One in five US adults has a mental health illness. These illnesses can be moderate or more severe. But what are the treatment options?
People often debate between a psychiatrist vs therapist for treatment. Some people even use the terms interchangeably as the jobs can overlap. However, these roles have crucial differences, namely their approaches to treatment.
Knowing the difference between a psychiatrist and a therapist is essential. It will help you decide who to visit for mental health support. Also, it helps to know the differences if you are not sure which career path to choose.
This guide covers all you need to know about psychiatrists vs therapists. Read on to find out!
1. Psychiatrist vs Therapist Similarities
Table of Contents
- 1. Psychiatrist vs Therapist Similarities
- 2. Psychiatrist vs Therapist Differences
- 3. What Does a Psychiatrist Do?
- 4. What Does a Therapist Do?
- 5. Psychiatrist vs Therapist Education
- 6. Psychiatrist vs Therapist Training
- 7. Can They Do Both Roles?
- 8. Therapist vs Psychiatrist Salaries
- 9. Psychiatrist vs Therapist Appointments
- 10. When to See a Psychiatrist
- 11. How to Choose a Psychiatrist
- 12. When to See a Therapist
- 13. How to Choose a Therapist
Psychiatrists and therapists aim to help you with your mental health. They can decide to work with all types of mental health conditions or specialize. Specialisms include trauma, substance abuse, or eating disorders.
The difference between a psychiatrist and a therapist means they can work together! So in specific settings, they work in the same environments.
2. Psychiatrist vs Therapist Differences
There are more differences than similarities between a psychiatrist vs therapist. Some of the main areas of difference are:
- Their job role and ability to prescribe medication
- The job training
- Appointment frequency
Usually, a psychiatrist’s training takes longer than a therapist’s. A psychiatrist can prescribe medication; a therapist mostly cannot. But people can have therapy sessions more regularly with therapists than appointments with psychiatrists.
3. What Does a Psychiatrist Do?
A psychiatrist is a doctor who has specialized in mental health medicine. Their role involves the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of mental health disorders. They usually start as a generalized psychiatrist but can later specialize.
A psychiatrist assesses the physical and mental effects of mental illnesses. They use a variety of assessment tools including quizzes, and tests. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) is their diagnostic criteria.
They prescribe medication to help treat certain mental illnesses. For example, they may prescribe an anti-depressant to alleviate symptoms. It can then be easier to focus on recovery.
Psychiatrists also can offer a variety of other treatments. This includes psychotherapy, psychosocial interventions, and treatments like electroconvulsive therapy (ECT).
An example of how broad a psychiatrist’s role can be is Dr. Ned Hallowell. He is a world authority on ADHD, writes bestselling books, and holds a weekly podcast!
4. What Does a Therapist Do?
A therapist is an umbrella term for different types of therapists. It applies to anyone who is licensed in mental healthcare therapy.
It includes psychologists, psychoanalysts, and counselors. It can also include other specialists, like specialist nurses and social workers.
Some of the main types of therapists are:
- Family and marriage therapists
- Mental health therapists
- School guidance therapists
- Substance abuse therapists
The type of therapist will determine what they specifically do in sessions. But in general, therapists apply different psychotherapeutic techniques, evaluate, and sometimes diagnose.
Some famous psychologists can prescribe medication depending on the state and qualifications. But most therapists cannot, and they will not discuss medications. Instead, they will refer you to a psychiatrist.
Some therapists focus on breaking patterns of behavior, such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapists, and some use talking therapy. They aim to help the client identify and process contributing factors to difficulties.
5. Psychiatrist vs Therapist Education
A psychiatrist first goes to medical school and gets their general medical license. Then they do a four-year psychiatry residency.
After most take a voluntary exam with the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology. They have to renew the board certification every ten years.
On average, a psychiatrist will take 12 years to qualify!
A therapist’s training depends on the therapy type. Most therapists have a master’s degree and further qualifications. On average, it takes seven years to qualify.
Counselors can get a license from the National Board for Certified Counsellors. And they might have to pass examinations for clinical or other specialized work. Some states offer different certifications too.
Psychologists have the highest educational requirements, as they need to complete a doctorate. Nurses or social workers take specialized courses or master’s degrees to practice therapy. Psychoanalysts often go through years of certification training.
6. Psychiatrist vs Therapist Training
It is no use just having a good education. Training and experience are also essential in job roles. It is no different for psychiatrists and therapists.
Therapists usually need to complete clinically supervised hours as part of their training. Many come from backgrounds of working in the field, such as in mental health facilities. As part of the training, therapists such as psychoanalysts need to have therapy.
Psychiatrists have direct patient contact throughout their training and residency. They have to receive training in medical management, prescribing, neurology, and other areas.
7. Can They Do Both Roles?
A psychiatrist can provide psychotherapy too. Some go on to specialize in areas such as psychoanalysis or psychotherapy. But not all do.
You have to check with the psychiatrist to find out. They can recommend suitable therapists if they do not offer therapy. Or if you need specialist therapy, like trauma processing.
Therapists cannot act as psychiatrists. However, they often collaborate in clinical settings to provide streamlined patient care.
8. Therapist vs Psychiatrist Salaries
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), a psychologist’s mean salary was $80,370. The rate can be lower or higher depending on experience, specialism, and level. Wages for other therapists depend on location, their popularity, and their qualifications.
Psychiatrists’ mean salary was last recorded by BLS at $220,380. Again, this can be higher or lower depending on a variety of factors.
It is important to note that salary difference does not always reflect quality. It usually reflects the level of responsibility and level of training.
9. Psychiatrist vs Therapist Appointments
It depends on what setting you see your psychiatrist and what type of treatment plan you have. The average appointment time is 30-60 minutes. The average appointment frequency is every 4-6 weeks.
However, if you are inpatient, in a crisis, or are doing psychotherapy, it will be more frequent. It can also be less frequent if you are stable on your medication and require no other interventions.
Therapy is usually more frequent to maintain the effectiveness of treatment. Sessions are mostly weekly to allow you processing space between appointments.
Your treatment plan will determine how long you see a therapist. It could be for four months or years. Appointments vary in length, from 45 minutes to 1.5 hours.
10. When to See a Psychiatrist
Ask yourself what you want. Do you want help with medication or a combination of treatments? Then a psychiatrist is a good place to start.
If you are experiencing debilitating symptoms that impact daily functioning, see a psychiatrist. They will be able to diagnose and provide a treatment plan with symptom relief. They can cost more than therapists.
You can start therapy at any time, but you have to feel ready to commit. Sometimes that is difficult if your symptoms are preventing you from getting out of bed. A psychiatrist can provide you relief and get you to a point where you can pursue other recovery avenues.
11. How to Choose a Psychiatrist
So you have decided to see a psychiatrist. But how can you pick one? There are several ways to choose a psychiatrist:
- Look at online reviews and get recommendations
- Consider a nearby location for ease
- Check their credentials and experience
- Ask about insurance cover and prices
It is also essential to understand their values and communication style. Sometimes reviews and websites give you an idea, but it is always best to meet in person. Check if your communication styles click and if you feel comfortable with their treatment approach.
12. When to See a Therapist
You can see a therapist privately whenever you need! A therapist is there to work through any issue with you.
If the issue interferes with your life, a therapist can help. If you want to spend time talking, getting advice, or addressing a problem, a therapist is the best option. A therapist can recommend a psychiatrist if they think medication will be helpful.
13. How to Choose a Therapist
First, think about what type of therapy you want. Do you want help breaking patterns, just someone to listen, or help with a specific issue? These questions can help you narrow down your search.
Similarly to psychiatrists, always check:
- The therapist’s qualifications, experience, and specialism
- Independent reviews and patient testimonials
- Treatment plans and frequency
- Cost and insurance cover options
It is essential to feel comfortable with your therapist. Ask if they offer an initial consultation, either in person or online.
And do not be afraid to switch therapists if it does not feel right. You may feel challenged sometimes. But if you feel uncomfortable or unable to share, it might be time to change the therapist and therapy type.
The Decision: Psychiatrist vs Therapist
If you are still unsure about choosing between a psychiatrist vs therapist, do not worry! Often a primary care physician can advise. And sometimes, you can find a treatment option with psychiatrists and therapists!
The most important thing is to know support is out there, and it will help. You are not alone. Good luck!
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