Differences Between Psychology and Psychiatry

Michael Varenbut
2 min readMay 30, 2019

Often, those who are not within the medical field confuse psychology and psychiatry, psychologists and psychiatrists, and the responsibilities and functions that come with each title. More frequently than not, the two are conflated in their duties and the ways in which they work with a patient. In this article, I wanted to go over some basic differences between the two positions, as well as how they collaborate to work together.

At the very barebones level, psychiatrists are able to prescribe medications to patients and manage the aspect of their treatment that involves medication. Psychologists, on the other hand, are not able to prescribe medications, and their main focus is psychotherapy, behavioral intervention, and working with a patient through different modes of talk-therapy. A significant role that psychologists have in a patient’s medical process is the ability to see the patient often, if required, and assess their mental state. Through this, they are able to determine the patient’s treatment path and diagnosis and evaluate their symptoms and stability. They often have a long-term relationship with a patient.

Psychiatrists receive a medical school education that is in line with the education of any other medical doctor. In addition to this, they undergo a four-year residency, where they focus on the field of psychiatry in a setting that involves both active practice and continued training. Patients are referred to psychiatrists by their psychologists or primary care physician to find and adjust the medication that best compliments their treatment path.

Psychologists, on the other hand, attend graduate school for a doctoral degree, but often not medical school. They participate in intensive research, studies, and a dissertation, and are trained in modes of psychological testing that is critical for diagnosis. They specialize in interacting with the patient and focusing on their minds, moods, symptoms, and emotions.

The combination of the two is often what is needed for patients’ long -term recovery and stability. The roles of a psychologist and psychiatrist complement each other and provide the ability for a patient to work with a team of mental health professionals for long-term or short-term treatment. Finding the right collaboration of the two is often crucial and plays a significant role in the path to recovery and stability.