Psychologist Vs. Psychiatrist: What's the Difference?
Psychologists and psychiatrists work with people suffering from grief, trauma or mental disorders. Both professions, though closely related, have several differences. The approach to treatment is different, and education is also a factor. Read this article to find out more about these professions.
The Difference Between a Psychologist and a Psychiatrist
A psychologist studies the human mind through lab tests, surveys and interviews. Some psychologists may use this information to counsel patients suffering from mental disorders, grief or trauma. Others may apply their findings to explain and predict group behavior or help school children address behavioral issues. Psychologists may also study methods for improving an organization's work performance or personnel development.
A psychiatrist is a medical doctor. They specialize in the treatment, diagnosis and prevention of mental health problems. However, as a medical doctor they may write prescriptions to help patients manage disorders such as depression, anxiety, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or bipolar disorder.
Training for a Psychologist
Psychologists generally begin their career path with a Bachelor of Science or Bachelor of Arts in Psychology. Students then pursue studies at the graduate level. Industrial-organizational psychologists can enter the job field with a master's degree.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), clinical psychologists make up the largest specialty in the field of psychology (www.bls.gov). These and other psychologists must hold a Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology (Ph.D.) or Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.) to practice.
A Ph.D. requires a dissertation, while a Psy.D. is based on clinical experience. Coursework in a doctoral degree program may include educational inquiry, quantitative methods in research, adult psychopathology, child psychopathology, dynamic psychotherapy, statistics and individual research.
Training for a Psychiatrist
The educational path for psychiatrists is more complex than that of psychologists. After completing a bachelor's degree, usually in one of the sciences, an aspiring psychiatrist must complete the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). They then enroll in a 4-year medical school program to earn a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.). A Doctor of Medicine program offers coursework in biochemistry, cell biology, gross anatomy, physiology, neurobiology, microbiology, pathology and immunology.
Aspiring psychiatrists must also complete a 4-year residency with at least three years of rotations in the mental health field. They usually complete their residency in a hospital psychiatric department. Psychiatrists may then choose to enroll in a specialized fellowship program to work with adolescent or geriatric patients.
Psychologists must be licensed by their state boards of psychology. Applicants with the appropriate master's or doctoral degree and 1-2 years of clinical or internship experience may qualify to sit for their state licensing exam, according to the BLS. The Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards' Examination for Professional Practice Psychology is used by many state boards (www.asppb.net).
Psychiatrists must be licensed as medical doctors in their state of residency. All states require physicians to pass the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE). Psychiatrists must also become board certified by passing the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology's Psychiatry Certification Examination. Specialty certification in areas such as child psychiatry, forensic psychiatry, geriatric psychiatry and addiction psychiatry is also available.
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