If you have mental health concerns, you should definitely seek help and someone you can talk to. But where do you go? How do you know what type of doctor you should talk to? Do you look for a psychiatrist or psychologist? If you’re unsure what the difference is, you’re not alone. There’s a lot of confusion out there. There are similarities, but there are important differences, too. Here’s what you need to know to decide which is right for you.
The four main differences between psychiatrists and psychologists are:
- Psychiatrists are medical doctors, psychologists are not.
- Psychiatrists prescribe medication, psychologists can’t.
- Psychiatrists tend to treat complex and serious mental illness, psychologists tend to treat less serious conditions.
- You need a referral from your GP to see a psychiatrist, while you don’t for a psychologist.
How they’re Alike
Psychiatrists and psychologists are different types of doctors trained to help you deal with mental health issues. Both are there to talk you through your problems. Their goal is to provide you with the means to manage the issues in your everyday life. Although there are differences in the two fields, psychiatrists and psychologists often work together in the treatment of patients. A psychologist is not able to write prescriptions, but may recommend a patient be seen by a fellow psychiatrist in order to receive medications. And vice versa for psychiatrists, they often refer patients to fellow psychotherapists and psychologist to receive counseling and/or mental health therapy. A psychiatrist is concerned with the patient’s well-being. However, their focus is primarily on disorders such as a chemical imbalance, whereas a psychologist primary focus is on the patient’s thoughts, feelings and general mental health.
Psychiatrists can provide a wide range of treatments, according to the particular problem and what will work best. These include:
- general medical care, including checking your physical health and the effects of medication
- psychological treatments
- brain stimulation therapies such as electroconvulsive therapy (ECT).
- Psychologists focus on providing psychological treatments.
Job Outlook and Pay
The job outlook for psychologists and psychiatrists is expected to grow at a fairly similar rate. It is predicted that the demand for psychiatrists will rise at a rate of 15 percent between the years 2014 and 2024, amounting to an increase in around 4,200 jobs. The demand for psychologists is expected to grow at a somewhat larger rate of 19 percent between the years 2014 and 2024, amounting to an increase of about 32,500 more jobs.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the median salary for psychologists as of May 2017 was $75,230 per year. The median annual salary for psychiatrists in May 2017 was considerably higher at $245,673.
Psychiatrists tend to treat people who need their medical, psychological and social needs considered. These are usually people with complex conditions, for example:
- severe depression
- bipolar disorder.
Someone who has attempted suicide or has suicidal thoughts will usually be seen by a psychiatrist.
Psychologists are more likely to see people with conditions that can be helped effectively with psychological treatments. This might include behavioral problems, learning difficulties, depression and anxiety.
Psychologists and psychiatrists represent different professional designations, but both play a critical role in the field of mental health. Key differences between psychologists and psychiatrists come down to educational background and prescribing powers, but both share the important goal of helping patients feel better. There are many important differences between psychologists and psychiatrists and mental health consumers should be aware of the distinctions between the two professions. Despite these differences, both psychologists and psychiatrists are equipped to provide mental health services to people suffering from mental illness.