What is the difference between a Psychologist and a Psychiatrist?

Following on from my last post, answering the question “What is a psychologist?” I will now briefly answer what is probably the question I am most commonly asked in relation to being a psychologist: “What is the differences between a psychologist and a psychiatrist?”

This is actually pretty easily answered, in two parts:

Training

A psychologist trains in the science of human behaviour. A psychiatrist trains in medicine. Consequently, the training of psychologists tends to have more emphasis on things like learning and thinking processes, personality and environmental and social influences on behaviour – in contrast to the training of psychiatrists emphasising a biological/medical model of behaviour.

Practice

Because a psychiatrist trains as a doctor of medicine, specialising in the mind, they are entitled to prescribe medication – a psychologist is not. While psychiatrists can, and often do, provide psychotherapy (“talking” therapies), the fact they can prescribe psychiatric medication means prescribing psychiatric medication is a common motivation for referrals and often becomes a major facet of a psychiatrist’s practice. While psychologists can have many, many types of roles – not all of them therapeutic, those who provide therapies provide non-medical treatments such as exposure therapy, psychological education, developing problem-solving skills, relaxation skills and many similar forms of therapy.

About Paul McQueen

Dr Paul McQueen is a Clinical Psychologist, holding a Doctorate in Clinical Psychology from the University of Melbourne. He has experience working in both adult and child mental health services in Queensland and Victoria. Dr McQueen is comitted to providing high quality, evidence-based interventions for a range of mental health conditions. He specialises in the treatment of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder and Depression.

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