Difference between Psychologist and Psychiatrist

November 28, 2015 by Editorial Team

Both psychiatrists and psychologists receive training to deal with mental illnesses or psychological distress in patients. At large, both the terms are sometimes used interchangeably. Despite this, the educational qualifications and the roles they play in their respective professions can help differentiate between the two. For example, a psychologist cannot prescribe medications to his patient, but a psychiatrist holds specialization in his field and is allowed to prescribe the required medications. Let us learn more about them.


A psychologist gauging responses of a subject to a TV commercial.

A psychologist provides psychotherapy to patients suffering from mental disorder. In a way, he helps his patient find a solution to the cause of his mental disturbance. He starts with analysing and studying the patient’s behaviour and mental procedures. Then he can counsel the patient. However, he cannot prescribe the necessary medication. It is more like offering guidance to the patient.

A master’s degree or doctorate degree in psychology is a must to becoming a psychologist. However, the role of psychologist can equally be performed by counsellors and therapists in many areas. Different types of psychologists perform different roles. For example, clinical and counselling psychologists offer mental health care, whereas social psychologists carry out research and offer consultation services.

A psychiatrist holds a specialization in psychiatry and is even allowed to prescribe medications when needed. He also performs the same function of treating mental health disorders in patients. Nevertheless, he has more expertise in his subject. He is a trained and qualified medical doctor who needs to evaluate his patients or clients for the cause of their symptoms. This may be an outcome of a physical condition, of a mix of both physical and mental conditions, or of a psychiatric condition.

A person must hold an M.D. (Doctor of Medicine) degree to become a psychiatrist. In order to be called a specialist in psychiatry, residency training programs are also necessary.


Though psychologists as well as psychiatrists deal with patients of mental disorders or trauma, the biggest difference between them is their approach to treatment. Their educational qualifications, job roles and training are other major factors that differentiate the two.

As a matter of fact, a psychologist works with different clients and a number of problems ranging from an eating disorder to an educational problem. Psychologists usually hold expertise in therapies like neuropsychology or cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).

Conversely, a psychiatrist deals with people of all ages. In particular, he diagnoses and treats people with severe mental health problems such as schizophrenia. It may or may not require medication, but if it does, he can prescribe the same. In fact, he can offer any treatment that could treat or improve the condition of the client.

Comparison Table

Psychologist Psychiatrist
A psychologist can provide counselling to patients of mental health, followed by providing a treatment therapy.A psychiatrist is a doctor who can provide counselling as well as prescribe medications.
Attending a medical school is not necessary.A medical school is a must along with residency training programs.
Education: Ph.D. in psychologyEducation: M.D. degree
May work in hospital premises or outside.Cannot work outside hospital premises.


Understand more about how a psychologist differs from a psychiatrist. Watch the video below: