Choosing the Right Option:Psychologist or Psychiatrist?

Disclaimer: Results are not guaranteed*** and may vary from person to person***.

Depression, whether clinical or involving depressed feelings, is startlingly common in our society. It comes in many forms. Depression is just one, however, of many reasons why people seek the help of a mental-health therapist. Millions of people who are unable to work out or control their feelings visit therapists for help.

In the past, perhaps there was a stigma attached to needing help; these days, however, getting help is so common that the stigma attached to therapy has all but vanished. Both psychiatrists and psychologists make regular appearances on television these days. For that reason alone, they are part of our culture.

But wait a moment. Psychiatrists are different than psychologists, although they both perform psychotherapy. Do you know what separates the two? And how do you know which you might need to go to for help? Well, let’s look at the differences between the two and sort out any confusion.

First and foremost, a psychiatrist is a medical professional. They can be called “doctors.” Psychologists are not medical doctors. In fact, it’s handy to remember the distinction this way:

–PsychIATRY means medical treatment –PsychOLOGY means theory, or science.

 So, on the surface, it looks like psychiatrists treat and psychologists theorize. Know that psychiatrists go to medical school, then they move on to four years of training in mental health before they can be called psychiatrists. Psychologists, on the other hand, undertake graduate studies for about six years, after which they get a PhD. Psychologists don’t go to medical school.

That aside, the main difference is that psychiatrists can prescribe drugs. Only two states let psychologists do this — Louisiana and New Mexico — but only with the consultation of a psychiatrist.

Anyone can see a psychiatrist, not only those with severe mental problems such as schizophrenia (for which medication is common). Regardless of what mental issue you may have, you are free to choose whom you’d like to see.

And this is really where it gets tricky. There is no easy answer as to what option you should go with; many people go through several therapists — psychiatrist or psychologist — before they find one who they trust and have a good relationship with.

On average, psychologists use many different tools to try and see what is causing a patient’s psychological issues. They use these tests — such as the famous ‘what does this blot of ink look like to you’ — more than psychiatrists do.

Training and experience matter as much as a therapist’s personal qualities do. Whomever you pick, it’s advisable to interview them carefully. You don’t want to invest three months in therapy before you realize that the therapist you have chosen isn’t the one for you. The relationship you’ll have with your therapist will be very unique. It’s best to find a therapist who has a lot of experience and who will be able to tailor the therapy to suit your specific needs.