Therapists vs. Psychiatrists

  Tuesday, October 19, 2021

In previous articles, we discussed the difference between therapy and life coaching. The mental health industry is divided into different practices and types of specializations. We have therapists, psychologists, and psychiatrists as the primary three practicing professionals. Often, people will easily confuse psychiatrists with therapists, especially when they decide to seek out help for mental health. 

Therapy is an "umbrella" term that often includes similar treatment methods and caters to the same kind of demographic - people suffering from mental disorders. Even though they sound confusingly identical, there is a distinction regarding the procedures and processes each specialist has to go through to start practicing. 

Psychiatrists and therapists both work with people to improve their mental health issues. They talk to patients, figure out what's wrong, and help them change their minds and behaviors to live happier, healthier, and more productive lives. The difference between these two professions is how they approach it. Psychiatrists treat mental health illnesses with medical therapies, including prescription medicines, whereas therapists focus on psychotherapy and behavioral modification.

We'll start by discussing many different factors in which therapists and psychiatrists differ from one another. In the end, we'll also discuss ways to identify if you need a psychologist, therapist, or psychiatrist. 

Education

Psychiatrists 

Psychiatrists are medical doctors; they have to complete four years of med school to receive their degree as a doctor of medicine (MD) or osteopathic medicine (OD). They take a written exam to become licensed to practice medicine in their state after receiving their degree.

A four-year residency is required to become a practicing psychiatrist. They deal with clients in hospitals and outpatient settings during this program. They learn how to use medicine, counseling, and other treatments to identify and treat mental health issues.

To become board-certified, psychiatrists must pass an exam administered by an official board of psychiatry. Every couple of years, they need to get recertified. Hence, psychiatrists must complete an undergraduate and medical education, as well as a four-year psychiatry residency. They can then pursue a fellowship in a particular sub-specialty.

Therapists 

The professional will most likely have a master's or doctoral degree, depending on the sort of therapist. The education and training of therapists vary according to state laws and the services they provide. A master's degree in counseling or social work, or a doctorate in psychology, is joint among them. It's worth noting that passing a licensing exam necessitates supervised clinical training. 

A master's degree in psychology or a counseling-related subject is required for licensed mental health counselors. To earn a license, they must additionally complete at least two extra years of training. They can evaluate and treat mental diseases with therapy, just like psychologists.

A master's degree in social work is required for clinical social workers. They can get additional training to assess and treat mental illnesses as well as provide case management services. They also serve as advocates for individuals and their families.

Treatment 

Psychiatrists 

Psychiatrists, like psychologists, focus on the investigation, diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of emotional, mental, behavioral, and developmental disorders. Psychiatrists treat mental illnesses by addressing chemical abnormalities in the brain. They can examine a disorder's psychological and physical repercussions. On the other hand, psychiatrists are medical doctors, or physicians, who have earned a medical degree.

Psychiatrists are medical professionals who can prescribe medicine and, while they may provide some counseling, they may send a patient to a psychologist or therapist for more counseling or treatment.

Psychiatrists use the following criteria to diagnose this and other mental illnesses:

  • psychological evaluations
  • lab testing to rule out physical causes of symptoms 
  • one-on-one examinations

Psychiatrists may send you to a psychotherapist for counseling or prescribe medication once they've made a diagnosis. Psychiatrists may prescribe the following medications:

  • antidepressants and antipsychotic drugs
  • stabilizers of mood
  • stimulants
  •  sedatives

A psychiatrist will actively examine someone after providing medication for signs of improvement and any adverse effects. They may adjust the amount or kind of drugs based on this information.

Therapists

Mental health services are provided by Licensed Professional Counselors, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists, and Licensed Clinical Social Workers. To work in the mental health area, therapists must have a master's degree and the approval of their licensing boards. Therapists diagnose mental illnesses and devise treatment plans. Therapists operate in various settings, including offices, hospitals, treatment centers, and group homes. Play therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, animal-assisted treatment, dialectal behavioral therapy, and many other types of treatment are available. Therapists cannot prescribe or order drugs, but they can refer you for medication or additional therapy evaluation.

Your therapist may inquire about what brought you to therapy, your worries, and any symptoms you're experiencing when you first start. Your therapist may ask you to fill out surveys about your childhood, education, employment history, current relationships, and long-term aspirations. Your therapist will next work with you to develop goals and assist you in achieving them. Depending on the severity of the problem/diagnosis, therapy can be brief or long-term. Individual, family, couple, or group therapy are all options.

Types of Therapists

A licensed counselor, social worker, psychotherapist, psychoanalyst, or psychologist can be a therapist. All of these people have varying levels of education, training, and certifications. The legal definition of what a therapist can name themself varies by state. They frequently differ in terms of the services they provide and the structure of those services.

Licensed Counselors

Counseling occupations come in a variety of shapes and sizes, including:

  • Marriage and family therapists
  • Counselors who specialize in mental health.
  • Counselors who specialize in substance abuse and behavioral issues.
  • Counselors in the field of rehabilitation.
  • Guidance counselors in schools.

Clinical Social Workers

Clinical social workers must have a Master's degree in social work, two years of post-graduate direct clinical experience, and pass a social work licensing exam.

Psychologists

A doctor of philosophy (Ph.D.) or a doctor of psychology (PsyD.) is required of a psychologist. Some programs need Ph.D. or PsyD candidates also to have a master's degree in psychology. Clinical and research training are essential for psychologists.

How Psychiatrists and Therapists Collaborate

Due to the differences between a psychiatrist and a therapist, frequently collaborate to provide comprehensive mental health care. Psychiatrists prescribe and manage drugs to control symptoms, while therapists assist clients in addressing the origin of their problems. This combination aids the healing process.

As a result, the majority of persons with mental illnesses see their therapists once a week. Their psychiatrists, on the other hand, may only see them once a month. Their treatment plan is developed in consultation with their therapists and psychiatrists.

Should I See a Psychiatrist or a Therapist?

Who you should visit for mental health care is determined by your issues and objectives. Talking therapy with a counselor or psychologist may be beneficial if you're experiencing trouble dealing with stress, family or marriage issues, school, work, or social settings. You should consult a psychiatrist if you have more severe or distressing symptoms, such as hearing or seeing things that aren't there, having violent thoughts against others, or having thoughts of self-harm or suicide. If you're unsure which type of health care practitioner to contact, start with your primary care physician.

If you're considering talk therapy, consider that psychologists and other therapists are not the same. Psychologists who specialize in counseling can analyze, diagnose, and treat severe psychological problems. This is an external link. They will address your emotional, social, and other health difficulties, allowing you to suffer less in school, at work, with your family, and in social situations. A psychologist will also assist you in making decisions about how to treat and enhance your mental health.

Depending on their training and licensure, a therapist may employ talk therapy, a systematic approach to urge you to find your solutions and conclusions about your difficulties. Therapists can teach you coping skills, assist you in changing negative thought patterns, and help you manage stress. A therapist's capacity to identify and treat mental health disorders may differ from a psychologist's, depending on their background.

You might prefer to seek out a therapist who focuses on a specific topic. If you are battling with alcohol or drug misuse, seeking a therapist who is a licensed substance abuse counselor may be beneficial.

Hence, no matter what you're going through, it is essential to be fully aware of the different types of treatment and specialists out there. Many times, we fail in recognizing our issues and state of mental health. Increased awareness reduces the chances of misdiagnosis and incorrect treatment. This can save time, money, and a patient's life. If you or anyone you are close to is going through something similar, share this information with them to receive help as soon as possible. 

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