There are around 106,000 licensed psychologists in the US and a much lower number of psychiatrists — around 28,000. Yet the two terms are often used interchangeably because they sound similar and work in the same field of mental health.
Many people are aware there’s a difference when it comes to psychologist vs psychiatrist, but few people know what that different actually is.
This is the difference between a psychologist and psychiatrist, so you can stay informed and know what you need.
What Is a Psychologist?
A psychologist is someone who has an advanced degree that they use to diagnose and treat mental health conditions.
They do not, however, use medication (except in five states, where it’s legal for them to prescribe it). They mostly use talk therapy.
What Is a Psychiatrist?
A psychiatrist is someone who deals with complex medical issues. Although they often use therapy too, they’re much more likely to prescribe medication, and therefore they are the go-to professionals for people with severe mental health issues.
They are doctors of medicine, and must be recertified every ten years.
Psychology vs Psychiatrist: Which Should I See?
When it comes to which you should see, it’s best to ask your primary care doctor before doing anything else. Your doctor will be able to get an idea of your issues and decide if a clinical psychology will do the job, or if you need to see a psychiatrist.
They can provide a referral, which may be required by your insurance. Some plans will let you skip the referral, but it’s always best to get an idea from your doctor of what’s suitable for your situation.
Generally, though, you should see a psychologist if you’re having anxiety issues or want to understand your behavior and dissect your thoughts. They’ll be able to provide therapy and help you sort through your thoughts and feelings, and can always refer you to a psychiatrist if they decide that’s a better option.
If you’ve been diagnosed with a complex mental health issue or think you may have one, a psychiatrist is a better option. They have more extensive training in these complicated issues and will be able to decide the best course of action.
It’s also possible for you to see both.
Regardless, you should make sure you trust the individual you’re working with and they’re qualified in their field. Psychologists and psychiatrists can both be invaluable to their patients in different ways, so it really depends on your own needs.
Now You Know the Difference
Now you know the difference when it comes to psychologist vs psychiatrist and can decide which is more appropriate for you to see. You can work with your doctor to get a referral and get help for what you need, whether you have a complex mental health issue or just want to understand yourself better.
Both are valued professionals, and each can help in a different way.
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