therapist and psychiatrist talking

What’s the Difference Between Psychology and Psychiatry?

It’s easy to see why people who are not involved in either practice may see psychology and psychiatry as one and the same. Not only do the words sound similar, but both practice areas focus on the patient’s mental health. However, there are important differences between psychology and psychiatry, and knowing these differences can help you find the right professional help for you.

Ways That Psychology and Psychiatry are Similar

To address the differences between these two subject areas, it’s important to note how they are similar. Of course, both psychiatry and psychology deal with mental, emotional, and behavioral health.

Professionals in both these fields make mental health diagnoses using the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). As of the time of writing, the professions are on the fifth version of the DSM, commonly referred to as the “DSM-V.”

Although psychology and psychiatry approach similar topics in different ways, they are not competing disciplines. Instead, they are complementary subjects. As such, many people receive both psychological and psychiatric care from professionals in each field.

Types of Psychology Professionals

Psychology is a field that can lead to many different types of professions, many of which treat patients. Each role requires unique education, field experience, and licensing. Furthermore, each state has different types of licenses for psychology professionals. In Georgia, these licenses include Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) and Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC). These professionals hold master’s degrees and have hundreds of hours of field training.

Some of these professionals may also be psychologists, who hold doctoral degrees in psychology. Professionals in this field can specialize in treating patients with certain disorders or those in specific demographic groups. For example, someone can be an LPC who works primarily with people who live with addictions, or they could be a pediatric psychologist.

Types of Psychiatry Professionals

There are two primary types of psychiatry professionals who see patients: psychiatric nurse practitioner and psychiatrist. Like other nurse practitioners, psychiatric nurse practitioners often start out as nurses, then earn their advanced nursing degrees. These credentials allow them to become licensed nurse practitioners, who can prescribe medicine. Nurse practitioners can be general medical practitioners or choose specialties such as psychiatry.

Psychiatrists are medical doctors who specialize in psychiatric medicine. Like other types of doctors you may see (pediatricians, oncologists, etc.), psychiatrists go to medical school. When it comes time to choose a specialty, they go with psychiatry. They learn more about how processes in the brain affect mood and behavior.

Approaching Issues from Differing Perspectives

The different types of training that psychiatry and psychology professionals go through prepares them to approach mental illness in different ways. Psychiatry providers look at the biology of a patient, including the person’s brain chemistry.

As such, they can prescribe medications when needed. When medications do not work well for a patient, psychiatry professionals can prescribe treatments such as Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) therapy. They also use diagnostic tools such as CT scans to assess patients.

On the other hand, psychology professionals, such as counselors and therapists, look at a patient’s behaviors and thought patterns. They identify underlying issues, such as past trauma. Then, psychology practitioners can help patients establish healthier behaviors and thought patterns. They do not prescribe medicine, but rather use psychotherapy or talk therapy.

Making an Appointment

No matter what type of behavioral health professional you see, your appointment will likely start with the provider asking about what symptoms you are experiencing. If it is your first appointment, you may need to fill out some assessments that are used as diagnostic tools. From there, the providers recommend specific treatment plans within their areas of expertise.

If you’re ready to get help from either type of behavioral health professional, or if you’re not sure which type of professional you need, contact LifeStance Health today. Our psychology and psychiatry professionals are here to help.

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