Clinical Psychologists and Psychiatrists often work together to ensure the mental health and well-being of a client is taken care of. While their job descriptions often overlap, there are many crucial differences between a psychologist and psychiatrist. The most important difference is the nature of treatment within the two professions.
Treatment differences between Psychologist and Psychiatrist:
- A psychiatrist is a trained medical doctor. In India, a psychiatrist completes MBBS degree and additional gets trained in psychiatry at a post graduate level.
- Psychiatrists prescribe medication for mental illnesses like Major depressive disorder, Bipolar disorder, Schizophrenia, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Anxiety Disorder and more.
- They spend much of their time on medication management as the primary course of treatment.
- Psychiatrists are medical doctors first. Most of them do not have additional training in counselling or talk therapy as a clinical psychologist.
It is important to understand this: I have had several clients reach out to me and express that when they went to a psychiatrist, the doctor did not spend time listening to their deeper issues which lead them to the mental illness (like depression/anxiety,etc). Psychiatrists focus on the presenting symptoms of the patient. In conditions where the mental illness is severe and basic self care is impossible, taking medications to stabilize becomes necessary. They are not trained as clinical psychologists to approach mental illness with talk therapy.
- In India, clinical psychologists have a license by the Rehabilitation Council of India to practice professionally. They typically have a Bachelors & Masters in Psychology and an MPhil in Clinical Psychology. A PhD in clinical psychology/psychology is not a licensing degree for practicing as a psychologist.
- Clinical Psychologists are trained to understand a variety of aspects of mental health and are also trained in different evidence based therapies to work with clients with mental illness or difficult life situations.
- Clients with severe mental illness will be concurrently seen by both Psychiatrists and Clinical Psychologist for best results.
- Often times clients/patients with less severe kinds of mental health problems don’t like to use medications, they’re afraid they’re going to get addicted. These clients are more likely to see a psychologist first.
- Clinical psychologists help clients learn different tools to help transform their attitudes, behaviours, thoughts and emotions into those that support optimal well-being.
- As opposed to a psychiatrist who may spend less than 15 minutes in medication management with a patient per session, clinical psychologists typically spends over an hour per session in working with the client.
- Clinical psychologist are additionally trained in Testing and Assessment, that helps in diagnosing clients with mental illness.
- Clinical psychologist also work with individuals with normal life issues that seem to cause stress, anxiety and depression. Talk therapy is the most effective for clients in these situations.
I am a National Certified Counselor in the US and a Licensed Clinical Psychologist in India with additional certifications in Evidence Based Therapies. If you are still wondering who you should see in therapy, get in touch with me to help you assess your situation and recommend to you the accurate form of therapy for your situation.