People need mental health help for a variety of reasons. You may need help for a short-term issue like grieving the death of a loved one, or for something more chronic that’s interfering with your life, like long-term anxiety or depression, or overcoming an addiction.
You’ve heard of psychiatrists and psychologists. But what exactly do they do? And what’s the difference between these mental health professionals? It’s easy for those less familiar with healthcare to mix up them up.
In simple terms, a psychiatrist is a medical doctor who diagnoses mental disorders and treats them with medication or another medical intervention. They can conduct psychotherapy but more often focus on medication management. Psychologists, on the other hand, treat mental disorders with psychotherapy and other behavioral therapy interventions.
Both are equally important. In fact, psychologists and psychiatrists often work in tandem. They share a common goal of improving mental and emotional health, and helping people feel better.
While each profession plays an integral role in a patient’s mental health, they each have different educational backgrounds, training and scope of practice:
How do psychiatrists help?
How do psychologists and therapists help?
Your primary care physician (PCP) can help you determine which mental health professional is right for you.
If you need medication to treat a mental health issue, your PCP will often recommend a psychiatrist (although PCPs can prescribe medication too). If you want to talk to someone about a mental or behavioral health issue, and learn how to better cope with thoughts, feelings and behaviors, you’ll probably be referred to a psychologist.
Many patients do well seeing both—a psychiatrists for medication and a psychologist or therapist for psychotherapy.
Need support to live a happier, more fulfilling life? Explore services at Linden Oaks Behavioral Health.
Meet the Linden Oaks Medical Group Behavioral Health team.
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