What's the difference between a Psychologist and a Psychiatrist?

What's the difference between a Psychologist and a Psychiatrist?

What's the difference between a Psychologist and a Psychiatrist?

When you're seeking help for a mental health condition or emotional distress, it can be confusing to know which mental health professional to turn to – a therapist, psychologist, or psychiatrist. However, understanding the differences between these professionals can help you make an informed decision about who to work with. In this blog post, we'll explore the difference between psychologists and psychiatrists.

Education and Training

Psychologists hold a doctoral degree – Ph.D. or Psy.D., in psychology – which involves a minimum of 5-6 years of graduate study. Their education and training cover various topics like psychological theories and research methods. They often specialize in a particular area of psychology, such as clinical psychology or counseling psychology. In contrast, psychiatrists are medical doctors who specialize in mental health issues. They earn an MD degree and complete a four-year psychiatric residency. They primarily focus on diagnosing and treating mental health conditions with medication.

Treatment Approaches

Psychologists use various therapeutic approaches, including cognitive-behavioral therapy, psychodynamic therapy, humanistic therapy, and more. They use talk therapy to understand the patient's thoughts, emotions, behaviors, and interpersonal relationships to diagnose and treat the mental health conditions. In comparison, psychiatrists typically prescribe medication and provide limited psychotherapy. They use medication to manage symptoms and work in conjunction with psychologists and other mental health professionals to treat the mental health condition.

Certification and Licensing

Both psychologists and psychiatrists must obtain a license to practice in their respective fields. The license requirements may vary from state to state, but generally, psychologists need to pass the Examination for Professional Practices in Psychology (EPPP) and fulfill the state's licensing requirements to practice psychology independently. Psychiatrists also need to pass the United States Medical licensing examination (USMLE) to obtain a medical license.

Scope of Practice

Psychologists work in private practice, community mental health centers, hospitals, and other healthcare settings. They can diagnose mental health issues, provide psychotherapy, and conduct psychological assessments. Psychiatrists work in medical settings like hospitals, clinics, and private practices. Their primary focus is on prescribing medication, and they work closely with therapists and other mental health professionals to diagnose and treat mental health conditions.


The cost of working with a psychologist versus a psychiatrist varies. Generally, psychologists are less expensive than psychiatrists. The reason being, psychologists cannot prescribe medication and require more frequent therapy sessions than psychiatrists.


In conclusion, both psychologists and psychiatrists have different roles and functions in the mental health field. Psychologists focus on talk therapy, and psychiatrists focus on prescribed medication. While they may work in different settings, they often work in conjunction with one another to deliver comprehensive mental health care to clients. If you're looking for counseling services in Winter Park, FL, contact Orlando Thrive Therapy to learn more about our services and get the help you deserve.

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Heather Oller

Heather Oller is the owner and founder of Orlando Thrive Therapy, Coaching, and Counseling. She is a licensed counselor and a family mediator who has over 23 years of dedicated work as a professional in the mental health field. Through her company's mission, she continues to pave the way for future therapists, and their clients, who want a higher quality of life....and who want to thrive, rather than just survive. You can contact Orlando Thrive Therapy at (407) 592-8997 for more information.