Psychiatrist vs Psychologist vs Therapist: basic differences


Many people face uncertainty when it comes to mental health specialists. While they aim to improve the patient’s state, they have different training and use specific methods. This article will highlight the main differences between a psychiatrist, psychologist, and therapist.

The psychiatrist:

🟢 has undergone general medical training and then specialized in psychiatry; thus, they are medical doctors

🟢 usually works in hospitals, clinics, and other medical facilities

🟢 diagnoses mental disorders, with a focus on both their physical and psychological causes and effects

🟢 can prescribe and oversee the medical treatment of their patients in case of a chemical imbalance in their brain

🟢 provides short-term assistance in acute episodes of psychological distress, such as PTSD symptoms/psychotic episodes/suicide attempt/self-harm/mental instability, etc.

🟢 provides long-term assistance for schizophrenia/ eating disorders/ mood disorders/ personality disorder etc.

The psychologist

🔵 has a degree in psychology

🔵 can work in different areas, such as counseling, clinical psychology, therapy, research, human resources, etc.

🔵 psychologists can complete a Ph.D. degree and get the Doctor’s title, but they are not medical doctors.

When they hear the word ‘psychologist,’ most people think of the therapist type. Here is how a therapist is qualified to help you:

The therapist:

🟣 has undergone special training in one or more therapy schools, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, Adlerian therapy, positive therapy, compassion-focused therapy, and so on
🟣 can work with individuals, couples or can do family therapy sessions. Likewise, some therapists work with adult clients, while others help children and teenagers

🟣 usually works in private offices, at clinics, in NGOs, or welfare centers. Still, they work in hospitals too, assessing the patients’ mental health state

🟣 bases their intervention on establishing a therapeutic relationship with the client. In other words, the therapeutic process is a collaboration between the specialist and the client. Both have to feel safe and comfortable exploring the issues at hand.

🟣 use the ‘talking treatment. It consists of various techniques (active listening, guided imagery, confrontation, therapeutic role-playing, breathing exercises) that help the client understand and overcome their difficulties. The therapist can also give the client ‘homework’ such as keeping a journal, trying new experiences, completing various tasks they later discuss in their weekly meetings

🟣 can provide help in many situations: relational difficulties, traumatic experiences, addictions, mood disorders (depression, bipolar disorder), anxiety disorders, behavioral problems, development disorders, adjustment disorders, learning disabilities (dyslexia, dyscalculia, dysgraphia), etc.

Psychiatrist and Therapist: the dream team

Although their approaches are mainly different – the psychiatrist providing medical treatment and the therapist focusing on internal mental processes – they often work together in medical teams to provide the best care.

Even if a person sees a psychiatrist first, the specialist often suggests them to seek a therapist. Medical therapy is more effective when is backed up by a psychotherapeutic intervention. Therapy provides the client with healthy coping mechanisms. It offers the client a safe space to express and explore themselves, face their difficulties and find new solutions.
Likewise, a therapist encourages the client to consult a psychiatrist if they suspect they might have a mental disorder that needs a diagnosis and medical care.


How to get in touch with a mental health specialist?

It’s possible you still might not know where to seek help or if you’re actually having a real problem. I’m going to stop your train of thought right there by saying that any sign of distress is worth investigating. Therefore, I encourage you to talk to your GP first. They know your medical and personal history and can provide you all the guidance and information you need. They can even write you a medical letter to a psychiatrist if they see fit or suggest a therapist according to your needs.

You don’t have to see either of the mental health specialists right away: take your time, make a list of questions you’d like them to answer, and then make an appointment. Whatever you decide, I hope you’ve found this article informative and that you will make the best decision for yourself!


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