Psychologists in Mental Health: How to Choose Them and How They Differ from Psychiatrists

Clinical psychology and psychiatry are two disciplines applied in the field of mental health medication and management that are frequently confused. The type of problems they address and their working methods may be similar, but there are clear differences between the two.

This post can be useful when looking for differences between psychologists and psychiatrists and distinguishing between the two.

Differences between psychology and psychiatry

  1. The academics of each discipline

Clinical psychologists and psychiatrists have very different backgrounds. The former must obtain an undergraduate degree in Psychology and then specialize in clinical psychology. The latter must major in Medicine, and then specialize in the branch of psychiatry.

The skills and knowledge of both types of professionals are very different: the psychiatrist has more experience about the human body as an organism and its neurological functioning, while the psychologist is more trained in social sciences and cultural dynamics.

  1. The approaches are usually different

The psychiatrist has a biological approach to human behavior and its affective states, and focuses on the physiological and chemical aspects of the human body (especially those related to the nervous system and hormones). In contrast, the psychologist can adopt different positions that place more emphasis on the social context, personal relationships and culture.

  1. The type of problems they deal with

Psychiatrists tend to deal with the most troublesome mental issues. This is so because psychiatrists often focus on those improvements that can occur through pharmacological treatment; such treatment is discouraged for most people who do not have a mental disorder.

Psychologists can also intervene as support and in almost all cases that are treated by psychiatrists or directly complement the psychiatric approach. They can also offer their services to practically anyone without severe alterations, even if no particular psychopathology has been diagnosed.

  1. The method of intervention

 Another difference between the psychologist and the psychiatrist is the way each approaches the patient’s problems. A psychiatrist almost always uses more or less invasive methods, since the problems they treat are more severe. Furthermore, since the psychiatrist is a doctor, he is legally qualified to prescribe drugs. In contrast, psychologists cannot prescribe drugs; they are in charge of providing psychological guidance and proposing techniques to alleviate problems based on habits and behavior.


In short, both disciplines are different enough to have their own fields of mental health medication management and application; however, they are often complementary. What is clear is that both approaches are useful when dealing with mental health.

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