Mental health is a big deal in today’s culture. And it’s no wonder why. What used to be a hushed topic discussed behind closed doors is now a movement that has inspired millions of people. One of the biggest parts of the mental health care movement is encouraging people to get help when they need it. Sometimes they just need someone to talk to. But other times, medication is necessary. There are two different kinds of mental health care: psychiatry vs psychology.
Psychologists vs Psychiatrists: The Difference
So, what is the difference between a psychologist vs a psychiatrist? A psychologist studies how our brains and our bodies communicate with each other. A psychiatrist studies how medication and psychotherapy can be used to treat various mental and behavioral disorders. Psychiatrists prescribe medication. Psychologists don’t. Many psychologists have psychiatrists with whom they work. They also refer patients to psychiatrists when counseling alone is not enough.
Psychiatry vs Psychology: Can A Psychologist Become a Psychiatrist?
It is absolutely possible to go back to school and continue your education until you’ve earned your Ph.D. or Psy.D. It would require going to medical school and going through residency. It would take at least five years. It’s not common for psychologists to become psychiatrists. But it is an option. Psychiatry vs psychology are different fields that interact and overlap with each other.
Psychiatry vs Psychology: Who Provides Therapy?
Both psychiatrists and psychologists are licensed to provide therapy. Providing therapy is the only thing that a psychologist is allowed to do. Psychiatrists are allowed to provide therapy and prescribe medication. So, the main difference between a psychologist and a psychiatrist is that the psychiatrist can prescribe medication.
It’s common for psychiatrists to only prescribe medication, though. For this reason, many patients work with a psychologist and a psychiatrist.
The Educational Differences Between A Psychologist vs A Psychiatrist
There is an educational difference between a psychologist and a psychiatrist. Psychologists usually earn their bachelor’s or master’s degrees in a health field like counseling. Cognition and human behavior is their focal point. On the other hand, psychiatrists study biology and medicine. Psychiatrists earn their Ph.D. or Psy.D.
The Salary Differences Between A Psychologist vs A Psychiatrist
Quite a few factors come into play when determining the salary for psychiatry vs psychology. Experience is one factor. The longer you’ve been in your field, the more you can charge for your services. Because of this, it’s hard to say who earns more money. A psychologist who has been treating patients for decades could earn more than a newly-minted psychiatrist who doesn’t have a lot of experience.
Another factor is where the psychiatrist or psychologist works. Working in an upper-middle-class neighborhood with private insurance companies will bring in more income than a lower-income area where most patients are on state-based health care programs like Medicaid.
Other factors include how busy the provider is. If a doctor charges $300 per appointment but only sees five patients per week, he’ll earn less than the doctor who charges $250 per appointment but sees 20 patients per week.
The Difference Between A Psychologist and A Psychiatrist: Why Are There Two Fields?
A good question that many students ask is, “Why are there two fields to choose between?” There are two answers to this question. Some students only want to provide therapy for others. They aren’t interested in learning the ins and outs of medications, how those medications work, and what to prescribe for different maladies. Other students aren’t interested in talk therapy. Their primary interest is in prescribing medications. They learn the ins and outs of medications and how different medicines interact with each other.
Are you having a hard time understanding the difference between a psychologist and a psychiatrist? Consider going on a mental health internship with International Medical Aid. Mental health internships will have you shadow both psychiatrists and psychologists in their fields. Seeing the differences will help you decide what you want to do.
Who Should See a Psychologist vs Psychiatrist?
Deciding which type of mental health care provider to see can be a tricky decision. The main difference between a psychologist and a psychiatrist is that psychiatrists prescribe medication while psychologists don’t. A patient might need medication but not know it. Or, a patient might not need medication but think that they do.
That’s why many mental health care providers require referrals from a primary care provider. This cuts down on psychiatrists seeing patients who don’t really need medication. It also shortens the waiting period for patients who need to see a psychiatrist. There can be long waiting lists that span months before an open appointment becomes available.
Deciding What’s Right For You
Are you interested in psychiatry and psychology? Not sure which route you want to take? This is common among pre-med students and is why mental health internships exist. Going on mental health internships helps students see beyond the job description. Observing a provider’s interaction with their patient can help you decide what field you want to go into. There’s no right or wrong answer. It’s all about what feels right and what is feasible for you.