In common usage, the two terms are often used interchangeably. Both are studies of the human mind and the similarity ends there. The differences between the two are distinct and here is how:

The two professions differ greatly in terms of education. Psychiatrists need to go to medical school and get trained in general medicine. After they earn an MD, they attend 4 years of residency training in psychiatry. Psychologists, on the other hand, obtain a PhD or PsyD doctoral degree, which could take up to 4-6 years. This will include the study of personality development, the history of psychological issues and the science of research. They also learn how to diagnose mental disorders in varying situations, right from graduate school.

To sum it up, Psychiatry is a medical specialty. Psychiatrists are MBBS graduates who have further specialised in clinical practice (MD). Psychology, on the other hand, is either a science or an arts course (BA/BSc and MA/MSc) and psychologists are arts or science students.

The key difference between a psychiatrist and a psychologist is the mental state of their subjects or patients. A psychiatrist treats people with abnormalities in behavior and thoughts. A psychologist deals with normal people who have been through abnormal or unhappy situations or phases in life.

So if a patient suffers from a mental disorder like schizophrenia, he would consult a psychiatrist. On the other hand, if the patient has suffered from child abuse, he visits a psychologist.

While psychiatrists can prescribe medications and order diagnostic tests/treatments, psychologists are not authorised to do so. As a psychologist, you will only be able to assist patients with counseling. So, if in addition to counseling, your patients you also want to intervene medically, you need to get a degree in Medicine.

The role and responsibilities of a ‘clinical psychologist’ could be similar to that of a psychiatrist, but it isn’t the same.

Psychologists work with their patients regularly to address their behavioral patterns, either after a referral from a physician or independently. If medical intervention is required, the psychology might refer him/her to a psychiatrist who can prescribe medication and monitor the dosage and frequency. The psychologist and psychiatrist work thus work differently, but together, to treat patient symptoms from behavioral and clinical standpoints.

Think there are more differences we can add to the list? Let us know by leaving a comment below.

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