To most outside observers it can be difficult to know exactly what the difference is between Psychiatry and Psychology. Most know they both have something to do with understanding what goes on in people's heads, but what exactly the difference between the two may be is lesser known. The difference between a Psychiatrist and a Psychologist is actually very significant and understanding the difference can be important if you are considering seeing a Psychiatrist or a Psychologist.


Psychiatry and its practitioners, psychiatrists, are medical doctors who after obtaining their Doctorate of Medicine degree complete a four year residency training in mental health, often in a hospital psychiatric department. Once this process is completed they can become a licensed psychiatrist.

The focus of psychiatry is largely on the treatment of mental illness and as with other medical practices, the emphasis of treatment is often through medication. As medical doctors, psychiatrists are able to prescribe medication to patients, which is one of the most significant differences when compared to psychologists who cannot prescribe medication.

Psychiatrists often have a very good understanding of psychology and the study of the human mind and shouldn't necessarily be considered solely a source for obtaining medication. Psychiatrists will typically provide a blend of prescription and non-prescription solutions to assisting their patients, depending on what they deem to be the best course of action.


Psychology and its practitioners, psychologists, have typically completed a doctorate degree with a focus on clinical psychology or counseling psychology. State requirements for certification vary but at least a one or two year internship is required to become a licensed psychologist.

The focus of psychology is largely on the function of the human mind and in the counselling sense helping people work through certain issues. Some types of mental illness can be managed through psychology, whereas others require medical treatment and the services of a psychiatrist.

Much of the focus on psychology is more on the study and research of different forms of treatment and understanding different aspects of the human mind. Many psychologists will never work in an environment where they are treating patients and their professional life is purely in research. This focus of psychology is far more a matter of analyzing information from tests and studies and then drawing appropriate conclusions on the results.

What Does This Mean?

Ultimately psychiatrists experience and background prepares them more to deal with mental issues from a medical perspective and an understanding of the medications needed to address them. The focus being on addressing the physical needs of providing mental well-being. Psychologists study many areas of the human mind and behavioral sciences that don't necessarily have a medical or chemical solution. The focus being on addressing the mental anguish or issues needed in order to improve mental well-being.

This should help you clearly understand the differences between the two fields and equip you to make the correct decision, whether it's a planned career choice or identifying the right mental health service provider.