While both psychiatrists and psychologists are mental health professionals, the big difference is that psychiatrists are medical physicians (M.D. or D.O.) while psychologists are not. Because they are licensed physicians, psychiatrists can prescribe drugs. Psychologists are not allowed to do that.

Comparison chart

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Psychiatrist

Psychologist

Physician? Yes No
Can prescribe drugs? Yes No
Education Psychiatrists are trained to be physicians (MDs or DOs) and complete 4 years of medical school, then 4 years of medical residency training. As an MD they are licensed to prescribe and to give full physical examinations. Psychologists receive 5 years of graduate training leading to a PhD or PsyD in clinical psychology. Their primary training is in psychotherapy, behavioral science, psychological research and personality assessments.
Type of work The medical training of psychiatrists qualifies them for administering somatic therapies such electro-convulsive therapy and psychotropic medication. While not typically trained in, some psychiatrists will do therapy. Clinical psychologists provide psychological/behavioral interventions for those who are experiencing psychological disorders, including anxiety, depression, anger, addictions, PTSD, ADHD, Family stress/divorce.
Method of Treatment Meet with clients for approximately 5 - 15 minutes and prescribe medications. A small percentage of psychiatrists provide psychotherapy. Meet with clients for 45 - 60 minutes, educate about the mind-body relationship, provide emotional support, conduct psychological testing and assessment. In Louisiana and New Mexico, can also prescribe mental health medications, if certified
Interests Curing mental disorders resulting from physical problems (genetic or obtained), primarily via medication or more invasive medical therapies such as ECT. Finding healthy alternative ways of thinking and living life. How to implement positive habits and assisting clients to improve and enjoy their relationships.

edit Education and Topics of Study

All psychiatrists complete at least four years of post graduate medical training.

Psychologists are not medical doctors; they do not have medical degrees but have advanced degrees in clinical or counseling (like Master's in Psychology) or the equivalent and have more training in psychological research and personality assessment than DOs or MDs.

There are some natural overlaps between a psychologist’s work and a psychiatrist’s work. Psychologists study the mind that includes the study of disturbed mind, and even a sick mind or psychopathology. Psychiatrists also study psychopathology.

edit Nature of treatment

Psychologists and psychiatrists often work together for the well-being of the client as their job descriptions overlap. However, there are differences in the techniques they use. Psychologists use approaches such as counseling, hypnosis, psychotherapy and relaxation. While psychiatrists can use these techniques too, they are also allowed to prescribe medication to their patients. For diseases like schizophrenia, for example, the patient would see a psychiatrist and not a psychologist.

The fields of psychology and psychiatry are both essential in researching and developing treatment for improving mental and emotional health. Differences aside, psychologists and psychiatrists share a common goal and that is helping people feel better.

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