The Difference Between a Psychologist and a Psychiatrist

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There are many chronic conditions that will prompt your doctor to refer you to a psychologist or a psychiatrist prior to treating you. That is because dealing with long term conditions can cause emotional disturbances without you even realizing it. In traditional Chinese medicine, it is taught that you cannot heal the body without addressing the mind. This is proving true over and over again. You may be wondering what the difference is between a psychologist and a psychiatrist so we decided to take some time to delve deeper into each category.


One of the most important key differences between the two is how they are trained. A psychiatrist is a medical doctor specializing in mental conditions. They go to school longer than a psychologist. This does not mean that they have better schooling. In fact, some psychology programs are more elite and harder to get into than medical programs. They learn less about treating medical conditions in psychology but they still learn the fundamental of the body systems and how they play a role in emotional disorders.


If you are looking for someone who can prescribe medications, you are going to need to find a psychiatrist. Most psychiatrists can prescribe medications but not all of them will. Some prefer to find other methods of treatment before giving out medications. While most psychologists are not licensed to provide medications, there are some who have gone through further training to do so in some instances.

The honest truth is that medications for physiological and emotional disorders can be dangerous. It can be highly addictive. Some can make conditions worse rather than being a solution. Withdraw symptoms are real and can be devastating. The side effects can be physical as well as emotional which is why not all doctors will prescribe medications.

Behavioral Changes

A psychologist is going to look at all the patterns in your life. They are going to want to know how your food patterns change, sleep patterns regulate, your work hours, your social hours, and how much personal time you spend. They are going to take all this into consideration to help you to decide if there is a way to change your behavior so that you get relief from your symptoms. Both doctors are trained to talk to you and analyze what you are saying but psychiatrists are less likely to help you narrow down and change your negative patterns to get positive results.

Coping Skills

This is where a physiologist is going to be the best for you. They are trained in the behavioral sciences which means that they will be able to help you to come up with coping skills that best fit your life and your interests. They can help you to realize your triggers and how to redirect them. A psychiatrist can talk you through them but there is less training in how to integrate coping skills into real-life situations to help you change your behavior in a positive way.

Family Counseling

Most family counselors are not physiologists or psychiatrists. In general, physiologists will do some family counseling only when it would benefit the patient. It is beneficial for getting the family on board with treatment plans or coping skills. Generally, a psychiatrist will not do family counseling and will suggest a counselor to do so.

Chronic Conditions

Chronic conditions like chronic pain, endometriosis, migraines, depression, or fibromyalgia are often referred to a physiologist rather than a psychiatrist. That is because they have to learn how to live their life in pain or while dealing with the pain. They need fundamental help, sometimes just to do the basic things. These are conditions that are life-altering in the most unpleasant ways. They need long term treatment plans that include incorporating new aspects of their life, like medications.

How to Decide Who to See

When you are making the decision, it is vital that you talk to your medical doctor. They may have a doctor that they prefer for you to see. They may prefer that you see someone who is familiar with your medications and side effects of such. Ultimately, you can decide if the person that you are seeing is a good match for you or not. If you aren’t comfortable with them then you are not going to get the best treatment from them.

We hope that this article has helped you to see the differences between the two and how to incorporate them into your treatment options. A sound mind makes it easier to deal with the complications that come along with having a not so sound body. After all, you are made up of more than just what your condition does to you.



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