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:
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.
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.