The Difference Between A Psychiatrist And Therapist: What History Shows Us
The difference between a psychiatrist and therapist is usually illustrated with the simple idea that psychiatrists are medical doctors who can prescribe prescription pills while a psychologist or psychoanalyst cannot. However, they can refer patients to a psychiatrist if necessary. Only the psychiatrist has a medical degree and thus can legally work as a psychopharmacologist, prescribing mind-altering substances for a patient's therapy. Understanding this difference between a psychiatrist vs therapist is the first step in getting treatment.
A psychologist is a doctor in psychology, which involves therapy, testing, research, and sometimes clinical work. Psychiatrists can practice psychotherapy, but most will refer you to a psychotherapist or psychologist for talk therapy.
Psychiatrist and Therapist Differences
That brings us specifically to the psychotherapist. This is an all-encompassing term referring to multiple categories of professionals who specialize in the treatment of emotional problems. This category may also include social workers and psychoanalysts, who do specialize in-depth analytical work.
What History Shows Us
Sigmund Freud was the father of modern psychoanalysis, and though the psychiatric community has their own 2000-era model to work from, his original way of thinking is still honored in the way doctors and therapists approach work. According to PsychologyToday, psychoanalysis was a term referring to treatment for psychiatric patients under the care of Freud and his company.
Eventually, there was a rift between psychiatry, biological solutions, and psychotherapy, characterized by a Freudian way of communicating with and reprogramming patients.
What Really Changed the Scope
What changed the medical profession the most had to be the invention of powerful new prescription medications in the 50s and 60s, which aimed to help the depressed, antisocial, and anxious. This allowed "psychiatric level patients" the chance to leave an institution and be treated as outpatients.
As psychiatry went on being influenced by pharmaceutical companies, psychology and talk therapy created the model of cognitive behavioral therapy, a model still used today in online counseling and other forms of talk therapy. The practice aims to treat mental health conditions or alleviate the mental health symptoms of patients, sometimes without medication or sometimes in addition to medication, depending on the severity of the condition.
How Do Psychiarists Help People In Modern Times
Now that we have medication to help in treating mental health disorders, psychiatrists have an important role to play. They are the best mental health professional to talk to for an accurate diagnosis of a mental health condition or to get an assessment. Furthermore, a psychiatrist can prescribe medications if they feel it is the best for of treatment for the condition.
Always keep in mind that psychiatrists are medical doctors and therefore will focus primarily on medical means to treat your medical conditions. Training psychiatrists includes having them attend medical school to learn general medicine and obtain a medical degree. After that, they receive training in a psychiatry residency to treat psychiatric patients.
Therefore, if you are struggling with a severe mental health condition (such as substance abuse, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or other severe conditions) and need a medical based approach to treatment, then a psychiatrist is your best bet. If you are experiencing life challenges, family problems, or need help to manage stress, you are best to see a therapists, psychologists, or similar mental health professionals, such as social workers and family therapists.
It just goes to show that you always have options when you seek professional help; in the way of medication, talk therapy or psychotherapy, and CBT-guided discussion. We at BetterHelp use the CBT model as a way to help patients suffering from major mental health symptoms, in a way that will help them quickly and strategically, even if they are facing a critical time in their life.
Don't just wonder…find out for yourself how easy and helpful it can be. An online counselor is standing by, ready to talk about whatever is on your mind.
Frequently Asked Questions
Should I see a psychiatrist or therapist?
Usually, the best option is to begin with a therapist. If your therapist believes you would benefit from the kind of care medical doctors can provide, you can contact a psychiatrist then. But if you have an urgent psychiatric need, such as suicidal thoughts, then you need to seek help immediately. In that case, you might see both a psychiatrist and a psychotherapist right away and continue as they recommend in the long term.
A psychiatrist is a medical doctor. And very few medical doctors provide psychotherapy. However, medical doctors are the ones who can give you a prescription for mental disorders. So, if they diagnose a mental illness like bipolar disorder or depression, they will likely treat you with medication. And medications can be extremely helpful for people with mental disorders. And as medical doctors, psychiatrists can oversee treatments like electroconvulsive therapy or transcranial magnetic stimulation. Psychiatrists also provide medically-based psychiatric treatments for people in long term care.
Psychotherapists, on the other hand, do provide talk therapy. They use psychological techniques to help you overcome mental health problems. They also provide you with support as you face difficult issues and traumas from the past. Psychotherapists offer many forms of psychotherapy. They can tailor your treatment to fit your long-term mental health needs and therapy preferences.
If you're concerned about your mental health, find a therapist or a psychiatrist to help you. The most important thing to remember is that both psychiatrists and therapists can prove invaluable in helping you improve your mental health, both immediately and in the long term.
Is a psychologist a therapist?
Many psychologists are therapists, but not all are.
Some psychologists do indeed treat mental disorders with therapy. They aren't necessarily medical doctors, but they provide talk therapy to people with mental illness. They can also provide therapy for people who have problems with life's challenges or relationship issues. They can help you improve your mental health whether you are dealing with unusual stress or have bipolar disorder or any other long-term mental disorders. They provide psychological testing, work with you to create a treatment plan, and use psychological techniques to guide you on the path to better mental health. They might also refer them to a medical doctor if they have health care issues that require treatment. And if they believe medication can help you with mental disorders, they can help you find a psychiatrist.
However, not every psychologist is a clinical psychologist who provides treatment. Some work in research, exploring how to diagnose and treat mental health disorders or studying the effects of medications, stress, and how they impact mental disorders. They might study topics like bipolar disorder, depression, eating disorder, all forms of mental illness, and long-term mental health challenges that are common in society.
Some psychologists work in schools and colleges. They have special training to help students deal with the pressures of school, make career choices, resolve relationship issues with their teachers, and improve their mental health if they are showing signs of depression, anxiety, or ADHD that are affecting their studies and their lives. Because these psychologists work with people who are in their care only while they're in school, their treatments are more often long-term than short-term.
Still, other psychologists have both a degree in psychology and get a degree from a medical school. These psychologists are medical doctors, so they can provide both therapy and handle medication management. As medical doctors, they can recognize health problems as well as mental health issues. If you need long-term or in-patient treatment, these mental health professionals can provide a convenient all-in-one form of treatment.
Should I see a therapist or psychiatrist for anxiety?
That depends on whether you're dealing with mild anxiety or your anxiety is severe enough to be considered among mental disorders.
Individual or family therapists can help you overcome anxiety by using various psychological methods. In therapy, you can also learn relaxation techniques and coping skills to help you manage your anxiety. They can not only help you address your anxiety, but they can also help you with other mental disorders. Beyond that, they can help you explore and improve a myriad of mental health problems and situations. Therapy can be relatively brief, but it can help you manage your mental disorders in the long term. And if you need long-term therapy, your therapist can help you with that, too. However, therapists aren't usually medical doctors, so they won't be able to help you with medications.
But suppose your anxiety is severe enough to decrease your ability to function at home, at work, or in relationships. What if you need immediate relief from anxiety? In that case, it might be a better idea to start with a psychiatrist. Medical doctors like psychiatrists can write prescriptions for anti-anxiety medications. If you have other mental disorders, they can prescribe medication for those as well. They manage your medication therapy until you no longer need that kind of treatment, whether that's short-term or long-term treatment.
What are the 3 types of therapy?
The three forms of psychotherapy are:
Directive therapy–Directive therapy is based on the idea that the therapist is an expert in psychotherapy and is the best one to lead therapy. Whether you have common mental health problems or mental disorders, your therapist will recommend the best treatments for you, depending on your mental health condition and unique personal or biological factors about you. They will guide you in exploring your mental health issues or working on any mental disorders. Directive therapy can bring results fairly quickly, but it can also prove beneficial for long term mental wellbeing, especially in the case of severe mental disorders.
Relational therapy – Relational therapy focuses on relationships and how they affect your mental health. You not only address mental illness, but you also explore and resolve issues with your partner, friends, and family. Your therapist can also help you consider how you relate to yourself. Relational therapy can have many long-term benefits, both for you as an individual and as a part of a relationship.
Supportive therapy –In supportive therapy, the counselor provides consistent support and encouragement as you face mental problems or have trouble adjusting to various situations in your life. In doing this, they may also provide psychoeducation and recommend other treatments and agencies that can help you. In the long term, you will learn how to ask for and accept support from other people in your life.
A primary care physician doesn’t always need to be involved in these three forms of therapy. For serious mental health issues, medication is often required. In that case, a primary care physician can take care of medical care, prescriptions, and follow-ups. A primary care doctor can also work with your therapist to provide continuity of care between your medication treatment and your psychotherapy.
What do psychologists make annually?
According to Indeed, the average base salary of U.S. psychologists is $104,961 per year. However, there are several factors that can make it higher or lower. If you see a psychologist locally, what state they practice in can make a difference in their pay.
Another factor is what degrees that psychologist has. A true psychologist has a doctoral degree like a Ph.D. or a Psy.D. Some practicing psychologists have that type of degree as well as a medical degree. Since these psychologists are medical doctors, they can command a higher salary. That higher pay for medical doctors who are also psychologists makes sense for several reasons. Having both a medical doctor degree and a psychology degree requires more long-term education and costs. It also gives them special insight into the full range of treatments for mental disorders. They have different skills, different treatment tasks to do, and different responsibilities. In the long term, though, both those who are psychologists only and those who are also medical doctors can provide excellent mental health services.
Also, what the psychologist does may influence their salary. Practicing psychologists who do research and those who provide therapy may make different salaries. While one is responsible for mental health services, the other one spends their days doing research, writing journal articles, or developing plans for new research studies. Psychologists who provide therapy have a completely different job, which is client-focused. Also, there are psychologists who work in private industries who do things like psychological testing and career counseling for people in their company. So, the long-term trajectory of their salary is also different, depending on how much they can advance in their job.
And, whether they work in the public or private sector makes a difference. Psychologists who work for community health services tend to make less money than those who work in private practice or private most commercial industries. Private companies tend to have more available funds to pay for the services they deem important to their profits. So, their spending partly depends on how much the company values psychological services.
As for community mental health providers and those in education fields, the pay may be somewhat lower. School and community health budgets are often strained to the max. So, it's understandable that they don't have the same paying power as private industries. At the same time, many psychologists prefer to work where they believe their expertise can do the most good in the long term. Many of them find that they can have the most impact on people's mental health by working in a non-profit or government organization.
Is a psychologist better than a therapist?
Not necessarily. That depends on what you need and unique personal factors.
If a psychologist offers therapy, they are also considered therapists. Psychologists might or might not be medical doctors, but they do have to have a Ph.D. or a Psy.D. to meet the requirements of their profession. Other therapists include mental health counselors with a master's degree in psychotherapy, clinical social work, or sometimes advanced psychiatric nursing. Clinical social workers, professional mental health counselors, psychiatric nurses, or psychologists can help you with a variety of mental health issues, whether they can be solved quickly or require a more long-term approach. All receive proper training for therapy and can tap into professional resources from such organizations as the American Psychological Association.
Often, psychologists work in conjunction with medical doctors to provide treatment for people with severe mental disorders such as bipolar disorder. In fact, some insurance companies require people with severe mental disorders to see a psychologist rather than a clinical social worker or another kind of therapist. When medical doctors work together with psychologists, they can combine their expertise to offer a complete mental health solution for people who suffer from long term mental disorders.
However, a therapist with a master's degree can help you with a variety of mental health concerns – both in the short and long term. Even if you're trying to deal with a significant mental illness, therapists of all types are trained to provide counseling to help with it. And, if your insurance allows it or you aren't using insurance, you can get significant help from any professional certified mental health provider.
What should I not tell a psychiatrist?
You can and should tell your psychiatrist anything that is concerning you about your mental health.
The only way medical doctors like psychiatrists can help you now and in the long term is if you tell them all your symptoms and concerns. This is especially critical if you have a severe or urgent mental illness. As medical doctors and mental health care providers, they need that information to manage your medications and your mental illness properly. Otherwise, you could end up with serious side effects or not get effective treatment for your current mental health condition.
There's no reason to feel embarrassed when you your mental health problems and their symptoms with a psychiatrist. As medical doctors, they've probably heard it all before. And if they haven't, they have enough education and insight to recognize mental disorders and simple mental health issues when they arise. They aren't there to judge you or make you feel bad about yourself. Quite the opposite! Instead, they are simply there to help with mental disorders and boost your mental health.
And medical doctors always keep your information private. You don't have to worry that someone at work or in your family will find out something you didn't want to tell them. Medical doctors hold themselves to a higher standard than that. They respect your need to yourself from others' judgments or interference in your treatment. In the long term, this is an incredible advantage for your treatment.
One thing to remember, though, is that medical doctors are required to respond in certain ways to dangerous situations. So, if you are trying to commit suicide or other violent acts, medical doctors sometimes have to call in other helpers to assist you. They will still keep your private information as private as possible, but saving your life is their first priority. And if they are able to do that, they can give you help that will not only help you survive but allow you to thrive in the long term.
Another issue is the length of the psychiatry session. Most medical management sessions only last 15 minutes. So, it's best to get to the point as quickly as possible. One way to be sure you don't waste too much time on irrelevant topics is to make a shortlist of your symptoms and concerns before your appointment. Another is to let your psychiatrist lead the discussion as much as possible.
What are the 4 types of talk therapy?
The four types of therapy are:
Although there are many, many treatment methods for mental disorders, all the mental health therapies fit into these four categories somewhere. For example, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) relies on both cognitive and behavioral theories and practices for the treatment of mental disorders. And there is both brief CBT and long-term CBT treatment, so you can be in therapy as much or as little time as you need to be.
So, what are these types of therapy? Here is a brief description of each:
Behavioral – Behavioral therapy helps you deal with immediate mental health concerns and long-term mental illness. This therapy is based on the idea that you learn behaviors over your lifetime and that you can change them to improve your mental health if you choose. Psychotherapists use many behavioral techniques to help you recognize self-destructive and mentally unhealthy behaviors. Then, they apply those techniques to help you change your behavior to deal with mental disorders and build a better life for yourself.
Cognitive – Cognitive therapy is a very present-focused approach to mental disorders. And it's based on the theory that negative and unrealistic thought patterns create mental illness and other psychological problems. So, rather than focus solely on your behavior, this therapy looks for the thoughts that are creating those behaviors. As you work to change your thoughts, your behavior also changes, and you get relief from your mental disorders. Cognitive treatments may be brief, but they can make for long term changes.
Humanistic – Humanistic therapists start with the assumption that people are naturally good and can make positive choices for themselves. Its goal is to help you become and express your true self. When you can do that, your mental health improves. Even if you have severe mental disorders, humanistic therapy can benefit you in the long term by providing you with a sense of empowerment to resolve the issues surrounding mental disorders.
Psychodynamic – Psychodynamic therapy developed from the psychoanalytic method practiced by Sigmund Freud. The psychodynamic method addresses mental disorders by helping people understand better how they think and feel. Your therapist helps you understand both the known and hidden factors behind your thoughts and behaviors. They look for unconscious motivations. And they explore past experiences to find out how they have shaped your personality as well as your current responses to life. People with deep mental disorders can gain from long term psychodynamic therapy. But even people who simply don't understand why they're making the choices they are now can benefit from analyzing their past experiences.
So, how do medical doctors fit in with talk therapy? Well, some of them provide it. Often, medical doctors prefer to provide psychodynamic therapy because it recognizes physical and biological influences on mental disorders. However, medical doctors might diagnose and treat mental health disorders with any of the four therapies or a combination. And medical doctors who prescribe medication to help you with mental disorders are usually willing to work with a therapist providing any of these four treatment options. Together, they can give you comprehensive mental health treatment now and for the long term if needed.
What is the most common therapy?
The most common type of therapy these days is CBT.
CBT is very versatile and is appropriate for a wide range of disorders, including mood disorders, anxiety disorders, eating disorders, and other types of mental problems. In addition, CBT is often helpful for short-term mental well-being issues, such as relationship problems, stress at work, or parenting issues.
There are also options in the length of treatment. Most people can benefit from brief CBT and see exceptional results within just a few sessions. For others, a more long-term form of CBT is better.
The goal of CBT is to recognize your feelings and the thoughts and behaviors that create them. As you identify unhelpful and unrealistic thoughts, your therapist guides you in figuring out if you want to keep those thoughts or replace them. If you replace them, you can also change your behavior to promote a more mentally healthy life in the long term.
Medical doctors recognize the value of CBT as well. And, as medical doctors, many of them appreciate the logical, straightforward techniques of CBT. Also, CBT is probably the most preferred modality of therapists. Finally, as the American Psychological Association points out, CBT is a type of treatment that has been thoroughly studied and proven with ample evidence in scientific studies.
Does seeing a psychiatrist go on your record?
Seeing medical doctors like psychiatrists does go on your medical record if you use insurance to pay for your visits. However, if you see any medical doctors or therapists without using your insurance, everything about your treatment can remain private.
The same is true for therapists, by the way. For long term peace of mind, you simply have to decide whether it's worth it to you to have your insurance pay. For example, BetterHelp provides psychological treatment without the need to include it on your record because their fees are low enough to use them without insurance. Remember, the most important thing is getting the mental health care you need when you need it.