What is the Difference Between a Psychiatrist and a Psychologist?

While a psychiatrist and a psychologist work in the same field of mental health therapy, they each have very different educational backgrounds, training, and scope of practice, and each plays a uniquely vital role in the world of mental health. If you’re unsure of what mental health professional you should seek out, there are three key differences of each that may help make your decision easier when you compare and contrast.


Psychiatrists attend medical school just as any medical physician or pediatrician would. Their studies include much of the same criteria that other medical doctors might receive, such as studying the physiology of the body. After medical school, a psychiatrist will need to complete a 4-year residency training at a medical facility where they learn and practice applying different diagnoses and treatments for patients, as well as undergo extensive psychotherapy training. Once this is complete, they have the option to specialize in a certain field, such as narcotics, adolescence, or addiction medicine.

Psychologists can attend any accredited graduate school and receive a doctoral degree. If a psychologist has a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.), it implies that the psychologist’s graduate school was research-based and had to create a comprehensive research study and paper. A Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.) is a clinical degree and focuses more on the clinical aspects of psychosocial therapy. Psychologists may also have a Master of Science (M.S.) and would need to work under the observation of a Ph.D. or Psy.D.

Treatment Methods

Psychiatrists are medically-trained doctors. They have the duty of diagnosing mental disorders, utilizing criteria from the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) of Mental Disorders. Since their knowledge focuses on the chemical imbalances within the brain, they can prescribe medications, and much of their time is spent thoughtfully and skillfully managing patients’ medication for treatment.

While psychologists can only prescribe medications in practices in New Mexico and Louisiana at this time, there are efforts to expand their capabilities. They are aptly skilled in concentrating on a patient’s mind and emotions, using psychosocial therapy as a way of treatment. They have their own methods of psychological testing. They may use the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI), the Rorschach Inkblot Test, and some other options.


A primary care doctor may refer a patient to a psychologist if the patient expresses – or the physician/ family notices – some concerning behavioral patterns. After speaking with the psychologist about their mental and emotional state, the psychologist may refer the patient to a psychiatrist for a clinical diagnosis and to prescribe and monitor medication. In this way, psychologists and psychiatrists work together to get patients the best care, working with them emotionally, while also helping the physical body and mind to find a balance.

If you or someone you love is struggling with mental health and pain management contact Psy-Visions. We offer comprehensive, responsive care tailored to your individual needs. As an experienced psychiatrist, Dr. Mark Stracks provides customized treatment that addresses the underlying physical and emotional issues causing your symptoms. Call (203) 405-1745 today and get the supportive care you need to help you resume control of your life or use our online form to request a consultation with Dr. Stracks.

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