Difference between Therapist and Psychiatrist

Updated on February 24, 2018

Although you know that a therapist and a psychiatrist both deal with the same issues, you may have problems understanding which is which and when one should be consulted. Are they two completely different professions or can one person do both? Be aware that you are not the only one wondering about the difference between these two professions – here are some ways to tell them apart.



A therapist is the person in charge of the therapy a patient is undergoing to cure an affliction of any kind. The word therapy comes from the Latin “therapia” with was translated from Greek, where it meant “healing”. Therefore, the therapist is the healer in any medical segment and the person in charge of getting patients, who have been diagnosed with various ailments, back to a healthier condition.

Therapy in itself can be physical therapy, for example physiotherapy, usually recommended for body disorders and in the recovery process after various traumas have affected the body, such as accidents of any sort. Psychotherapists, on the other hand, deal with problems of the mind. Some people, like the military or police officers, may at times need both as they are more prone to suffer from severe physical injuries and from mental trauma following their missions.

Psychologists and psychotherapists require qualifying university courses and up to five or seven years for doctorate studies. They get their license after two years of supervised practice. They also need to specialize in specific forms of therapy.

A psychiatrist is a doctor specializing in psychiatry, which is the diagnosis and treatment of mental disorders. Psychiatric examinations can be accompanied by CT scans and other imagery investigations. Their work is specialized in child psychiatry, social and military psychiatry, learning disabilities and neurological problems, cognitive problems; they can even deal with emergency interventions.

Some of the problems for which people seek psychiatric help are hallucinations, suicidal thoughts, a distorted perception of reality or violent and uncontrolled outbursts. In most cases, these problems require some form of medication or even extended treatment in specialized facilities. The role of the psychiatrist is to decide whether or not a mental condition has left a patient in a functional state that means he is a threat to himself or others, and whether or not he can function normally in society.

The education of a psychiatrist requires medical studies and he will need to undergo a practice stage in a psychiatric unit. Psychiatrists can prescribe medication and other forms of invasive or non invasive treatment. Their main focus is that of discovering chemical imbalances which cause a specific type of behavior.

Therapist vs Psychiatrist

The main difference between a therapist and a psychiatrist is the severity of conditions each of them has to deal with and the treatments they can prescribe. While the therapist is a clinician with a Doctorate in Psychology, the psychiatrist is a medical school graduate who has undergone mostly the same stages in his education as any other medical doctor would, plus extra training and qualifications. Therapists usually do not prescribe medication and deal with the issues which can be talked through. By comparison, psychiatrists can perform a number of medical interventions, including surgery, and they can prescribe heavy medication.

A therapist is someone who can help a person overcome a difficult life episode by coaching him and guiding him into dealing with his own fears and mental blockages. A psychiatrist mainly deals with mental disorders and illnesses which make a person unable to be a member of society. These illnesses can be hereditary or can occur after a person has suffered a severe shock and cannot recover.

Comparison Chart

Helps people go through a difficult momentTreats mental disorders
Has a Doctorate in PsychologyIs a medical school graduate with extra training and qualifications
Mainly talks patients through their problemsCan prescribe medication
Deals with problems starting from social anxietyDeals with problems caused by chemical imbalances which affect the normal function of the brain
Deals with functional individuals who need specific help in one areaDeals with individuals who can be a threat to themselves and to others
Did this article help you?
Thank you!
Thank you!
What was wrong?