What’s the difference between a psychologist and a psychiatrist?
A medical doctor who completes residency training in mental health becomes a psychiatrist who can prescribe medication as a form of treatment. Psychiatry becomes medical treatment of the psyche.
A psychologist follows a path of studying the science of the psyche for five to seven years to receive a PhD (Doctor of Philosophy). Some psychologist prefers to pursue a Psy.D. (Doctor of Psychology) which came about in 1960s for those who are more interested in clinical work than research.
According to Marcia Goin, MD, past-president of the American Psychiatric Association and a clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of Southern California, psychiatric residencies include a range of subspecialized training, such as working with children and adolescents.
The power to prescribing medication remains a fundamental difference between a psychologist and a psychiatrist. In some states like Louisiana began the process of allowing psychologists prescribe medication after consultation with a psychiatrist. New Mexico has been doing that since 2002.
Many psychiatrists work in clinical settings of hospitals so they see some very hard cases with severe mental illness which require medication. This however does not mean that all psychiatrist do is prescribe medications. Often in private practice settings psychiatrists provide treatments without us of medications.
One common process is to see a psychologist for therapy sessions which may reveal the need for medication in which case the patients are referred to a psychiatrist for an evaluation and possibly a prescription.