When a person needs to see a mental health professional, they may believe psychiatrists and psychologists do the same thing. Both psychologists and psychiatrists understand the workings of the brain. However, key differences exist when it comes to these two professionals, and men and women must understand the differences to ensure they get the help they need. What must a person know when making this choice?

Seeing a Psychiatrist

A person may need psychiatric treatment if they need medication to overcome the problems they are experiencing. Many mental health conditions come with physical problems that a psychiatrist will need to treat. To become a psychiatrist, a person must spend a minimum of eleven years learning this discipline.

The individual must first attend medical school and obtain a degree. They then undergo up to two years of training as a general practitioner. Once this training is complete, they move on to spend five years learning to diagnose and treat mental illnesses.

Thanks to this medical training, psychiatrists offer more treatment options. They can prescribe medication when needed and offer general medical care. When a person is given a medication, the psychiatrist can monitor them to learn the effects of the medication and address any side effects that come with this medication. In addition, a psychiatrist may carry out brain stimulation therapies like electroconvulsive therapy and provide psychological treatments.

As psychiatrists can treat both the medical and psychological needs of a patient, they often take on complex cases. Men and women with bipolar disorder or severe depression, for example, will typically be referred to a psychiatrist. Individuals having suicidal thoughts are also seen by this professional.

Receiving Help From a Psychologist

Psychologists, in contrast, do not attend medical school. They spend six years learning their trade, taking college classes and gaining experience under the supervision of a licensed psychologist. This individual might also choose to pursue a Master’s or Doctorate degree in psychology. Men and women who earn a doctorate or Ph.D. may call themselves Dr. However, this does not mean they are medical doctors.

Psychologists focus on talk therapy rather than medical treatments. Cognitive-behavioral therapy is a popular option among many psychologists. However, they may also offer humanistic therapy, psychodynamic therapy, integrative therapy, and more.

Psychologists work with patients who benefit from talk therapy. They may suffer from depression, anxiety, or other mental health issue. However, psychologists also work with those who have learning difficulties and those exhibiting behavioral problems.

Achieving the Best Outcome

While psychologists and psychologists differ in many areas, they often work together to treat patients. The psychiatrist might be called on to assess the patient and make a diagnosis. With this diagnosis, it can then be determined whether the patient will benefit from talk therapy or if medical care will be needed alongside other treatments to provide the best outcome.

If there is any doubt regarding which professional they need to see, a person should first visit their primary care physician to discuss the problems they are experiencing. As this doctor is familiar with the patient, they have a better understanding of the person’s unique situation and which type of treatment they may benefit from. The primary care physician may also be able to make recommendations on psychologists or psychiatrists. Therefore, this is always where a person should start.