Psychologists vs. Psychiatrists: Pros and Cons

Is it better to see a psychologist or a psychiatrist? Seeking a mental health professional can bring about a variety of questions, especially when it comes to choosing which kind of professional will be a good fit for you.

Psychologists and psychiatrists have many things in common. However, they also greatly differ in their approach.

If you are wondering which of these mental health professionals will be a better fit, then you’ve come to the right place. Education and training are what ultimately set psychologists and psychiatrists apart from one another. Choosing the right professional should ultimately be in regards to which can help you assess your own issues.  Find pros and cons for both psychologists and psychiatrists and which profession is better suited for a particular issue.

Psychologists vs. Psychiatrists

Oftentimes a psychologist and psychiatrist will work together for the betterment of a patient, as each will bring about a different set of tools to help. Many of their job descriptions will even overlap. However, there still are significant differences between the two, with the biggest difference being the actual way in which each goes about treatment methods. Psychiatrists are trained medical doctors, which means that if they need to prescribe medications, they will. A psychiatrist will incorporate medication into a course of treatment for a person in order to help cure a variety of issues or ailments.

Psychologists, however, will focus more on psychotherapy as a way of treating the patient. Psychologists are qualified to pursue a more therapy-based treatment in order to focus on mental health, emotional traumas and behavioral issues. Psychological testing can be done in order to assess a patient’s mental state in order to create a course of treatment that will work best.

Related Article: Types of Mental Health Professionals

Another huge difference between psychologists and psychiatrists is in regards to education. A psychiatrist attends medical school, trains in general medicine, earns an MD and then practices four years of residency in psychiatry. On the other hand, a psychologist will need to either acquire a PhD or PsyD doctoral degree, which ultimately runs between four to six years to earn, on top of their undergraduate degree. Psychologists do not focus their education on medicine, but rather study psychological research, personality development, how to diagnose mental disorders, and so forth. A psychologist will learn different ways to problem solve using various methods of treatment and therapies.

Pros & Cons: Psychologists

Before deciding on whether or not to use a psychologist, you should first determine the issue at hand that is leading you to choose this type of mental health professional. By first assessing the things in which you would like addressed, it might make knowing which health professional to pursue much easier. A few pros of seeing a psychologist can include treating:

  • Mental breakdowns.
  • Phobias.
  • Family issues.
  • Marital issues.
  • Anxiety.
  • Depression.
  • Spiritual issues.
  • Trauma.
  • Mania.
  • PTSD.

Another pro of seeing a psychologist over a psychiatrist is that the use of medication to treat issues will often be avoided. This is extremely helpful for patients who wish to treat issues without the use of drugs. Psychology will ultimately help dig deep to find the root of the problem with frequent sessions and individualized treatment plans.

One of the cons in choosing a psychologist over a psychiatrist is that it can be a very long process in terms to tackling issues that can be the root of many of your problems. Medication does tend to work more quickly than hour-long sessions a few times a week. In addition, psychologists can also be quite costly in the long term. If you don’t have insurance or if your insurance barely covers the cost of a few sessions, you’ll be incurring a lot of financial expenses in having a psychologist help you. Another con to consider is whether or not you find a psychologist that you like. Not every psychologist will have the same methods of treatment, and while you are hunting for the right one to help you along your way, you might come across many who you simply do not trust or have chemistry with.

Pros & Cons: Psychiatrists

Seeing a psychiatrist also comes with its own set of pros and cons. Psychiatrists are most helpful for those who are suffering from:

  • Anxiety.
  • Depression.
  • Lack of joy.
  • Personal crisis.
  • Illness.
  • Death.
  • Dissatisfaction in relationships.
  • Uncertainty about the future.
  • Job stress.
  • Failed relationships.

These are many of the same issues that a psychologist can treat, too. However, the difference in how these will be treated will vary. A psychiatrist will work to build a bond with a client in order to create an empathetic environment in which he or she feels safe and secure during sessions. A patient will be able to confront fears, help alleviate emotions, overcome trauma and return to a healthy status with time. A pro of seeing a psychiatrist is that there will be the option for medication, if necessary. Not everyone will need to take medication in order to help alleviate issues. However, a psychiatrist will at least have the option to prescribe it, if necessary. There are a variety of different medications that have been approved to help aid in a patient’s recovery process. Incorporating sessions and medication might be the winning combination for certain patients.

A major disadvantage of psychiatry for most people actually comes in the use of medications to treat an issue. While some patients may need medication to treat depression and severe mental disorders, other patients may not want to be put on medications in the long term. Drug treatments are not always necessary for a particular patient and instead of working through an issue to find the root of the problem, a drug can easily mask the issue at hand. Some mental health medications can also have very negative effects. For those who prefer to handle the issues without the assistance of medication, then perhaps seeing a psychiatrist will not be the right choice.

Related Article: How to Find Mental Health Help for Yourself

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