What is the difference between a Psychologist and a Psychiatrist?

A psychologist and a psychiatrist are often confused as being the same. While both study the brain, emotions, feelings and thoughts, they work in distinctly different fields. Psychology is the study of people: how they think, act, react and interact. It is concerned with all aspects of behaviour and underlying thoughts, feelings and motivations. Its concern is the normal functioning of the mind, exploring areas such as learning, remembering and the normal psychological development. Psychiatry is the study of mental disorders and their diagnosis, management and prevention. A psychiatrist is a medical doctor with a Masters Degree in Psychiatry, while a psychologist has a Masters Degree in Clinical Psychology. Both have their specific training in healthcare settings. Psychologists use a variety of tests & tools to examine a person's psychological processes and personality. After diagnosis of the psychological problem, Psychologists provide counselling or psychotherapy to the clients to help them resolve their mental/emotional issues. When they feel that a patient could benefit from medication, they refer the patient to a psychiatrist for an evaluation and possibly a medical prescription. Psychiatrists specialize in psychotropic medications. Their focus is primarily on disorders such as a chemical imbalance. For psychotherapy and counselling, they refer their patients to specialist psychologists.

How do I know if I need therapy?

When you are unable to solve your day-to-day difficulties for a significantly long period of time and find yourself blocked in reaching your goals you may consider professional help. If you find yourself experiencing emotions that are self-destructive or are unable to get along with significant people in your life for too long again, you may consider professional help.


What is the difference between psychotherapy and counselling?

Counselling session can be for short term duration, whereas, Psychotherapy sessions may continue for long duration of time such for 8 to 10 sessions. Average duration of each Counselling & Psychotherapy session is about 45 minutes.

If I go in for therapy, will I have to take medication?

That depends on the kind of problem. If the therapist believes that there is also some chemical cause to the emotional distress he/she may refer you to a psychiatrist so that both medication and therapy conjointly work together for alleviating the distress. Some problems may need therapy alone. Some problems may need more medication than therapy.

How long does one generally need therapy?

That is an individual matter. It is similar to learning a language or driving. Some take a few weeks to pick up a new language or to drive a car. Some take longer. It purely depends on how long you will take to learn and apply what is being taught in therapy.

How do I know if I need a psychiatrist, psychotherapist / counsellor?

It may be difficult as a lay person to judge that. A good professional will guide you to the required person (therapist or psychiatrist) depending on his judgment of the problem. Seek out a qualified person and ask them what is best for you.

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