Understanding the Differences Between Psychology and Psychiatry


Is your family member struggling with mental illness? If you’re looking for a healthcare provider to check up on them, how will you navigate the psychology vs psychiatry debate?

As medical professionals, psychologists and psychiatrists serve the same function. That is, to help people with mental health issues. But some nuances make one role better than the other on certain occasions.

With that in mind, here are some defining aspects of each practice. Read on to understand both psychology and psychiatry.

Their Professional Background and Training


Psychology and psychiatry are two different fields of study and practice related to mental health and well-being. Psychology involves the study of behavior and thought processes. It includes the various ways in which the mind works. It is based on research conducted by:

  • psychoanalysts
  • neuroscientists
  • other mental health professionals

Professionals who practice psychology typically work in the:

  • private practice
  • hospitals
  • universities
  • other settings

Psychiatric rehabilitation services diagnose and treat mental health disorders. They help patients cope with challenging feelings and behaviors.

They usually have either a medical doctorate or a Ph.D. in a related field. They also have additional specialized training in psychiatry.

Their Treatment Approaches

Psychology explores the underlying mental issues. They seek to help people come up with coping mechanisms. They help them understand the root causes of their problems and modify their behaviors or thought patterns. These of which help to better manage mental health struggles.

Psychiatry, on the other hand, focuses on treating mental health issues from a medical perspective. Psychiatrists treat mental health issues with medications. They can also treat them through other forms of medical intervention.

Psychiatrists often coordinate care with other health professionals. This includes psychologists or therapists. Psychology and psychiatry both play a key role in aiding people in mental health recovery. And in many cases, both are being recommended for a comprehensive approach to treatment.

Their Scope of Practice

The scope of practice for psychology is typically explored through counseling or therapy. It focuses on helping people gain insight and develop skills to cope with everyday problems.

Psychiatry focuses on the biological aspects of mental health. It is more about identifying the underlying cause of mental illness and developing medications to treat it.

Their Educational Background and Licenses

Psychology and Psychiatry are closely related fields of study. However, they differ in important ways. When it comes to educational backgrounds and licenses, psychology and psychiatry makeup two different domains.

A professional psychologist typically holds a Ph.D. or Psy.D. degree in either experimental or clinical psychology. These degrees involve at least 4-7 years of:

  • intensive coursework
  • practical experience
  • research

Psychiatrists must complete a medical degree. This depends on their specialization. They also might need to complete additional specific medical educational requirements. After their medical degree, they must obtain a license to practice psychiatry.

Both psychologists and psychiatrists are highly skilled professionals. They both hold a doctorate-level degree. However, they require specialized training in their respective fields. This makes them licensed to practice.

It Helps to Understand Both Psychology and Psychiatry

Psychology and Psychiatry both offer valuable treatments for mental health issues. Understanding the differences between the two can help you make an informed decision about which treatment option is best for you. If you believe you may benefit from these treatments, reach out to a professional to discuss your options.

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