Mental Wellbeing

Psychologist vs. Psychiatrist: How to Distinguish the Two

Different fields of psychology specialize in different aspects of mental health. Patients should seek out experts who are specifically trained and experienced in their particular condition to receive the most effective help.


By Team ArabiaMD

 • 2 min read • 
Psychologist vs. Psychiatrist: How to Distinguish the Two

Distinguishing Between a Psychologist and a Psychiatrist

Who is a Psychologist?

A psychologist is an expert who helps individuals deal with their mental health challenges. Their focus is on treating emotional, social, and cognitive behaviors and processes. They specialize in conditions like anxiety and depression, often stemming from pressing matters such as grief or difficult life challenges. Psychologists aim to understand the patient's emotions, behavior, and thoughts.

Who is a Psychiatrist?

A psychiatrist is a medical professional who specializes in mental health. They can assess both the physical and mental aspects of psychological problems. Psychiatrists deal with conditions like substance abuse, panic attacks, sadness, and anxiousness. They are certified doctors and can prescribe medications to treat mental health conditions.

The Scope of Practice: What Psychologists and Psychiatrists Can and Cannot Do

  • Diagnosis: Psychiatrists can diagnose mental health conditions, while psychologists focus on assessing and understanding the patient's emotions, behavior, and thoughts.
  • Treatment: Psychiatrists have various treatment options, including medications, talk therapy, psychosocial interventions, and electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). Psychologists use different approaches to address mental health problems, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, systems therapy, or interpersonal therapy.
  • Education and Training: Psychiatrists must attend medical school and complete a residency program in psychiatry. They must also pass exams to become certified. Psychologists start with an undergraduate degree and then pursue post-graduate programs. They also need to pass national exams and licensing tests.
  • Types of Specializations: Psychiatrist specializations include addiction psychiatrists, child and adolescent psychiatrists, forensic psychiatrists, geriatric psychiatrists, and more. Psychologist specializations include clinical psychologists, health psychologists, forensic psychologists, and more.
  • Working Stations: Psychologists work in various settings such as schools, community health centers, hospitals, prisons, and rehabilitation centers.

Collaborative Care: When Psychologists and Psychiatrists Work Together

Despite their differences, psychologists and psychiatrists share a common interest in mental health. They both aim to address the root cause of the problem and provide comprehensive treatment. Psychiatrists can use their clinical training to diagnose mental health conditions, while psychologists can use that data to create a personalized treatment plan. They can also work under multidisciplinary teams to share ideas and manage risks.

Mental health awareness is growing, and professional help is becoming more sought after. Whether you choose a psychiatrist or psychologist, you can find help for your mental health problems.

Mental HealthPsychotherapyPsychotic Disorders