychiatry and psychology are valid and valuable services in the medical industry, especially for individuals struggling with one or multiple mental health issues. 

While these terms are similar and some people may use them interchangeably, they are distinct forms of therapy that each serve a unique purpose.

Psychologists and psychiatrists work to recognize, diagnose and treat mental issues, but their education, training, and responsibilities differ.

A psychologist will have completed a master’s or doctoral degree and a couple of additional years of clinical training. A psychiatrist is a medical doctor with a bachelor’s degree, medical school and a residency program after graduation.

While a psychologist is explicitly trained in mental health, psychiatrists study the human body and the mind and ultimately have a broader scope of education. 

A psychologist can identify and diagnose mental health conditions, but only a psychiatrist can prescribe medication to a patient. 

Because of the complementary differences between these two psychiatric services, many people benefit from having a psychologist and psychiatrist simultaneously.

Which one is right for you?

One of the most significant factors that will help determine which form of psychological help is best for you is the severity of your symptoms and the frequency of their manifestation.

Milder, “random” or cyclical symptoms are likely connected to an issue that most psychologists are more than able to help you work through. However, chronic or more severe symptoms might be connected to a deeper-rooted problem that a psychiatrist is better suited for diagnosing and treating.

Is a psychologist or psychiatrist the right fit for you? Please send us a message today and one of our team members will reach out and help you figure out the best path.

Speak with an advisor today

Here at Pyramid Healthcare, we offer varying mental and behavioral support to adults seeking relief from various physical or mental disorders. 

Understanding that every client is unique in their background and personal needs, our experienced staff works closely with you from day one to ensure you receive the highest level of care. We offer a variety of treatment modalities to best serve you, from psychology to psychiatry and everything in between.

Your full recovery is our top priority, and if you’re ready to start, we’re prepared to help.

Call our team today at 937-637-1860 to learn more about your different options for mental health care.

Pyramid Healthcare, Inc. Hosts Ribbon Cutting Ceremony at Radford, VA Residential Program
Cute Baby Boy inside Bear Costume Eating or Grabbing Candies at HalloweenKeeping Your Kids Safe From Drugs This Halloween