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Psychologist vs Psychiatrist

For some, at least until the last few years of mental health "awokeness", our only interaction or knowledge of a mental health professional would have been watching movies and TV programmes.

These usually depicted scenes of a Doctor-looking-type sitting in an armchair with a clipboard / notepad, pen rested on their lips pensively (of course they are wearing glasses and occasionally look over the top of the rims), while another person, the patient / client is literally lying down on a couch recanting a traumatic memory from their childhood.

Of course this is not how the majority of consultations play out in reality.

But what does play out in reality is confusion over what mental health professionals do or which type a person should see to best suit their needs. Now a solid GP will advise you on this, but I personally get asked regularly, what is the difference between a Psychologist and Psychiatrist? Here in beautiful simplicity is the answer courtesy of the RANZCP (The Royal Australian & New Zealand College of Psychiatrists) website:

"The three main differences between psychiatrists and psychologists are:

  1. Psychiatrists are medical doctors, psychologists are not.
  2. Psychiatrists prescribe medication, psychologists can't.
  3. Psychiatrists diagnose illness, manage treatment and provide a range of therapies for complex and serious mental illness. Psychologists focus on providing psychotherapy (talk therapy) to help patients.

Many people get psychiatrists and psychologists confused with each other.

Both psychiatrists and psychologists understand how the brain works, our emotions, feelings and thoughts. Both can treat mental illness with psychological treatments (talking therapies).

However, psychiatrists attend medical school and become medical doctors before doing specialist training in mental health. Because they are doctors, psychiatrists understand the links between mental and physical problems. They can also prescribe medications".


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1 comment

  • Gordon Long

    That’s about as simple explanation that can be provided!

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