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Psychiatrist or Psychologist – What’s The Difference?

Once you have decided to get help from a Mental Health Professional, which type will best suit your needs – a Psychiatrist or a Psychologist?

The sooner you get help when dealing with depression, anxiety, trauma and other mental health issues, the easier it is to get through the problem. 

The terms Psychologist and Psychiatrist are often confused. Both study the brain, emotions, feelings, and thoughts, but their services and approach differ. Many people do not understand their essential roles in the effective treatment of mental health problems and shy away from the idea of reaching out to them. 

What Is A Psychiatrist?

Psychiatrists are licenced medical doctors who specialise in psychiatry, just like gynaecologists, paediatricians or surgeons who specialise in their distinct medical fields.  

Psychiatrists treat mental illnesses, mood disorders, addiction and other mental health problems. They can prescribe medication, conduct physical examinations, and typically focus on the brain’s chemical imbalance. However, they also use psychotherapy as a treatment method, and therefore, are trained in both social and biological sciences. When treating their patients, they often refer them to fellow psychologists for therapy and counselling. 

What Is A Psychologist?

Psychologists try to understand the functioning of the mind in our behaviour. They use non-medical methods to treat emotional and mental disorders and choose a form of “talk therapy” (psychotherapy) to treat a person. 

They help people get insight into their emotions and perceptions and teach specific coping strategies to relieve stress and enhance resilience. 

Psychologists complete a master’s degree programme in psychology approved by the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) and register as one of the following:

  • Clinical psychologist
  • Counselling psychologist
  • Educational psychologist
  • Industrial or organisational psychologist
  • Research psychologist
  • Neuropsychologist
  • Forensic psychologist

Although Psychologists cannot write prescriptions, they often recommend an associated Psychiatrist to oversee medications in the treatment of a patient. 

Psychiatrists and Psychologists Working Together

Treating specific mental health issues with medication and psychotherapy is the most effective long-term management. Both Psychologists and Psychiatrists are often necessary to effectively treat a patient, and they form an essential part of the mental health treatment team.

As mentioned, psychiatrists and psychologists are both concerned with helping people to optimise their mental wellness. You don’t have to know what you need before you reach out for help, and the best place to start is with a mental health professional that you feel most comfortable speaking to. They will listen to you and help you to decide on a course of action. Many people even visit more than one mental health professional before they find their best fit. 

Consider the help of a Mental Health Professional if you feel overwhelmed. They can help you to manage your mental health better. 

For assistance with your mental health, call Life Path Health’s 24/7-Helpline on 072-7900-506.

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