Psychology is the systematic investigation of the human mind, including behavior and cognition. It thus encompasses both normal and abnormal behavior. On the other hand, psychiatry is a branch of medicine dealing with mental illness.

Comparison chart

Psychiatry versus Psychology comparison chart
Edit this comparison chartPsychiatryPsychology
Practitioner Psychiatrist Psychologist
Practitioner's Nature Physician Scientist or Clinician
Objective of the study To treat mental illness to systematically investigate the human mind, including behavior and cognition
Major fields of study Psychiatric medication & Tomography Clinical psychology & Research Psychology
Licensed Practioners MD or DO PhD, PsyD or EdD
Name Developed by Johann Christian Reil Rudolp Gockel

History of psychology vs. psychiatry

Origins of psychiatry and psychology

Psychology (from Greek: ψυχή, psukhē, "spirit, soul"; and λόγος, logos, "knowledge") is both an academic and applied discipline involving the scientific study of mental processes and behavior. The word 'psychiatry' derives from the Greek for "healer of the spirit" (ψυχ- (spirit) + ιατρος (physician)). Psychiatry is a branch of medicine dealing with the prevention, assessment, diagnosis, treatment, and rehabilitation of the mind and mental illness.

Recent Past

During the last quarter of the 19th century, psychology in the West began to be seriously pursued as a scientific enterprise. Psychology as an experimental field of study is commonly said to have begun in 1879. Lightner Witmer (U. Pennsylvania) established the first psychological clinic in the 1890s. Experimental psychology, as well as psychophysics, began with the development of the experimental scientific method in the 1010s by the Iraqi Arab scientist The first use of the term "psychology" is often attributed to the "Yucologia hoc est de hominis perfectione, anima, ortu", written by the German scholastic philosopher Rudolf Göckel (1547-1628, often known under the Latin form Rudolph Goclenius), and published in Marburg in 1590. Early psychology was regarded as the study of the soul (in the Christian sense of the term). Humanistic psychology emerged in the 1950s. A further development of Humanistic psychology emerging in the 1970s was Transpersonal psychology. Psychiatry developed as a clinical and academic profession in the early 19th Century, particularly in Germany. The term psychiatry was coined in 1808 by Johann Christian Reil, from the Greek “psyche” (soul) and “iatros” (doctor). Official teaching first began in Leipzig in 1811, with the first psychiatric department established in Berlin in 1865. The American Psychiatric Association was founded in 1844. Early in the 20th Century, neurologist Sigmund Freud developed the field of psychoanalysis and Carl Jung popularized related ideas. From the 1930s, a number of treatment practices came in to widespread use in psychiatry, including inducing seizures (by ECT, insulin or other drugs) or cutting connections between parts of the brain (leucotomy or lobotomy). In the 1950s and 1960s, lithium carbonate, chlorpromazine and other neuroleptics (also termed typical antipsychotics), as well as early antidepressant and anxiolytic medications were discovered, ushering in a new era where psychiatric medication came in to widespread use by psychiatrists and general physicians.


Differences in nature of work

Psychologists are usually categorized under a number of different fields, the most well-recognized being clinical psychologists, who provide mental health care, and research psychologists, who conduct substantive and applied research. As part of their evaluation of the patient, psychiatrists are one of only a few mental health professionals who may prescribe psychiatric medication, conduct physical examinations, order and interpret laboratory tests and electroencephalograms, and may order brain imaging studies such as [computed tomography or computed axial tomography, magnetic resonance imaging, and positron emission tomography scanning.

Differences in topics studied

Psychologists study such phenomena as perception, cognition, emotion, personality, behavior, and interpersonal relationships. Psychology also refers to the application of such knowledge to various spheres of human activity, including issues related to daily life—e.g. family, education, and work—and the treatment of mental health problems. Psychology is one of the behavioral sciences--a broad field that spans the social and natural sciences. Psychology attempts to understand the role human behavior plays in social dynamics while incorporating physiological and neurological processes into its conceptions of mental functioning. Psychology includes many sub-fields of study and application concerned with such areas as human development, sports, health, industry, law, and spirituality. Its primary goal is the relief of mental suffering associated with symptoms of disorder and improvement of mental well-being. This may be based in hospitals or in the community and patients may be voluntary or involuntary. Psychiatry adopts a medical approach but may take into account biological, psychological, and social/cultural perspectives. Treatment by medication in conjunction with various forms of psychotherapy may be undertaken and has proved most effective in successful treatment.


Most psychiatric illnesses cannot currently be cured, although recovery may occur. While some have short time courses and only minor symptoms, many are chronic conditions which can have a significant impact on a patients' quality of life and even life expectancy, and as such may be thought to require long-term or life-long treatment. Effectiveness of treatment for any given condition is also variable from individual to individual. For many conditions, psychological care complements psychiatric care and vice versa.

Differences in license to practice

In the U.S., licensed psychologists hold a doctorate in their field, while licensed psychiatrists hold a medical degree with a specialty in psychiatry. Psychiatrists are physicians who have earned an MD or a DO, whereas psychologists have earned a PhD, PsyD, or EdD. Psychiatrists generally spend shorter periods of contact time with clients/patients, and the principal method of treatment is psychopharmacology. Conversely, clinical psychologists generally rely upon psychological assessment and the use of psychotherapy to relieve psychological distress. It is not uncommon for people suffering from mental illness to combine these services to maximize their impact.

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