psychiatrist and therapist shaking hands

The Differences Between Psychiatry and Psychology

The terms “psychology” and “psychiatry” are easy to mix up. After all, the words sound alike, and both subjects revolve around mental health. However, when it comes time to make an appointment with a mental or behavioral health professional, the differences between these professional areas becomes important. Learn about the unique things each profession offers to help you know what type of appointment to make.

How Psychiatry and Psychology are Similar

To understand the difference between psychiatry and psychology, it helps to first know how they are alike. Of course, both areas of study focus on mental, behavioral, and emotional well-being. However, the similarities are deeper than that.

Both psychologists and psychiatrists can diagnose mental health disorders. Furthermore, they all rely on the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) to do so. As of writing, the DSM is on the fifth version. So, psychologists and psychiatrists use the DSM-V.

Importantly, psychology and psychiatry are not competing professions–patients do not have to choose one or the other. Instead, they work hand-in-hand to improve lives. Many patients see both psychology and psychiatry professionals. The differences come in when aspiring psychology and psychiatry professionals are in college and begin their careers.

Types of Psychiatric Professionals

When a patient sees a psychiatric care provider, the provider is s psychiatrist or a psychiatry nurse practitioner. Both types of providers must be fully licensed in the state. Psychiatrists must earn medical degrees, just like your primary care physician or surgeon. As doctors choose their specialties, these doctors choose psychiatry as their specialties.

Alternatively, psychiatric professionals may come up through nursing and become Nurse Practitioners. These professionals get nursing degrees and then advanced nursing degrees. The advanced degrees allow them to prescribe medicine, and they choose specialties much like a medical doctor.

Types of Psychology Professionals

There are many more types of psychology professionals with patient-facing roles and licenses, including:

  • Clinical Psychologist
  • Licensed Mental Health Counselor
  • Licensed Clinical Social Worker
  • Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist

Each of these professionals require specific training, degrees, and licenses. For example, clinical psychologists have doctoral degrees. Psychology professionals often specialize within the field as well. For example, some professionals may have more experience with substance abuse, while others help more patients with depression.

Differences in Approach

The reason psychology and psychiatry professionals go through such different types of training is that they approach the same issues from different angles. Both types of providers treat mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders. However, they use different types of treatments to heal patients. Sometimes, those treatments are used in-tandem for a whole-person approach.

Psychology providers use psychotherapy or talk therapy to uncover underlying issues that a patient faces. They then help the patient see how these issues affect their thinking and behaviors. The patient then learns new ways to think about events, which impact their behaviors and create a healthy cycle.

Psychiatrists approach emotional, mental, and behavioral issues from a biological perspective. They consider a person’s brain chemistry and other factors that affect their feelings and behaviors. Because of their medical backgrounds, psychiatric professionals can prescribe medications and/or treatments like Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) therapy. They can also use diagnostic tools like scans and blood tests.

What Patients Experience in Appointments

Whether you have an appointment with a psychology provider or a psychiatry professional, your visit will likely start with a discussion about your symptoms. Depending on your history, the provider may ask you to complete assessments that help them make diagnoses. After talking about your history and symptoms, the professional can make recommendations within their respective fields.

At LifeStance Health, we connect patients to professionals in the fields of both psychology and psychiatry. Contact us today to make an appointment with either or both types of providers.