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What's The Difference Between A Therapist, Psychologist And Psychiatrist?


What’s the difference between a psychologist, psychiatrist, and therapist? That’s a common question when you’re searching for a mental health expert who is best suited to meet your needs. While it is true that issues like depression treatment, stress management, and obsessive-compulsive disorders often overlap, there are some key differences, as you can see in this checklist courtesy of All Psychology Schools:

Psychologists:

  • Have an advanced degree in psychology

  • May do research or therapy

  • Diagnose disorders or problems in their patients/clients

  • Determine appropriate treatments based on clinical diagnoses and observations

  • Often work in tandem with a psychiatrist

  • Help patients/clients make decisions and clarify feelings

  • Provide support and guidance

“Licensed psychologists are qualified to do counseling and psychotherapy, perform psychological testing, and provide treatment for mental disorders,” explains WebMD. “They are not, though, medical doctors. That means that, with the exception of a few states, psychologists cannot write prescriptions or perform medical procedures.”

Therapists:

  • Can include psychologists, psychiatrists, marriage counselors, life coaches and social workers

  • Can have any number of degrees in a variety of disciplines, including a master’s degree, PhD, MD or certificate in fields such as social work, substance abuse, clinical psychology, psychiatry or family counseling

  • Help patients/clients make decisions and clarify feelings

  • Provide support and guidance

In short, therapist is a broad term that’s often associated with talk therapy.

This group, outside of psychologists and psychiatrists, can include social workers (LCSWs), marriage and family therapists (MFTs), and licensed professional clinical counselors (LPCC). These experts typically will have attended a two-year graduate school program after obtaining their undergraduate degree, Emin Gharibian, a psychologist with Verdugo Psychological Associates In Los Angeles, told HuffPost.

“There are some minor differences between these degrees, but for the most part, (therapists) will do individual and group therapy in a variety of settings, including private practice, schools, hospitals, clinics, community mental health centers, jails and prisons,” he said.

Psychiatrists:

“A psychiatrist is someone who also has an advanced degree (M.D. or D.O.),” explains the Integrated Care Clinic. “But, they went to medical school for their degree to learn how to prescribe medications for psychiatric conditions. While psychiatrists are not expected to provide psychotherapy, due to their scope of practice, many are able to provide very brief, supportive psychotherapy to their clients, depending upon their training history.”

“Typically, clients see their psychiatrist less frequently than their psychologist or masters-level therapist, because the psychiatrist helps to manage their medications on a monthly or less frequent basis,” adds the Integrated Care Clinic. “Psychologists, master’s level therapist, and psychiatrists often work together to collaborate on client care.”

However, “the provider doing therapy with the client will see them longer and more frequently than the medication prescriber.” And, “they can often be a helpful source of data regarding symptoms and overall functioning.”

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