Psychiatry vs Clinical Psychology

When it comes to your mental health, you want to make sure you are getting the best possible care. But what is the distinction between psychiatry vs clinical psychology? And even more, why does the difference matter?

In this article, we are going to discuss the major questions surrounding this issue, including:

  • The distinction between psychiatry and clinical psychology,
  • The distinction between a psychiatrist and a clinical psychologist,
  • What to expect from a visit to each,
  • And how to determine which type of practitioner best suits your needs.

Let’s take a closer look at the key distinctions between psychiatry and clinical psychology.

mental health professional meeting with a patient discussing the difference between psychiatry and clinical psychology

What is a Psychiatrist?

A psychiatrist has a medical degree and specializes in the mental health field. In order to become a psychiatrist, one must first complete an undergraduate degree, 4 years of medical school, and 3-4 years of residency training.

What Does a Psychiatrist Do?

In short, a psychiatrist is a medical doctor (M.D.) who specializes in mental illnesses. Psychiatrists are able to prescribe medications and order laboratory tests if needed. Some may provide talk therapy or psychotherapy.

What does this mean for you? Well, since psychiatrists are medical doctors, they are able to prescribe medication. This can be a major advantage if you are struggling with a mental health disorder or mental health issue that requires medication in order to be effectively managed.

Psychiatrists may also be trained in other forms of non-conventional but highly effective mental health treatments such as transcranial magnetic stimulation, MeRT, and Spravato. This means that they are able to provide you with a well-rounded treatment plan that can address your specific needs.

psychiatrist holding a cup with pills and filling out a prescription

What Can You Expect From a Visit to a Psychiatrist?

When you visit a psychiatrist, you can expect to have a detailed conversation about your symptoms, thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. The psychiatrist will also want to know about your medical history and any medications you are currently taking.

After the initial psychiatric evaluation, the psychiatrist will likely prescribe a medication and/or recommend psychotherapy to treat mental illness. If you decide to see a psychiatrist for medication management only, you can expect to have follow-up appointments every few weeks or months in order to monitor your progress and make sure the medication is working effectively.

On the other hand, if you decide to work with a psychiatrist for psychotherapy, you can expect to have weekly sessions between 30 minutes and an hour. These sessions will provide you with an opportunity to discuss any challenges you are facing and work on developing coping skills.

What is a Clinical Psychologist?

Clinical psychologists have a doctoral degree in the field of psychology, the study of the human mind. In order to become a psychologist, you must complete an undergraduate degree, 4-6 years of graduate school, and 1-2 years of internship or postdoctoral training.

therapist holding a clipboard as she meets with a client and discusses clinical psychology vs psychiatry

What Does a Psychologist Do?

Psychologists focus on the assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of mental health conditions. Unlike psychiatrists, psychologists are not medical doctors and cannot prescribe medication.

Instead, psychologists have conversations with their patients to help people manage their mental health issues. Talk therapy is a type of psychotherapy that involves talking about your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors with a therapist.

During talk therapy, you will work with your psychologist to identify any negative thought patterns or unhealthy behaviors that may be contributing to your mental health issue. You will also learn coping skills and strategies for managing your symptoms.

What Can You Expect From a Visit to a Psychologist?

Much like when you visit a psychiatrist, you can expect to have a conversation with the psychologist about your symptoms, thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. The practitioner will also want to know your and your family’s medical history and any medications you are presently taking.

After the initial session, the psychologist will probably recommend psychotherapy and leave you with some coping mechanisms or advice on how to move forward. If you decide to work with a psychologist for psychotherapy, you can expect to have weekly or biweekly sessions – though, like with a psychiatrist, this can vary based on your provider and your schedule. These sessions will provide you with an opportunity to discuss any issues, situations, or struggles you are dealing with and provide you with coping skills.

The Key Differences: Psychiatry Vs Clinical Psychology

The primary distinction between psychology and psychiatry is that psychiatrists are medical doctors, while psychologists are not. This means that psychiatrists attend medical school and are able to prescribe medication, while psychologists cannot.

In addition, psychiatrists tend to focus on the medical aspects of mental health and mental disorders, while psychologists typically focus on talking to work through issues. However, both psychiatrists and psychologists are trained in the assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of mental health conditions.

If you think you may benefit from medication to treat your mental health issue, then you will need to see a psychiatrist. If you would prefer to try psychotherapy, then you may want to consider seeing a psychologist. However, keep in mind that many mental health professionals are trained in both medication management and conversational therapy, so you may be able to find a practitioner who can provide both services.

Which One Do You Need: A Psychiatrist or a Clinical Psychologist?

Whether you are suffering from a mental illness, or going through a difficult time in your life, working with a mental health professional can be a big help.

To figure out which type of provider you need, you first need to consider what kind of issues you are struggling with. Mental health issues can be broadly divided into two categories: psychiatric disorders and psychological issues.

Psychiatric disorders are medical conditions that are caused by changes in the brain. These disorders can severely affect a person’s mood, thoughts, and behaviors.

Psychological issues, on the other hand, are problems with the way a person thinks, feels, and behaves. These issues are not caused by changes in the brain and are not medical conditions.

If you are struggling with a psychiatric disorder, you will need to see a psychiatrist. Psychiatrists are doctors who specialize in diagnosing and treating mental health conditions.

If you are struggling with psychological issues, you may benefit from seeing a psychologist or a psychiatrist. Both can help people improve their thinking, feelings, and behavior.

If you are unsure of the root of your issue – whether or not it is biological, situational, or both – you’re best option is to consult with a psychiatrist first for an initial session. Let them know that you are unsure about the issues you are facing. They can then help you figure out if you need to see a psychologist or if medication will help through a psychiatric evaluation.

The bottom line is that if you are struggling with any kind of mental health issue, you should see a mental health professional. Both psychiatrists and psychologists can help you understand your problem and develop a treatment plan to help you feel better.

Finding a Good Practitioner

Finally, it’s imperative that you find a practitioner – whether a psychiatrist, a clinical psychologist, or other mental health professionals – that you feel comfortable with. This is someone with whom you can openly discuss mental health challenges or sensitive and personal information. Trust your gut when finding a practitioner. If you don’t feel comfortable with them, look for someone else.

Looking for a doctor is much like shopping for a new home. Sometimes, it takes time to find the right fit. Some ways that you can “interview” a new doctor include:

  • Ask for referrals from friends, family, or your primary care doctor.
  • Check to see if the doctor is in your insurance network.
  • Reading online reviews.
  • Call the doctor’s office to ask about their policies and procedures.

You should also feel free to ask the provider any questions that you have during your first visit. This is a time for you to get to know each other and decide if you are a good fit.

Some questions that you may want to ask include:

  • What is your experience treating people with my type of problem?
  • What is your psychiatric approach to dealing with my type of problem?
  • What are your treatment recommendations?
  • How often will we need to meet?
  • What are your fees?
  • Do you accept my insurance?

Don’t be afraid to attend consultations with multiple practitioners before making a decision. It’s important that you find someone with whom you feel comfortable.

Final Thoughts

Both psychiatrists and clinical psychologists are highly trained professionals who can provide you with excellent care for mental illness. Ultimately, deciding which type of doctor to see depends on your specific needs.

If you are struggling with a mental health issue, reach out for help. A psychiatrist can make a world of difference and point guide you to the best treatment option for you. Call Neuro Wellness Spa today to schedule a consultation with one of our in-network psychiatrists.

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