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Difference Between a Psychologist and a Psychiatrist

A commonly asked question is what is the difference between a psychologist and a psychiatrist? Put simply a psychiatrist has extensive medical training and is technically a medical doctor while a psychologist has focused his or her training and education in psychology only and has and undergraduate degree (B.A. or B.Sc) in psychology and has also received a Master's Degree as well as a Ph.D. or a Psy.D. in counseling psychology or clinical psychology.

A Psychologist’s Training

A psychologist is a person who has obtained extensive training in psychology when it comes to development psychology, learning theory, clinical psychology, social psychology, and abnormal psychology. A psychologist must also get clinical training and experience in a training program for post-graduate clinical psychology. Included in the education of a psychologist is psychodiagnosis as well as the treatment of both mental and emotional disorders. Another aspect of a psychologist's training is psychodiagnostic testing and research.

It generally takes five to seven years to complete a doctorate program for a psychologist and the majority of states require psychologists to complete a one of two year long internship in order for them to be granted their license to practice. Some states require even more than that- they make it a necessity for psychologists in training to complete a year or two of working under the close supervision of a qualified psychologist before they will be granted their full license to practice. Sometimes the terms “therapist” or “counselor” are used interchangeably when talking about a psychologist however other healthcare professionals such as social workers can be called these terms as well.

A Psychiatrist's Training

In order to become a psychiatrist, an individual must study for four years in medical school and take all of the same training that anyone wishing to become a doctor must take. Once the degree in medicine has been obtained the person must do a residency program that looks extensively at the psychodiagnosis as well as treatment of mental and emotionally related disorders. The residency program is a type of "on the job training" that is closely monitored and supervised by senior psychiatrists.

It is the medical training that a psychiatrist receives that makes it possible for him to prescribe medication for patients and when it is deemed necessary, to administer electroshock therapy treatments (also known as electroconvulsive therapy, ECT). Psychiatrists receive some training in the field of psychology but not a great deal. Psychiatrists study and are trained in the assessment, diagnosis, prevention and treatment of various mental illnesses. Some, but not all, psychiatrists take extra training in an area that they are interested in such as child psychiatry, adolescent psychiatry, geriatric psychiatry, addictions, etc,

As of late some states want to grant psychologists the right to prescribe medication for their patients. Louisiana and New Mexico have already accomplished this as psychologists in these states are able to write prescriptions for their patients but only after they first consult with a psychiatrist.


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